“Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn to sunsets and makes the night air smell better.”—Henry Rollins
Eating alone in a restaurant can seem lonely. Admittedly, the first time I did this was in Guam at King’s Restaurant on my two hour break (prep period and lunch). I set out my students’ papers, my gradebook and had my meal on the side. I was working hard not to look pathetic or lonely.
Fifteen years later, I really could care less if I had to dine alone, age brings you a stronger sense of self, I guess. But, today as I had breakfast with my daughter, I saw three elderly men, each at their own table.
One man ate stoically, occasionally looking at my daughter and me, not smiling, mostly looking out the window. He had a large patch on his throat and I figured he was a former smoker (or still actively smoking). He finished his meal efficiently, boxed the leftovers, placed a stylish hat on his head and left.
Another man, dressed in a nice business jacket ate quietly. Again, not smiling, just focused on the task at hand. He left without me noticing, a half pile of unfinished strawberry covered pancakes left on his table, no tip.
These two men didn’t seem lonely.
The last man stumbled in and sat in the booth next to us. His arms were tattooed and his skin blotchy and leathery. He had a thick moustache and spoke cheerfully, a bit too loud. He slurred his words and repeated himself to the waiter on a number of occasions. When my waitress walked by him he loudly said, “Don’t lose it!” She leaned in and asked kindly, “Don’t lose what?” He said, “Your wiggle! Don’t lose that wiggle of yours.”
I was disgusted. He bordered on being vulgar and was clearly inappropriate. The waitress took it in stride, looked at me and smirked. I smirked back. At the end of our meal, this third man had finished half his Spanish omelette. He looked over at me, then looked at my daughter. I gave him a quick half smile and focused on feeding my child, my arm instinctively cradling her and drawing her in close. I could see in my periphery that he was still watching us. It struck me at how lonely he seemed. He didn’t speak, but then returned his attention to his food. I began wondering about this man, his line of work, his family situation. I should have asked him how his day was going, but a sense of self-preservation or caution overruled that urge. I still felt for him and I wondered if his “wiggle” line worked when he was twenty years younger. Maybe I’m all wrong about this man, and I hope I am. I hope he wasn’t drunk and sad and craving company.
Whether you dine alone or with one other or a crowd, I hope your time is happy.