The previous owner of our new house left a few things behind.
There was a random handful of items that could be labeled “The Stuff People Usually Leave Behind, Mostly In That Little Cabinet Over the Stove.” The cheap tealight votives. Bottle of lemon extract. Expired green tea.
Then there’s a teeny, tiny sake cup. Not much bigger than a thimble.
Did she ever drink from it? I imagine her on a blind date. She’s 51 and hasn’t dressed up in a long time. She keeps pulling at the front of her dress because it’s too tight and gaps open between the top two buttons. Her paper napkin is wadded up in her left fist and her orange chicken is sitting untouched in a puddle of cooling, sweet goo. She keeps her ankles crossed.
Her date talks without stopping, shoveling forkfuls of rice into his mouth. A single grain is stuck to his chin. She can’t stop staring at that grain of rice. She wants to reach over the table and flick it away. She brushes her hand across her own chin, in a hopeful gesture of telekinesis. She can’t hear what he’s saying. There’s nothing but that grain of rice, bobbing up and down with every chew.
He finally gets up from the table. He hikes up his pants as he strides toward the men’s room. She is filled with relief. He’ll see the rice in the mirror, surely, and it will be gone when he comes back. She shifts in her seat and passes her wadded up napkin from her left fist to her right. She glances around at the neighboring tables, exhales.
The waitress fills the water glasses from the large plastic pitcher, but it’s mostly ice, and a piece escapes mid-pour and slides across the Formica, coming to a stop at the bottle of soy sauce. Next to the soy sauce is a little sake set, empty. It looks like it’s been there a long time. Maybe it’s decorative. She picks up the tiny sake cup. It fits loosely, upside down, over the tip of her index finger. She let’s it hang there, and wonders at its size. She’s never tasted sake. It must be very strong, if this tiny cup is a serving.
Beyond the dangling cup, she sees her date walking back from the men’s room. He takes long, obnoxious steps and swings his arms in a way that makes people in the booths lean away from the aisle. From yards away, her gaze narrows on his chin — on a small, white pinpoint. The grain of rice still hangs there. Without thought, dipping her hand below the table, she drops the sake cup into the side pocket of her red patent leather purse. As her date rolls up tableside, she rises, pats her hair, slings the purse over her shoulder, and thanks him for a lovely time.