JUST FOR HER
As Pamela Green walked through the doors, the barman waved at her. Two of the patrons in front of him were trying to catch his attention from across the countertop, but Diego Luciano did not pay attention to them other than to smile and nod his head. He gestured at another bartender to serve them while he looked out for Pamela, still trying to get her attention.
She could clearly see him from where she stood. She was shaking her head. Diego couldn’t tell if she was acknowledging him or simply trying to avoid coming over. He couldn’t blame her if she was reluctant.
It was Friday evening, a regular merry-making period for all who were privileged to be there and in other spots dotted around the city. This meant that the entire restaurant was going to be crowded that evening, especially around the bar.
All the seats around the bar were occupied with different types of people, many of whom were busy chattering and talking excitedly.
Diego caught sight of Pamela looking around the crowded place, searching for somewhere to sit. She turned right and left, then pursed her lips before running her hand through her long, jet-black hair.
Pamela turned and caught sight of Diego waving down a waiter. She saw the waiter quickly rush to his boss’s side. She could imagine what Diego was saying as she saw him pointing in her direction and giving instructions to the waiter.
Pamela sighed and stayed put. She knew what was going to happen soon. After Diego was finished with his instructions, she knew that the waiter would rush to her side to lead her to a table with a chair.
Pamela smiled to herself. It never ceased to amaze her how Diego and his staff could manufacture empty seats and tables at such a busy time. It was not just how they were able to do it, she reasoned. It was more like how they could carry it off so easily and efficiently.
Pamela turned to see that the waiter was nodding. It was clear that he had understood his boss’s instruction. Now, all that remained was for him to carry it out.
Then Pamela saw Diego open his mouth again. It was obvious that he was about to say something else, but he never completed his sentence.
Pamela noticed that everything suddenly seemed to fall still. She stared in bewilderment and surprise around the bar, not believing what she was seeing. Everyone had stopped moving and there was no more activity or noise of any kind.
Pamela felt as if she was staring at a snapshot of a busy night. All the patrons and staff were still there, but they weren’t moving. They were in their respective positions, with several still sitting while others were standing. They had different expressions on their faces, all momentarily frozen at a particular point in time.
Pamela turned to look at the waiter. He was still looking at Diego, waiting for his boss’s further instructions, but like every other person there at that moment, he stood rooted in the same spot.
Alarmed, she turned sharply in Diego’s direction. He was still standing there, unmoving, with his hand pointing at her as he gave his instructions to the waiter.
Pamela could not understand what was happening. To make her more confounded, she seemed to be the only person watching what was going on. She was the only one who had not been frozen like everyone else.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t be too bothered about them,” someone said.
Startled, Pamela spun around. The voice had sounded so clear and so close that she thought it must have been the same waiter that Diego had been talking to. But it wasn’t. Rather, there was a man standing close to her who she didn’t recognize. Pamela stared at him, wondering when he had gotten there and why he was the only other one who could move.
“Who are you?” Pamela asked, suspicious of the stranger who could move while the others seemed to have been demobilized by some strange force.
“If I told you, I doubt if you’d ever believe me, Pamela,” the man said with a smile.
Pamela frowned as she studied him. He was well-dressed in an immaculate white suit, white shirt and a white tie. There was a white wide-brimmed hat on his head. His white shoes seemed to shine and glint as if they were made of expensive emerald stones. His face looked like it had been chiseled into place, and the well-groomed moustache on his curved lips gave him an air of authority and elegance.
“Who are you? How do you know my name?”
He smiled at her. “I can understand how you might be feeling. But seriously, if I were you, I think I would be asking why I was here and not who I was.”
Pamela glanced around. She could not tell what it was that she found so disconcerting. Was it the awkward stillness in this bar full of people, or this immaculately dressed stranger before her?
She turned to him. “What’s happening here?”
The man smiled again. He looked around the bar. “Still the same wrong questions, Pamela. Do you mean to ask why all these people are not moving around, mingling and doing what they were doing before this moment?”
“Well, it should be obvious, shouldn’t it?”
He tapped the rim of his hat. “I’m sorry, Pamela, but what should be obvious?”
“Asking why all of a sudden everyone seems frozen, though this place was just bustling with life a few seconds ago.”
