Table for One

Sitting alone at a restaurant is uncomfortable. I don’t care how great the food, service, or atmosphere is. If I’m there by myself, it just sucks. I’m aware of it, too, so it’s rare that I’ll find myself in such a situation, but there are times when it’s unavoidable. Solo road trips where I’ve run out of prepared meals; emergencies; the occasional recovery from a blackout drunk where I come back to my senses sitting all by my lonesome in some greasy diner, sopping up bacon grease with a toasted shard of brown bread.

It’s the feeling that I’m sitting there displaying my solitude to anyone who cares to notice. Like I’m on display to a bored eye, one that’s wandered from whoever’s sitting across from it and fallen on the shadows of my table, there in the corner, where my only companion is the plate or the mug in front of me. I don’t use smart phones or other such devices, so I’m not tapping away on a text message or endlessly scrolling through some diversion. I don’t read much these days, and when I do I like to do it while sitting on the toilet at home. In public I’ll be staring into space, or at the plate, or into the depths of my drink, just being alone.

While I understand that this is the nature of life, and that it’s the omnipresent underlying condition of everyone’s reality, so stark a reminder of it is horrifying. The longer it goes on, that unattended aloneness, the more I become aware of all my little quirks and subtle nuances. I become dissatisfied with how’ve I dressed myself or parted my hair. I worry if I’ve brushed the smell off my teeth, or if there’s errant detritus hanging from one of the holes in my head. I become concerned with my demeanor, worried that I look like I’m brooding, or dangerous, or crazy.

Most of all I worry that other people will tune into my dark solitude, and I’ll bring their mood down.

But then I’ll finish up, pay, and the oblivion of motion will wash away the entire episode, and I’ll not think of it again until the next time I find myself staring down a piece of bacon awash in the remains of yet another all-day breakfast plate at some dirty diner somewhere on another lonely stretch of highway.

2014.12.08 – 2023.07.10

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