We watched him hobble across the room, just barely keeping ourselves together until he had disappeared through the door that lead to the toilets. Then we started gathering up our things – our coats and hats and canes – as fast as our losing-control bodies would allow. We were all giggling now, struggling to pick things up because the laughter had infected us so completely.
One of the waitresses came to see what was going on. Maybe she thought we were planning to run away without paying, though this would have been appalling impudent – we were after all a group of men and women in our seventies and eighties and the waitress was was young enough to be one of our granddaughters. I told her to please help us carry the glasses to the table on the other side of the room, and gave her a wink. When she asked why we were moving, the only way I could think to explain was to say that we were playing a trick, which was the truth. We were playing a trick. It was the way we had always done things.
Having decamped to the table on the other side of the room, we settled as best we could, trying to stop tittering, trying to act natural. He emerged soon enough, stood in the doorway and looked up and down the room. It is true that he is the oldest of us all, that his bladder is weak, that his eyesight is failing. We could see him visibly deflate, then he blew his nose loudly before setting off towards the exit. He is not good on his feet, relies more heavily on his cane than the rest of us. For him, getting anywhere requires a lot of effort.
We kept our heads down, some of us had to clamp their hands across their mouths.
The waitress caught my eye and I put a finger to my lips. Keep quiet. She looked at us, then looked at him, turned back to us, registering concern or disgust or something. She was not to know that we did this to him all the time.
When he reached the door and struggled to push it open we collapsed, exploded into laughter, some of us almost died I swear.