Le Restaurant de Manger

Lewis and Scotty climbed a short, narrow staircase into a long, dimly lit restaurant. Lewis looked around and was reminded of a black and white horror film. The walls were brick and weathered with stains. A long dented tin-topped bar stretched the length of the place, and tables were scattered about the other half. Nailed to the walls in sporadic places were old photographs of people. There was also a small sign that read, "Keep going... NaNo novels aren't supposed to be any good!" Lewis didn't know what this meant, or why the sign was in English. He wondered if the restaurant owners didn't know what it meant either. He followed Scotty to one of the tables and sat down.

The menu was in French, but Lewis was at least able to recognize some key words. As he was staring at the sandwich section, however, a waiter arrived at the table and Scotty began speaking to him in rapid French. For a second, Lewis was surprised, but then he remembered all the ways Scotty had surprised him today, and told himself to try to not be surprised by anything he did anymore. Scotty and the waiter stopped talking, and both looked at Lewis expectantly. 

"Um," said Lewis, looking at Scotty. "I think I saw a steak sandwich, that sounds good." 

Scotty translated this to the waiter, who nodded and left. Then, without warning, without even the slightest transition period, Scotty looked straight at Lewis and said, "What's wrong with you, Lewis?"

As per his recent resolution, Lewis tried not to be shocked by this question, but he failed once again. He sat there for a few seconds and stared back at Scotty, whose eyes were fixed unblinkingly upon his. Scotty's facial expression was difficult to read. In fact, Lewis noticed, this was the first chance he'd really had to actually look properly at Scotty's face. Since the first time he'd seen him-- only a few hours ago, actually-- the man had been in constant motion. He was always talking, walking, looking around, doing things... this was the first time he'd just been sitting there. 

His face was hard, but thin. Like a young man who was experienced for his age. That, or an older man who was healthy for his. Lewis concluded that he must be somewhere between 25 and 45. His eyes were a deep, dark brown, yet they seemed to be the light of his face, still locked and focused in that unwavering stare which seemed to say, "Please describe me in as many words as possible, before we get on to answering the question."

Lewis cleared his throat awkwardly and, for good measure, repeated the question. "What's wrong with me?"

"Yes," said Scotty. "What's wrong with you?"

"What do you mean?"

"There's something wrong with you. What is it?"

"I don't know," said Lewis. "I wasn't aware there was anything wrong with me. Why don't you explain why you think there is?"

"I can't tell," said Scotty. "But there's definitely something. You drop everything you own, leave everything you have behind, to join a stranger on a quest to find something you don't believe exists. What's your motivation? I understand things weren't going so well at home, so maybe it's not surprising you were willing to leave. And I certainly understand the intrigue of science, or perhaps since you're a journalist, it's the intrigue of an answer to an unexplained disappearance. But I answered that question for you already. And as I said, you're not going to believe the science until you see it. So what's your motivation? Why are you here? Why did you follow me?"

Lewis considered all this for a moment, before answering,

"I don't really know."

"Of course you don't know," said Scotty. "That's why I'm asking."

"Well if you knew I didn't know, why bother asking?" Lewis was getting a tad impatient with Scotty acting like he knew everything about him all the time.

"I ask," said Scotty patiently, "so that you'll have to figure it out."

Silence fell after that, and neither man was ready to break it. Lewis found himself delving into the back of his mind, trying to pinpoint the ultimate reason why he had come. Because Scotty was right. It made no sense. He was intrigued by the man and his passion, sure... and his life certainly needed a change... but it was more than that. He had become a completely different person. He was making decisions differently, he thought about his life differently, and was interacting differently with Scotty than he would with anyone else. Or, maybe he was interacting differently now than he ever had before. Maybe it had nothing to do with Scotty. Maybe his life was going to change today no matter what had happened in that pub.

But his mind wandered back to Scotty. He had never told Scotty about his home life, yet he'd surmised the basic truth about that. Scotty was right, too, that Lewis's intrigue for the project was not his true, underlying motivation for following. And again, Scotty was right in knowing that Lewis didn't know the reason either. It seemed Scotty knew just as much about Lewis as Lewis knew about himself. Scotty August... the man who claimed to perceive everything around him, at all times, to the extent of noticing a bulge on a girl's leg and concluding that there must be a concealed knife strapped to it.

The waiter returned with their food, and they ate quietly, each apparently absorbed in his own thoughts. To Lewis, the question of why he had suddenly changed his life was not nearly as interesting or important as that of how Scotty was so incredibly perceptive. He wanted to be suspicious, to believe that perhaps Scotty was not telling the truth. Maybe Scotty knew more than he was saying about Lewis's past life. Maybe he was doing all this for a reason, though Lewis couldn't think what that reason could possibly be. But how could he honestly have seen everything he said he'd seen about that girl in the alley? What if he hadn't seen anything at all, but simply didn't want to have to chase down the guy and stop him from assaulting her? What if he had some sort of plan for Lewis? For whatever reason, Lewis found this train of thought much more comforting than the one where he himself was the target of all that critical analysis.

By the time they had finished eating, Lewis had concluded that Scotty was definitely up to something, and it was Lewis's mission to prove that Scotty was lying about his amazing superhuman powers of perception. But he would only prove it to himself, of course, because it could be potentially dangerous to reveal to Scotty that he suspected anything. Once he was certain that Scotty was lying, then he would begin the daunting task of figuring out what on earth Scotty wanted with him in the first place.

"Any luck?" said Scotty after they had payed and were walking back out into the street.

What was he playing at? Lewis wondered. What was the point of all this? Did he really just want Lewis to figure himself out? How could Scotty possibly benefit from that? And besides, if he was so amazingly perceptive, surely he could figure it out on his own, if he really cared. Obviously he didn't. But Lewis played along anyway.

"No," he said shortly. "Still not a clue. You?"

Scotty smiled. "Not a clue."

The End

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