He nodded. “Yes, it should be, I guess and I take it that you really want to know why they aren’t moving anymore.”
Pamela sighed. It wasn’t just the fact that the stranger was going around in circles with her. She was actually getting tired of all the waiting and the mystery of what was really going on. “Fine, can you tell me what is happening to them?”
Pamela frowned. “You are? I don’t understand. You are what?”
“I am is what’s happening to them.”
“Because that is what I wanted.”
Pamela crossed her hands across her chest and nodded. “In other words, you made them like this, all frozen still?”
“And why did you do that?”
“Because I needed to be alone with you.”
“Alone with me?”
She took a step back. She could feel her heart racing. “And why do you want to be alone with me? I don’t even know who you are!”
“Yes, but I know so much about you. That is why I decided that tonight I simply had to meet with you alone.”
“Because I am in love with you.”
Pamela was breathing heavily. She could swear that she could hear her own heartbeat out loud, like a crazy rock song blaring out of huge speakers. She had heard several stories about men who stalked women before. But a stalker who was bold enough to approach her in a public place like this was something she had never heard of. She shook her head, as if trying to clear her thoughts. “You can’t be in love with me! You don’t know me.”
“You are wrong, Pamela, I do know you.”
“Really? What do you know about me?”
“Everything there is to know.”
He laughed. “You want to test my knowledge?”
“Okay, but first we need to sit down. I wouldn’t be much of a gentleman if I told you everything I knew about you while you are still standing.”
“Fine,” Pamela agreed. “But as you can see, the entire place is crowded, even with all the people frozen still. So, where would we–”
Pamela’s voice trailed off as she saw the man was already sitting at the bar. He tapped on the empty seat next to him and smiled at her. “Why not join me?”
Pamela looked around. They had been several feet away from the bar only seconds ago. And yet, while she had been talking, he had somehow vanished to the bar and made another seat by his side available for her. She frowned as she began to walk towards him. She could still vividly remember that the bar had been completely crowded. There had been no empty seats.
How did he get those seats? she wondered.
As she slowly sank into the seat, she stared at him with eyes that were wide with confusion and amazement. “How did you do that?”
“How did I do what?”
Pamela pointed to where she had walked from. “How did you move from there to here, and where did the empty seats come from? I could have sworn that there were no empty seats available.”
He dismissed her concerns. “Don’t worry about that. Even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. Besides, it would only serve as a distraction from why we are sitting here in the first place.”
“Yes, from what I am about to tell you.”
Pamela touched the side of her neck. “Oh, so what do you know about me?”
“Quite a lot, Pamela. For example, I know you always come here after work every evening, simply to relax and Diego, the owner, has taken quite a liking to you.”
“Diego likes all his customers,” Pamela pointed out. “That’s one of the reasons why this place is always so busy.”
“Yes, really and anyone would know that I come here every evening, especially if you’re a regular customer too.”
“Yes, you are right, but I am not a regular customer. Because if I was, then I am sure you’d have seen me around.”
Pamela shook her head. “No, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t remember each and every person that comes here. Look, you are really amusing, but I’m still sure that you don’t know me. You haven’t convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt that you know me.”
“I do know you, Pamela. I know that your favorite drink is a glass of chilled champagne with a slice of lemon on the side.”
Pamela chuckled again. “Like I said earlier, anyone would easily know that if they have been watching me for a while now.”
“And would they have bought one for you?”
Pamela frowned. “Bought one what?”
The man gestured down at the table. Pamela gasped. There, just in front of her, was a slender glass with a slice of lemon by the side. She did not need to take a sip to know that it was champagne. She turned around and saw that Diego was still where he was, frozen like the others.
She spun around to see the stranger smiling at her. “How did you do that?”
“For you, there is nothing I cannot do.”
Pamela frowned. “For me? What do you mean, ‘for me’?”
“I am in love with you and that is why there is nothing that I cannot do for you.”
She reached for the glass and took a sip. “Well, you just got a lady a drink. Anyone could do that.”
He nodded. “Yes, anyone could. But they couldn’t tell you details about yourself – more than simple things that someone could figure out through watching you come here every day after work.”
She reached for the glass again. The champagne tasted quite good. She could not imagine anyone else apart from Diego knowing exactly how she liked her drinks. “Is that so?”
