The sun filters in through the leaves of the trees. The midday sun casts dancing shadows over the well-worn table-top. The tables are set for lunch guests – paper napkins, ashtray, salt and pepper shakers, and toothpicks all indicate that the table is ready for a guest. The floor is cleanly swept and all the furniture carefully arranged to create a pleasant and inviting atmosphere. Two new picture frames lean against the wall – one of a dancing woman and the other a blank wooden backing.
Soon these new images will join the walls already decorated with art. A local artist uses the wall space to display his abstract paintings. The room is filled with blues, oranges, yellows, and reds. The colors seem to practically illuminate the room. Behind the computers are pictures from the sea – both pictures depicting dolphins and underwater diving adventures. The computers are ready for use. Three armed sentinels standing in a row. There is a motorcycle helmet next to one, with a set of keys. Next to the second is a half-empty water glass.
The chairs are empty, and the screens are poised in the middle of email composition. The door to the office stands open, and the regular attendant sits in the chair. He is engrossed in something on the screen, probably a game that he’s been playing, probably not a newspaper article. The restaurant staff are all huddling around the hostess stand. Occasionally, one will venture out and wipe an empty table. There is very little noise today, and aside from one group sitting at two tables pushed together, there is no one else eating.
The group looks like it is here for business, each person has a set of papers out before them and the discussion seems led. Everyone is calm and organized. The scent of pizza drifts into the air. The wood fire stove at the back has been fired up, and the scent of cheese and wood fills the air. Glasses clink together in the background as the dishwashers keep busy. THE UNFAMILIAR The place is silent. There are computers, but no sounds of keys being pushed. There is staff, but they are not chit-chatting or engaging in conversation.
Even the large group talking in low tones, when talking at all. Ah, a distant clink of water glasses. Someone must be active in the kitchen. Despite the sun streaming through the windows, the place has an ethereal light. The walls are adorned with bizarre paintings – no forms can be discerned and the colors are garish. They are all done in primary colors and seem to be uncontrolled expressions of lines and colors with no coherent overall theme. The way the paintings are spaced along the walls adds to the social displacement.
An empty picture frame along the wall begs to be filled, to become the link between the abstract art and underwater scenes adorning the walls. The computer terminals only hint at human existence. There is an abandoned motorcycle helmet, which cannot be too abandoned because there is a set of keys next to it, and an open email program. But there is no one to be seen. An empty water glass holds the seat next to the motorcycle helmet. Are these physical placeholders for non-existent people? There is a man in the office.
He looks as though if people disappeared in front of his eyes, he wouldn’t even notice. He is so engrossed in his computer screen – is he playing a game? His eyes are not even blinking. This level of interest is the polar opposite of the interest shown by the staff. The staff remains huddled around the hostess stand, paying no attention to the one group inside, or to the missing people from the computer terminals. The tables suggest readiness for occupants, napkins, toothpicks, ashtrays, and salt and pepper are ready for use. They stand guard over the empty tables.