To my left, there is a young man in a retail uniform, headphones in his ears, dousing his burrito in Tabasco sauce and eating without taking a breath. How much longer til his shift break is over?
To my right, there is an older gentleman who remains bundled up, silver hair, glasses, poring over the latest issue of a digital/tech magazine while sipping on fountain drink. Did he eat?
Behind me, a man in a business suit sits, the glow of his blackberry lighting up his face. His plate remains untouched the entire time I’m there.
I look around. I’m the only female sitting alone. At first, I take out my phone, snap chatting a pic of my “amazing” salad to 20 of my closest friends, posting a “witty” check-in status on Facebook, and then refreshing the page about a hundred times, letting the number of likes validate me, helping me to feel better about dining solo. Having my smartphone in my hand is like a security blanket. Maybe I think my aloneness will be less obvious if it seems that I’m in constant conversation with someone on the other end? Would I be forever ruined with the discovery that I was eating out by myself? All of the social implications and stereotypes replayed in my mind like those pop songs that just won’t go away.
My battery is draining, and I’m forced to put it away. Now what? I am left sitting with my burrito salad and fancy juice drink, feeling vulnerable and judged.
Then, I decide to let it go. I take my time enjoying the meal, enjoying the solitude. I don’t notice whether or not anyone notices me. From my window seat, I watch as rush hour traffic thins out for the evening. In a rare instance, I let myself be absolutely okay with where I am in the moment: sitting alone at a table at a chain restaurant in the suburbs, eating dinner.