Margarita in one hand, quesadilla in the other. And here I am, getting ready to entertain you with another story that is, essentially, a non-story.
I’m at the Mexican restaurant, alone. And by saying this I am not using a cliche’ technique to give you some context or create a powerful atmosphere. That’s the the story.
Me. At the restaurant. Alone.
Do you remember that Friends episode when Rachel discovers the beauty of lonely meals but then she stops after realising that it’s actually depressing and humiliating?
Well it’s that kind of situation.
If you’re not one of those ticklish folks who actually give a damn about a what a couple of overfed strangers or underpaid waiters* think about you, you might actually find that eating alone can, at times, be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
I mean, it is true. People DO stare a lot, mostly with pity, when you ‘re sitting alone at the table. As if eating a bowl of guacamole by yourself is the apeotheosis of despair and desolation. Give me a break!
You should see the face of the hostess, overwhelmed in the attempt to satisfy the quest for food of obese families and couples, when asked the question ‘’Do you have a table for one, please?’’.
The questions is punctually met with a thirty seconds pause in which you can actually hear the nervous connections of the hostess frying.
When she regains consciousness, the poor soul looks at me as if wondering ‘’Oh golly is he lost? Should I call the police? Should we give him a complimentary Empanadas?’’
The second waiter has the job to walk me to the table. He talks to me with a patronizing/condescending tone and I’m afraid he actually wants to hold my hand to let me know that everything is gonna be alright. He makes me choose the table I want. I feel privileged.
I sit down and there’s this moment where I make eye-contact with the manager of the restaurant who, for some reason, does not seem to be saddened by the fact that I’m alone in a restaurant on a Friday night. At a closer look, I realise that he is actually pissed off.
But why the hell is he mad at me now? For Christ’s sake. Oh wait. Look at the queue outside. It’s huge. It’s so long that people are leaving. Oh, I get it, one person taking the space of two people means that the revenue is halved and the restaurant loses profit. All this because of ME.
Please don’t spit in my food.
Oh come on now! Don’t look at me like that. If you’re not gonna get the end-of-year bonus it’s certainly not my fault. Bigger picture, mate. Bigger picture.
Anyway, let’s go back to that Margarita. God, I’m drinking as I write and... it’s insanely strong! I glance at the bartender for a second. He waves at me with a satisfied, condescending expression as if to say ‘’you’re welcome’’.
Did you just pour a triple tequila in this drink? I’m pretty sure that’s illegal but hey I’m not gonna complain! I can't say the same about my liver. Thank you very much, though.
Oh look. The old lady in the table in front of mine is looking at me. Do I have chipotle mayo on my face? A quick look through the glass behind me reveals a pale figure with messy hair and a very irregular beard. Oh yeah, that's me, Everything’s normal.
But granny keeps on staring. Please don’t come here and ask me to sit with you. Please don’t.
I jump and go to the toilet to avoid this sad epilogue. When I’m back, she is too busy swallowing taquitos to look at me. Thank God.
Anyway. I quickly finish my drink. Ok, I had two more drinks the meantime, but who's counting. Yes, with triple tequila, you do the math.
Things are getting worse. Everybody’s looking at me. Or am I paranoid? probably I’m not.
It’s funny how in such an individualistic city you are still defined by who you hang around with, or by the fact that you hang around with someone at all.
I’m actually about to stand up and yell: ‘’Hey! I don’t need your pity. I actually have friends! Yes, I’m in a restaurant, ALONE. But that doesn’t make me sad. That just makes me hungry. Is that a crime?’’
Yes, I’m about to do that. But I won’t. And you know why? Cause I’m actually enjoying this. This is what makes eating alone enjoyable. Not the peace or the silence and the shamelessness in releasing your primitive instincts when the food is served.
Nope, this is what I love. Look at them, all worried for me. Me, at the centre of attention, being offered triple tequila? Oh yeah baby, this is my cup of tea. Bring it on! The narcissistic self-absorbed SOB that’s in me is loving this.
I am gonna play by their rules. I choose pity over usual self-pity. They're gonna do it for me, I purposely decide to look sad. I frown, stare at the ceiling with an empty expression on my face. Look at my phone just to realise that no one has called me. And then I ask the check.
I take my stuff and I start walking as if I’m in some sort of heart-breaking black and white music video, playing a sad ballad in my mind just to make my act more convincing. I leave and that’s it. Perplexed, confused but immensely satisfied by my daily does of attention and, of course, my well-deserved complimentary Empanadas.
*When I say underpaid waiters I don’t mean it in a denigratory way. I’m actually one of them.