eating alone

I remember one night when I worked in the restaurant very clearly. 
There was a girl. She couldn't have been much older than me, but she came in by herself, and she was dressed up, but she wanted a table, in the dining room, for one. 
I don't think she ordered wine, but I remember she got a salad. 
A salad and something else. 
And she sat down and pulled out a journal and began to write in loopy cursive. 
It was heart wrenching and sweet and pathetic all at the same time. 
Because it was exactly the sort of thing you do after someone tells you that they don't love you anymore, or that they never loved you to begin with, or that they love someone who is not you. 
I mean, after that, what is there to do but go distract your ache in fine dining establishments with a knife in one hand and a pen in the other? 


Her waiter bitched about her slowness and her diary for the majority of the night. 

In retrospect, all the servers detested them: the single ladies who wanted to linger and write or read books over meals eaten alone in the crowded, noisy restaurant, where ZZ Top often sat in the bar and couples frequently got engaged at table 67. 

And so these women were almost always sat at bad tables, and their servers belittled them endlessly, mostly for not drinking enough and eating too slowly. 
But I sympathized with that girl. 
Because in America, to go out and look nice and eat at an expensive restaurant alone, walks the tender line of bravery and cultural faux-pas. 
In the States, eating alone brings to mind second-grade cafeteria rejection. 
You aren't ever supposed to eat alone. 

Paris has been difficult for me. I do not lie to you. 
The sun does not shine as much as I am used to, there is a language barrier, I battle a little bit with loneliness, but even more with shyness, an emotion I rarely feel. 
Yet eating alone here, which I have done a great deal of, is great. 
Wonderful, even. 
No one blinks an eye.
Which is nice and makes me feel good. 


So I've been drinking a lot of beer and some wine and eating a lot of croque Madame and I had one really phenomenal oyster with a squeeze of lemon that I bought for three euros on the sidewalk. 
The romance of that oyster will never die. 
And that is what makes Paris great. 
Because every moveable feast Hemingway ever wrote about, becomes, for a few sharp moments, reality. 


So Paris has been difficult, but whenever I sit down at the table alone, I think of that girl, and I'm happy that I both am and am not her, and I think about the promise of random everyday magic, like the oyster eaten on the sidewalk. 
And so I feel thankful and so grateful. 
For everything.