Dirty, a little messed up. His hair was tousled, and he had a light beard growing on his chin and cheeks. He couldn't have been more than thirty years old, but he probably could have passed for fifty on just the right day.
He was eating pasta, as I said. Really eating pasta. I mean really getting into the eating of pasta. I could hear him across the room. I heard the pasta going in, I heard the pasta going down, and I heard his level of satisfaction with the pasta (which seemed to be quite high).
“I'm glad you're getting my money's worth out of that penne,” I said under my breath.
As though he had heard it, he looked at me between forks full of penne. Our eyes met. He nodded at me. I nodded back. He turned his attention back to his pasta. The waitress came by with the bill. I pulled out my credit card and thought I would try it one more time. “But I didn't order any penne,” I said, glancing at the guestcheck.
“Sorry, sir,” she said, “rules are rules.”
“Yeah,” I said, “whatever.”
I waited for the waitress to return my credit card and got up to leave. I strolled past the man eating the penne. What could it hurt?
“Enjoy your pasta,” I said to him. He kept his head down and just kept eating. I was a stranger to him.
He did not know me.
“I much preferred it when we used to eat together. I always enjoyed buying you lunch.” With that, I walked out the door.
But rules are rules.