Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reflections on Dining Alone in a Chicago Bistro

               The encounter started with a simple nod and a simultaneous exchange of smiles. We both opened our mouths at once as though getting ready to speak, but both laughed with that recognition. His waiter had appeared, as had mine, to give menus and enlighten us of the chef’s specials. Our booths in the dark bistro were opposite each other with our waiters back to back, no doubt almost colliding. The servers then left to gather up our drinks.
                I had earlier removed my glasses but replaced them to study the menu, moving them around for the best focus in the low light. That’s when I saw that he, too, had glasses and was adjusting them. We nodded and smiled again, at our concurrent actions.
                We finished ordering at the same time and chuckled at all the coincidences. The bistro’s dim ambiance seemed a bit extreme, lit only by soft candles and minimal spots scattered about.  I glanced over to see that he had glasses on as well and we nodded again. After ordering, I removed my glasses, resting my eyes, allowing my brain to melt in the resulting fuzz. Dining alone after having spent a long day at the trade show, this was a special time for me to drift away into my own world, letting my mind and body cool down. After the repetitive chatter working solely at the convention, I longed for this quiet time, away from the incessant booth traffic. It had been a good day, a busy one. But the thought of just me having dinner with just me was welcome and cherished. And, I was very tired.
                Not by any means am I a hermit or loner, but I appreciate these rare evenings to think and create and garner up new thoughts or just plain back my brain through long-lost thoughts from times past. But also, it’s enjoyable to meet new folks in this sort of setting and chat if only for a cluster of minutes thrown together by fate. In just these brief moments, the nodding and smiling fellow across the aisle seemed as though, perhaps, in another life or time he might eventually be a good friend, even one for life, who knows, but here in the bistro’s din we simply acknowledge some time shared. Perhaps without words, only smiles and nods. His suit and tie, like mine, signaled a business fellow who probably also had a busy day, perhaps at a similar pace, who may enjoy time alone.
                 Although it was difficult to see, I was struck that his blurry form did look somewhat familiar and I almost got up to chat. At that moment it appeared he was going to do the same when both our waiters appeared, trays in hand, to dole out the welcome food. I was hungry and ate in earnest, trying not to glance over too often as I felt self-conscious that I might be acting a little too friendly and perhaps he would find that uncomfortable. As the meal went on, with both of us simultaneously ordering more beer, I began to lose interest in what might result in a long conversation. My weariness was getting the best of me.
                When we finished our meals and our bills arrived, I replaced my glasses to tally up and sign. While gathering my coat and briefcase I dropped my credit card under the table. In the turmoil of finding the card and securing my belongings,  I didn’t glance back, although I knew by a shadow or form that he was nearby before I walked to the dark, wood-paneled entry way. I looked back but he had disappeared - disappeared as in vaporized. Gone. Searching around the amber dining room, I saw only diners’ heads and waiters’ silhouettes in the room and revealed in the golden, mirrored walls, but not my dining companion. Too bad. I think I would have liked to at least exchange a word or two. I had convinced myself that he was probably a lot like me.

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