“Absolutely, I don’t just know you and what you like; I actually love you very much and this has only made me want to know more about you.”
She noticed the empty space in front of him. “You aren’t drinking!”
“Just watching you drink is enough for me.”
“Okay, if you insist. Go on, tell me more. What else do you know about me?”
“I know that you hate your job as a legal assistant. Your boss is an overbearing and unscrupulous man who does not only derive joy from overburdening you with work, but also loves to see you fail to meet your deadlines.”
Pamela picked up her drink and took another sip. “Anyone would know that about Mr. Anderson. He is a beast who does not need any introduction.”
“Yes, I agree. But not everyone would know that he made advances towards you today at lunch. And given the way he was so insistent, you’ve now been thinking of leaving the firm for good. But your fear has always been about where you’d go to get another job, especially considering that the recession is not helping the job market.”
By now, Pamela’s mouth was wide open. She reached for her glass again. But it was only when she raised it up to her lip that she realized that it was empty. Embarrassed, she put it back on the table and ran her fingers through her hair. She was conscious of his eyes on her, watching her obvious confusion and bewilderment.
“Go on, have some more.”
“Yes. I have topped it up for you.”
Pamela glanced down at the table. It was true. Her glass was full again. But there was no one moving, not Diego or any of the waiters. It was just her and this mysterious man. She picked up the glass and took a sip. “So, you do seem to know quite a lot about me. I don’t recall seeing you anywhere close to my office when Mr. Anderson made a move on me.”
“No, I wasn’t physically there, of course,” the man confessed. “But I saw everything, including the way he almost tore off your skirt and how you almost screamed out in horror.” He paused as he regarded her wide eyes. “Why not consider going after what you really love?”
“What I really love?”
“Yes. I know your dream has always been to own your own restaurant.” He turned to look around the bar. “Of course, that is one of the reasons why you come here every evening. You find it relaxing and somewhat soothing to spend your evenings at Diego’s place, even though you have much bigger dreams than his.”
“Owning a more successful restaurant than this, of course.”
“Excuse me, who did you say you were?”
He smiled. “Now you want to know me?”
“Yes, I really do want to know who you are. You seem to know so much about me.”
“I said I love you, didn’t I? And I am serious about that confession.”
“Please, keep love aside for now. Tell me, who you are and how do you know so much about me?”
“Okay, if that is what you want. I go by many names, most of which would not make any sense to you. But if you really must know, I am an ancient alien who happened to come to your world to study your people. It is out of destiny or fate that after studying many of your kind, I finally met you and since then, I haven’t been able to get you off my mind. That is why today, I decided to introduce myself formally to you.”
“An ancient alien with many names is in love with me?”
“Deeply in love with you and to further prove how much I love you, I am going to help you live your dream.”
She burst out with laughter. “And how do you intend to do that? Are you going to give me money to open my own restaurant?”
“No, I will do something even better. I will create an entire universe, just for you to do with it as you please.”
“An entire universe, you say?”
“Yes, just for you.”
“Now, it’s either I’m drunk or I’m dreaming. None of what you’re saying makes any sense and none of it seems real either.”
“Really? Okay, why don’t you look outside?”
“Outside?” Pamela turned and gasped. She stood up and walked slowly towards the closest window. When she had arrived at Diego’s, there had been many people and motorists outside, with a string of cars parked along the street. Now, there was nothing. All she could see was an emptiness that reminded her of the darkness and loneliness of space. Above, there were stars glittering down at her. For as far as she could see, there was nothing but emptiness, darkness, and stars.
Pamela turned away from the window to look at the man. That was when she became conscious of their surroundings. It was completely empty, aside from the two of them. She looked at him. “Where did they go?”
“You mean the others? I left them at Diego’s place. We are in a whole new universe here.”
Pamela sat back down. She stared at her half-filled glass of champagne. “So, you’re doing all this because you love me?”
“And this whole universe is all mine?”
“Absolutely. It is all yours to do whatever you want with it.”
“Can I open a restaurant?”
“Anywhere and everywhere, it is all up to you.”
“Can I make a request?”
“Go on, I’m all ears. What is it?”
“I’d like to have Diego here to serve us while I get to know you better.”
The man smiled. “If that is what you want, your wishes are my command.”