Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Restaurants and other hells

Tonight at dinner I watched a young couple eating, and the girl gyrated in her chair when the plate of chicken curry was placed in front of her. Her date laughed, reached across the table to touch her shoulder.

Well this just blows. Surely there should be a modicum of politeness demonstrated towards those of us eating alone. What? You think we're doing this by choice? We're not, Bubba. We're single, separated, dumped or divorced, spooning pad thai with our eyes fixated on the plate. We're not dancing in our chairs.

When my second divorce came through, I spent a month eating every meal at restaurants. I thought of myself as wonderfully cosmopolitan. On a few occasions I cleaned myself up, put on a suit and tie and, solo and proud, hit an above-average restaurant. Never once did the maitre d' fail to ask if I wanted a table for two. They don't make tables for one?

My women friends say they never dine out alone. It's too weird, too many people look and conjecture about what horrible accident of fate might have left this poor woman unaccompanied. They say dining alone makes them feel less than, and they can sense the eyes of the waiters on their backs. One friend used to give fifty percent tips just to earn a little respect. Another kept running into her ex and his new mate.

There's a desperation to eating alone. It's like we've been bad, sent to sit in the corner while the other kids are at recess. We seldom finish a meal and almost always ask the waitress to bag the leftovers, which become part of the spoiled food collection in the fridge.

There's nothing worse than eating out alone except for fixing a meal for one.

Here's installment eight of Wasted Miracles.

Later she wondered what he’d done to his body to make it look and feel that way beneath her hands. It wasn’t particularly attractive, all those muscles fighting for space under his skin. When on top of her, he was so wide across the shoulders that she couldn’t span him with her arms, but his hips were hardly larger than hers. It took a while for her to understand that it wasn’t a form of narcissism, he wasn’t proud of his appearance, didn’t even much care whether he was symmetrical or not. He did it to isolate himself, to get outside whatever it was he wouldn’t, couldn’t reveal. He said the exercises made his muscles burn, made him feel real. He said his body was a good disguise.
“From what?” She’d asked.
“From everything.”
Catherine heard a key in the latch, saw her daughter slide quietly into the house.
The girl jumped, turned, made her face into an angry mask. "What are you doing up? Why aren’t you in bed?"
Catherine let the accusation slide, shook her head. "Couldn't sleep, that's all."
Josie stared at her mother, nodded once, turned her back. Catherine tried to catch her with her voice. "Where were you?"
She was climbing the stairs to her bedroom. "Out."
"Anyone I know?"
Upstairs a door closed, a deadbolt turned. Catherine sipped her drink, whispered, "My family's home, safe and sound."
It wasn't supposed to be like this. It wasn't supposed to be like this at all.


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