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Medium Rare Murmurs

Medium Rare Murmurs…

Why isn’t he here yet?

Anyone with half an interest could see that Idra was here on a blind date. Beyond that, a half glance in Idra’s direction was enough to tell anyone with a passing interest that her blind date was late, to the point where it was becoming plausible that he wasn’t coming at all.

All the tell-tale signs were there – her eyes were darting around the restaurant, and she was furiously picking at her own fingernails. Every time the door opened, she would stiffen in her seat and absent-mindedly straighten her dress and flick her hair.

Anyone with more than a passing interest might be able to determine that this was Idra’s first date in a long time. In fact, Idra hadn’t been on a single date since her divorce, which was well over a year ago.

Being equipped with this knowledge, you would think that anyone with more than a passing interest in Idra would feel empathetic, even supportive, towards her current situation.

And yet, the two young women at the table across from Idra were not showing any signs of empathy, nor support, even though they certainly seemed to be expressing more than a passing interest her.

What are they saying about me?

The two young women were speaking in hushed, excited tones. Idra couldn’t quite determine what language they were speaking, but it certainly wasn’t English. Russian? Polish? Somewhere in the Balkans, maybe?

Tired of making awkward eye contact with the two of them, Idra’s gaze had dropped to the floor of the restaurant, where it continued to dart around erratically. She fixated on the two foreign women’s heels, and fancy cocktail dresses, both of which indicated that they were, in fact, Eastern European judging by the style.

Not that it mattered, of course. Idra was just flustered, and desperately searching for things to occupy her brain while she waited for her blind date to arrive.

She had spent all day cleaning her apartment, shaving her legs, and preparing herself in other ways for what she hoped would be a much-needed night of excitement and romance. She’d even treated herself to a manicure, pedicure and facial.

Idra had even gone shopping for a seductive new shade of lipstick, smokey eyeshadow (which she hadn’t worn since prom), and a very elegant backless dress – all three of which she now felt extremely self-conscious about as she sat there alone, exposed and vulnerable, while the two foreign girls laughed and whispered in a constant loop, occasionally stealing glances in her direction.

What the fuck are they saying about me? And where the hell is my date?

Low though Idra’s self-esteem may be, she was sure that her date couldn’t have walked in, laid eyes on her, and left.

First of all, every single person who had entered the busy restaurant had been shown to a seat and was still here, enjoying their meal as Idra tried to ignore the fact that she was the only patron currently sitting alone.

Secondly, while Idra had long ago accepted that she wasn’t a knockout, she didn’t consider herself unattractive. Her bully of an older brother used to poke fun at her for being a “Plain Jane”, joking that she’d make a mediocre guy very mildly satisfied one day.

Even so, Idra was sure that a bit of lipstick, eyeshadow, a fancy dress and the fact that she was quite prepared to sleep with even the most ordinary of men tonight so long as he was polite enough and engaged her in conversation throughout dinner, would do the trick.

So, where was he? And why won’t these two foreign women stop ridiculing Idra? By this point, it was painfully clear that they were talking about her. Neither one of these girls could possibly be older than 20, and it bothered Idra that she was so easily intimidated by two girls half her age.

Both women had received their meals a moment ago, and Idra had hoped that this would be enough to put an end to their psychological assault on her self-assurance. But as the women proceeded to dig into their medium rare steaks, they continued to speak through full mouths as they stole smug glances in Idra’s direction.

Through no conscious effort on her part, Idra found herself swept up in fantasies of catching these two women off-guard by suddenly asking them in fluent whatever-language-they-were-speaking if she could borrow their salt. Their faces would go pale as they realised with horror that she’d understood all the nasty things they’d said about her.

The more time that passed, the clearer it became that Idra’s date wasn’t coming, and the more intense the two foreign women’s conversation grew, so the more violent Idra’s fantasies became, until suddenly she was picturing herself stabbing her fork through the left woman’s eyeball while she smashed a bottle of wine over the right woman’s head, then using her steak knife to slit both of their throats.

“Top up your wine, ma’am?”

A deep voice brought Idra back to the present, where a rather dashing waiter stood by her table with an open bottle of red wine. He had opened it in front of her a half hour earlier, when she’d ordered her first glass.

