They pulled into the parking lot of the pizza restaurant. He stopped the car and unbuckled his seatbelt, but she didn’t unbuckle hers.
“I’m not sure about pizza,” she said.
“OK,” he said.
“It takes a long time.”
“I just don’t feel like sitting for so long.”
“Also, pizza doesn’t sound good to me.”
“Where should we go?”
“I don’t know.”
He looked at her, hoping to read a restaurant preference in her expression. She looked ahead through the windshield.
He suggested a family restaurant where they usually ordered Monte Christo sandwiches.
“OK,” she said.
“If the food’s not too heavy.”
After pulling into the parking lot, he turned off the car, but did not unbuckle his seatbelt. She did not unbuckle hers, either.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“I’m not sure.”
“It’s awfully bright in there.”
“And the booths aren’t too comfortable.”
“That’s true. I suppose we could get a table with chairs?”
It was summer, still daylight.
“Any ideas?” he asked.
He thought about the five or so restaurants that they rotated among. For each, he attempted to picture her sitting at a table, ordering, eating—tried to sense how the setting or food would influence her pleasure or acquiescence.
He suggested a popular fast-food restaurant, and she said yes, but as they approached she said that she thought she might want something nicer. He looked for a clue in the word “nicer.”
“I have an idea,” he said.
The Mediterranean restaurant was on a hill, its parking lot slightly down the hill, and so a bit more exertion than usual was required to walk from the car to the front door.
At the host station, she asked to see a menu.
“Mmm,” she said.
“The rice dish? You liked it last time.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t really see anything I want.”
In the car, he bucked his seatbelt, but she did not buckle hers. She began to cry.
“Why didn’t you stop me?” she said.