1 So all of you decided not to appear 2 for our usual at the usual time and place. 3 No doubt you had good reasons: 4 Richard, swimming the Hellespont to Port Colbourn? 5 Howard, in extremis with some deadline? 6 Kildare? I must ask his travel agent, 7 Don, in the boondocks at a robin's twitter?-- 8 leaving me to face four empty chairs 9 and dine alone in the best of company. 10 The waiter was polite, the management grave, 11 just short of suggesting that I order enough 12 for five, since I had claimed our large round table. 13 After waiting the canonical fifteen minutes 14 for savants and artistes, I ordered in revenge 15 what you all like best, then craned my neck, 16 hoping for a breathless, last-minute entrance. 17 None. A stigma, dining alone, though most of us 18 will end so--pray not through tubes--and yet, 19 what better than raising chopsticks to one's lips 20 with the choice bits of every dish that pleases, 21 and without the distraction of half-chewed talk, 22 thinking fondly of our absent friends, 23 yet not missing them too much, 24 supposing they are at other pleasures.