What's Wrong?

Sitting at the candlelit dinner table, their faces glowed a dull shade of yellow. A waiter came and took their order, speaking in a French accent that he’d learnt 2 days ago. After the last of the formalities were complete, and they waited for their delicacies to arrive, they decided to make small talk.

It’s never really a unanimous decision to make small talk. One person thinks it’s a good idea, the other follows on. It’s one of those activities that needs chemistry between two people.

“So what’s going on?”, she said, trying to avoid one of many awkward silences of the night.

On the other hand, he was embracing silence as his solace. He said nothing, lost in a different thought. There wasn’t intended ignorance, just a slight lack of connection and empathy. You couldn’t blame either for it. It was something that could happen between any two people, strangers or acquaintances.

She interpreted the silence and reacted with concern, quizzically trying to read his rather blank facial expression and interpret what his still body language could possibly mean.

She kept her hand on his, and asked with genuine concern. “What’s wrong?”

On the other end of this spectrum, behind the still and blank face, hid social anxiety, awkwardness and shortcoming bursting at the seams of facial expressions.

This was the third blind date that had been set up for him, and the first two hadn’t ended well. A similar course of action led to some more awkward moments and ended with the girl calling it a night somewhere in between main course and dessert.

The first one had been nice enough to smile and say she has an Asian friend to see off at the airport. The second one however, made an awkward “thank-god-I’m-done-with-this” look which he was not fond of seeing on consecutive dates.

Social pressure from his colleagues and friends had made him even try this whole blind dating drama. He wasn’t up for most of what was happening. Sure, her hand was warm on his and the overall concern felt nice but only on the surface. It wasn’t of much use when he’d already spent the last 4 seconds thinking about what’s wrong with him.

All of this boiling down to the fact that he had to say something in the next few seconds before it all became awkward or clear that he was mad at the beautiful girl in front of him literally 15 minutes after meeting her, was gnawing at his skin, and pulling at the strands of calmness left in him.

“Keep composure”, he thought. He had an answer to her question ready, he was doing rehearsals of how he’d address it in his head, trying to wait it out longer while fearing the impact of taking too long. The ice breaker came when the waiter came up to the table and kept a bottle of salt and pepper, and walked away.

It broke his trance and he finally spoke up. “Nothing.”