That glass was now dwindling, and as much as Idra wanted to escape from this vulnerable scene in which she was being forced to perform for these two cruel foreigners, the thought of another glass of shiraz was as enticing as the waiter’s silky smooth voice and reassuring smile.

“Yes please,” Idra responded in a tiny voice that was not quite her own.

As the waiter refilled her glass, Idra shot a glance towards the two women at the table across from her, and immediately regretted it. Her timid, self-conscious gaze was met by confident, thuggish smirks from both women as they chewed on their medium rare steaks.

Idra redirected her gaze to the empty space between her knife and fork, where it remained long after the waiter had walked away. She became so engulfed in avoiding the gazes of everybody in the restaurant, that at first she didn’t hear the guttural sounds coming from somewhere nearby.

It was only once other diners began to gasp and shout that Idra emerged from the safe bubble of solitude that she’d enveloped herself in.

She looked up from her table to the sight of a very dramatic scene unfolding at the table across from her.

The woman to Idra’s right was clutching at her throat and convulsing violently, while the woman to Idra’s left was screaming and reaching over the table to clutch at her friend frantically. The woman was choking on a piece of her medium rare steak.

Idra realised she must have been in a daze for quite some time, because the choking woman’s face was already showing dark shades of purple. Suddenly, things escalated as the woman kicked her feet outwards and knocked the table over, while her chair fell backwards onto the floor.

Idra watched in stunned silence as restaurant staff and other patrons rushed over to the woman in slow motion. This complete stranger had just spent half an hour eating up Idra’s confidence with the same ease of which she was mopping up that steak bite by bite, and now she was choking to death.

Slowly, hesitantly, Idra rose to her feet as the voices of everyone around her began to register inside her brain again.

“Give her the Heimlich,” a nearby customer called out.

“She’s choking,” was another patron’s helpful remark.

One of the staff knelt over the choking woman and exclaimed, “Is anyone here a doctor?!”

Idra stepped forward on wobbly feet from behind her table. “I’m a doctor.”

Of all the private details she had decided to omit from her online personal dating profile, her occupation was arguably the biggest. Instead, Idra’s profile stated that she was a pharmacist.

She had decided that only once the evening was already off to a good start, would she reveal to any potential blind dates that she was, in fact, a brain surgeon with extensive education in numerous medical fields.

Idra’s reasoning for this was that she didn’t want to intimidate any potential future boyfriend with her impressive resume before he’d had a chance to get to know her personality.

Never had Idra imagined that she would reveal herself as a doctor this evening for the purpose of saving a life, after clearly being stood up in front of a restaurant full of couples on dates.

And yet, here she was.

Idra approached the choking woman, writhing and squirming on the restaurant floor as her body tried to eject the piece of steak from her throat.

“Everyone stand back,” Idra said, trying to sound authoritative as she dropped to her knees beside the ‘patient’. Her friend, the other source of Idra’s diminishing dignity this evening, also knelt beside her.

Kneeling on opposite sides of the choking woman, Idra and the foreign lady were polar opposites. Whereas the foreign lady was flustered and desperate, Idra’s movements were calm and fluid.

Still wondering if her date might waltz through the door any second now, Idra hunched over the choking woman, but stopped short of actually taking any action.

“Do something!” Her friend shrieked in broken English. Idra gazed at her, their faces only inches apart.

“What were you saying about me?” Idra asked her in a low voice.

“What?!” The foreign lady gasped.

“Earlier,” Idra said. “All night. What have you been saying about me to each other.”

The foreign lady held Idra’s gaze for a long time, but her expression was one of complete bewilderment and confusion. Her friend gurgled and moaned beneath them.

“We… I was…” The lady sighed. “We were making fun of your hair.”

Idra stared back at the woman, who suddenly looked ashamed and distraught.

Her hair? Idra was self-conscious about many things – her short stature, her lopsided grin, her pancake tits, her social anxiety, the fact that she hadn’t gotten laid in over a year, and an endless list of other shortcomings – but her hair was not one of them. Well, not until now, anyway.

She’d actually planned to visit a hairstylist today, to complete her beauty makeover. In the end though, Idra decided she liked her hair the way it was.

“What’s wrong with my hair?” Idra asked.

The foreign woman looked down at her friend, whose gaze was no longer lucid and present. Her frantic movements had slowed down, her gaze seemed to be fixed in some distant, faraway place, and in general she looked like she was losing the struggle. In a panic, her friend looked back up at Idra.

