Rob was only twenty-one when everything in the world went instant. Instant gratification was the most marketable commodity and strangely among the first things to go instant was food, they called it fast food. Just a few pounds could buy a meal and you could be out of the establishment way before the pennies in the parking meter ran out. No more waiting and listening to the boring pipe music in restaurants and staring at the cutlery wondering when you would be able to use it.
For a loner like Rob fast food made the whole meal effort more bearable. It was a Saturday night and Clock Work Orange was playing at the Odeon. Clock Work Orange had to be seen, it was a message from heaven for cinema buffs. Rob made the pilgrimage and immersed himself in Kubrick’s classic. It was late in the evening when he stepped out of the magical darkness into the real world. Spring was in the air, the night was making way for more daylight and Rob decided it was going to be the pizza kind of fast food that would fill his stomach while he ruminated on the movie.
Marcy’s Pizzeria played some fabulous Depeche Mode making it a clear choice for the evening. He did not see her clearly at first. She was standing with the menus in her hand looking at a couple of bills. She must have sensed someone standing behind her, which was probably why she turned around with a ready smile on her face. Rob had never seen someone as beautiful as her. She had large light brown eyes made to look prettier with the use of a simple liner. A straight nose and perfect red lips added to the perfectness of what destiny had planned for her face. A creamy complexion on curves to die for, Rob wondered if she was the advertisement for the pizzeria. He stared at her like a teenager who had just discovered the opposite sex; Clock Work Orange had obviously stopped ticking.
She let him finish staring, with a patient smile for him and waited for him to come back from his round trip to that man place in his head. Then she showed him to the table and asked him if he wanted to have anything to drink. She did notice that Rob was looking at her nametag that announced her name to be Anna. It was with great effort that Rob managed to order his pizza, with greater effort he managed to eat it and no amount of effort could make him ask for the cheque. And yet he had to, it was a done thing, people usually left after they ate and when you had waited around for an hour after you had finished eating you had no more excuses to stay.
He was back the next day and asked her if she would like to sit at the table and eat with him. Anna told him politely that she worked at the pizzeria, she was a stewardess and she was not allowed to eat with the patrons. She was touched that he would inquire and that he should be so thoughtful.
It was evening again and Rob was back. Anna was beginning to see that Rob was completely besotted. She would have to tell him the truth. Rob asked her out and she told him that she would see him after the pizzeria shut down close to midnight. From the window of the pizzeria she could see Rob wait for her, it was four hours before she could meet him and for four hours Rob stood under the streetlight, waiting for her.
Then they went to a bar close by. Rob blabbered on like a schoolboy who had found his first friend ever. He had been friendless and he had so much to share. After a polite drink Anna broke the sad news to him. She told him that she was married. It broke her heart to see the tears flow out of Rob’s eyes. He was devastated. Anna had never seen love like that. She was choked with as much pain as Rob. They sat together in silence. Then Rob took a serviette and scribbled his phone number on it and looked at her sadly, “If you should ever be alone, ever need a shoulder, ever need a friend and more than ever if you should ever need someone to take care of you the way you deserve to be taken care of, would you call me?” Anna smiled, “And how do I deserve to be taken care of?” Rob looked deep into her eyes and whispered, “In the way that should a man allow even a hint of sadness cross those eyes he should be cursed to lose you forever.” Anna could not see him anymore. She just took the serviette and left the bar.
Anna never called Rob and Rob grew up to think how stupid he was. How stupid that he expected her to call. He became a writer of great repute, wrote wondrous books, won many an accolade but through all that he never forgot that beatific face that he had seen at Marcy’s Pizzeria.
It was about two weeks past his sixty-second birthday when his assistant announced a young man at his office. The young man had an envelope with him. Rob asked the young man who he was but the young man was not forthcoming. He handed Rob the envelope and said, “My Mother died last Thursday, she left this for you.” Even before Rob could open the envelope the young man had left his office.
On the envelope was written just one word, “Rob”. When he opened the envelope he found the serviette with an old telephone number of his scribbled on it, in his own handwriting. He recognized the serviette immediately and he knew whom it was from. Behind the very same serviette was written a note for him, “Dear Rob, I looked at this serviette every day of my life. This paper napkin told me that there was a Rob out there who loved me like no one else could ever. This paper napkin made it possible for me to live through all these years. If this serviette has reached you then I am dead and I have no commitments anymore. I have finally dialed your number. I love you.”
Rob sat down and closed his eyes, a girl with menus in her hand turned around and looked at him with a smile.