I have learned to live with myself and my aloneness. I even like it. Yet, on this Sunday brunch day –my ears on sound overload with the cacophony of adult laughter and little kids’ high pitched voices infused with an enthusiasm only they can muster in whine and wonder– the word “alone” acquires a connotation I dislike.
I sense a weird stillness next to me. I turn my head as much as I can, trying to not be too conspicuous. Her head is bent slightly. Her short, jet-black hair pulled back with a slickness no gel could possibly achieve. A headband placed there for pure adornment, for no strand moves. She looks sprung out of one of those Japanese anime. Her food is lined up in front of her: brioche toast floating in a lake of maple syrup, followed by a plate of scrambled eggs, and a little further a bowl of fresh fruit, and coffee, on the far edge of the table, too far for her to reach. She picks up her fork and starts playing with her scrambled eggs. Not a bit of it reaching her mouth. She shakes her head slightly and turns it towards me. Though fascinated, I turn mine away.
From the corner of my eye I see her shove the brioche plate away from her, placing it to facilitate its removal by the waitress. She brings the scrambled eggs plate closer to her, still playing with it. She takes a bite.
My food arrives and I salt it, spilling some of it on the table. I gather the spillage in a little mound, take a pinch of it and, in a move I hope nobody notices, I flick it over my left shoulder. The myth is that if you spill salt it’s bad luck and if you throw it over your left shoulder, where the devil supposedly waits, you will blind him and thwart his evil ways. I’m not superstitious but just in case… I feel a stare and meet her eyes. My behavior probably as strange to her as hers is to mine. She is blazingly staring at me but there is no life in her eyes. I doubt she actually even sees me.
She returns to her eggs and moves it to where she had left her now gone brioche plate. Seems like it all is perfectly choreographed. She brings the fruit bowl closer. Lowering her head she lets it meet her hands and cups it for a moment. I’m not sure if she’s praying or mourning. Picking up her fork she puts piece by piece into her mouth in an almost frenzied pace. And then she stops. Breathes. Lifts herself up a bit from her chair, reaches for her probably now cold coffee and holding it in two hands she takes little sips until there is no more.
At this point I make no attempt to make believe I’m not staring. She doesn’t seem to mind, care or acknowledge me.
Our checks arrive at the same time. I asked for mine. Hers just seemed to magically appear. Our change came in unison as well and I become part of this dance she has choreographed. Fitting that the only two lone diners were placed side by side.
As I am mentally thanking her for entertaining me through my breakfast she looks up as we exit and gives me one of the most disconsolate smiles that I have ever seen. It seems that her alone is not as welcomed or accepted as mine. It saddens me.