“It doesn’t suit you,” she blubbered, as ginormous tears streamed down her cheeks. “Short women shouldn’t have bob haircuts.”

Clutching her friend’s hand, the woman burst into a hysterical fit of tears. “It m-makes you l-look… fr-fr-frumpy,” she screamed.

Idra sat back on her heels, taking in this new information. She looked at the choking woman, whose eyes were bulging as her face contorted into an expression of anguish at her final few moments on this earth.

“What does she do for a living,” Idra asked the choking woman’s friend in barely more than a whisper, though her eyes were still firmly fixed on the nearly dead woman lying on the floor below her.

“Oh, for god’s sake,” the lady exclaimed. “She works in an ice cream shop downtown!”

Then Idra took in her surroundings – the entire restaurant was crowded in a circle around Idra and the two nasty foreign women, waiting in suspense for Idra to prove herself as a seasoned medical professional.

Finally, her eyes settled on the handsome waiter, who was watching her with concern and encouragement. He still held a bowl of spaghetti carbonara in his hand.

With a great big sigh, Idra made an odd comet shape with her right hand, as if she was about to entertain a child with a shadow puppet of a duck. Then, without warning, she plunged it deep into the dying woman’s mouth, and down into her throat.

Most of Idra’s forearm had disappeared into the woman’s throat before her fingers met the slimy texture of the grisly ball of steak that was threatening this nasty person’s life.

After a few tricky manoeuvres (none of which was the Heimlich, ironically), Idra managed to hook her fingers around the blockage and scoop it out.

From there, everything was quite “Hollywood”. The woman sucked in as much air as her lungs could contain, the crowd of people cheered, there were lots of hugs and photos.

Idra wanted no part of it. She paid her bill, and quietly slipped to the bathroom to wash her hand and forearm, and emerged from the bathroom with the intention of sneaking out the back door of the restaurant via the kitchen.

As it turns out, fate had other plans, and Idra speed-walked straight into the handsome waiter. He’d been delivering a tray of cocktails to a rowdy table of women celebrating a bachelorette party, and Idra managed to help him smash every last glass.

…and a Skewed Way of Looking at Things

Idra took the waiter home that night.

They didn’t even get a drink together, or stop anywhere between the restaurant and her apartment. They just jumped in a taxi, made a beeline for her apartment while passionately kissing and holding each other in the back seat, and then had sex the moment they burst through her front door.

Idra hadn’t even given it much thought beforehand.

She was simply feeling excited and energised from saving that young girl’s life in the restaurant, and she needed some kind of release. As it turns out, her body knew what she needed better than her brain did, and for once Idra let herself go with the flow rather than overthink it.

She surprised herself by how comfortable she was inviting this man she hadn’t even had a full conversation with back to her apartment. Idra had never done anything like this before.

However, as delighted with herself as she was for doing something wild and spontaneous, the sex itself wasn’t that great. The waiter was particularly well endowed, and Idra hadn’t been penetrated for more than a year.

Wincing and grimacing in the dark as the waiter violently thrust himself into her again and again, Idra found herself thinking about her ex-husband’s penis.

While the sex had never been all that great with him either, at least it had never hurt. He had been on the smaller side, and was always extremely self-conscious about it. Meanwhile, this guy was clearly very proud of his member, watching Idra’s intimidated expression with some interest as it grew harder and harder, until it had the girth of a deodorant can.

Once she’d accepted that she wasn’t going to climax, Idra decided it might be best to finish the waiter off as quickly as she could. Still, it took longer than she’d expected, and Idra began to worry that she’d forgotten how to give good head.

When at last he finished, she collapsed onto her back beside him on the bed, and neither of them said a word until their heavy panting slowed to peaceful, relaxed breaths.

“Interesting night,” the waiter joked.

“Uh, yeah – just a little!” Idra giggled. After a beat, she added, “My ex-husband used to tell me I was boring.”

“Really?” The waiter turned his head to look at her in the dark.

“Well, he never said it directly, but by the end everything he said and did implied it, y’know? Does that make sense?”

The waiter nodded his head. “Uh-huh.”

“He also said I had a very skewed way of looking at things,” Idra continued. Then she added with a gasp, “You don’t think I’m boring, do you?”

“Idra, some idiot stood you up on a blind date tonight, and you somehow managed to turn the night around by saving someone from choking to death and then fucking your waiter,” he laughed, and so did Idra.

Then he said, “Boring people have boring evenings. When the opportunity for excitement crops up, they run away or hide from it, rather than embrace it. You embraced it.”

Idra smiled to herself in the dark. That was the nicest thing anyone had said to her in a long time.

“I did it for you, y’know,” she said.

“Did what,” the waiter mumbled, as he began to drift off into a peaceful sleep.

“Saved that girl. I wanted you to see me save her.”

A long silence followed, after which the waiter slowly pulled himself up into a sitting position.

“What do you mean?” His voice sounded different. Harsher, or colder maybe.

“I wanted you to see that I’m more than just a woman sitting alone in a restaurant. I can be useful, and compassionate.”

“Idra…” He trailed off a few times, at a loss for words. “Compassion is showing concern for others. Using compassion to impress someone isn’t compassionate at all.”

Idra said nothing, and both of their figures remained still in the dark bedroom. Then the waiter spoke again. “Your desire to save a stranger should be instinctive. There’s no ego attached to compassion.”

The word ‘ego’ echoed in Idra’s head, inspiring images of the two stuck-up girls glancing over at her table with raised eyebrows, the naked waiter kneeling on top of her as he caressed his own unnecessarily large dick to climax, and Idra herself, standing over a stranger who was knocking on death’s door.

In that moment, it was all too much for Idra to comprehend. So, she did what most people do. She took the easy way out. Idra decided not to comprehend it at all.

“Fuck you,” she hissed into the silence, like a dart whizzing through the air and burrowing into a dartboard. “What the hell do you know? You’re a fucking waiter, I’m a doctor.”

The waiter sighed, and calmly shifted over to the edge of the bed, where he began dressing in the dark. Several minutes passed in silence.

“I’m sorry,” Idra whispered to his bare back as he pulled his socks on. “I didn’t mean that, I just… she was really a nasty piece of work, and I saved her life anyway. She’d been saying mean things about me, and I still leaped into action when she started choking.”

“She was just a kid, Idra,” he mumbled over his shoulder. “Kids are nasty.”

Idra produced a few new angles to protest from, but the waiter carried on dressing as if he couldn’t hear her.

“That’s fine then,” she muttered in a flat voice. “Just turn on me, like everyone else does. You’re as fucking ignorant as the rest of them. You have no idea what I’ve been through. The shit I take from people, the anxiety I put up with on a day-to-day basis. I grit my teeth through it all, put on a happy face, and everyone else just walks all over me.”

The waiter rose to his feet beside the bed, putting his belt on. Idra couldn’t make out the expression on his face in the dark.

“I let you fuck me,” she spat.

Finally, he spoke. “You invited me here, I didn’t invite myself.”

“Oh, please,” Idra hissed as the waiter left the bedroom, walking through the living area to the front door of the apartment. “Don’t get all high and mighty – I bet you fuck customers all the time.”

With one hand on the doorknob, the waiter paused for a moment and turned around to face Idra.

“You know, those two girls left me a tip,” he said. “Even with all that choking drama, and all that nasty shit they might’ve said about you, they still tipped me before they left the restaurant. You didn’t leave a tip.”

“I think if you look at the state of my bedsheets, you’ll see that I tipped you pretty generously,” Idra shot back.

The waiter shook his head as he opened the door and stepped out into the corridor.

“Here’s a tip for you then, Idra. Stop worrying about what others think of you, and focus on what you think of yourself.” And with that, the waiter slammed the door.

Idra sat up in bed for a long while after that, completely still in the dark. Thinking. Analysing. Debating.

She compared well-cooked insults, like her brother saying she’d make a mediocre guy very mildly satisfied one day, to medium rare murmurs, like two strangers talking about her in a foreign language.

She grew tired as she sat there in the dark, picturing tornadoes ripping through countless villages, and water rolling off the backs of countless ducks.

In the end though, Idra decided that everyone – her ex-husband, the two foreign women, the waiter, and anyone else she was yet to meet who would turn out to intentionally or unintentionally cripple her self-esteem – were all horrible people.

They would get what they had coming to them, and she would get some sleep.

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