On better days she might have likened it to the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, but today was not one of those days. Tonight, the restaurant, and her thoughts were more like a carnival funhouse instead. Despite its temporarily frightening appearance Lucky Wok, with full length mirrors lining its walls, was her favorite Chinese restaurant.
Tables for four littered the center of the room, but rarely, if ever had they been occupied. This little dive was a haven for those in need of escaping all unnecessary human contact. People who came here preferred to tuck themselves into the booths crammed into the four mirrored walls like unorganized books haphazardly shelved.
She, as usual, chose the back-corner booth on the right so as to avoid being seen by incoming customers. This bird’s eye view where she could see without being seen was conducive to her devices. As was customary, she sought to observe normal, or at least more normal people in hopes that some of their normalcy might rub off on her so she could cease to be her own worst enemy, hanging herself daily with her own hand woven noose of failed attempts at relationships.
Was it impossible to simply make a human connection anymore? Yes. She had decided that ultimately, the ‘dating’ scene would never yield a meaningful relationship, or at least not one comparable to the romanticized version of a relationship she had in her head.
Hard-to-get, flirty, attainable, ice-queen, fun, she could never seem to play it right. Dating had begun to feel too much like grocery shopping as she frequented bars, coffee shops and parties reading the various labels out there deciding which one looked the best and was the best for her without too much damage to the packaging.
It would be much easier to just hole up in this restaurant with her pot of tea and cornucopia of vegetables with rice answering the the waitress as she eyed the ridiculous amount of food on the table asking, “You waiting for someone else?”
“No, just me, thanks. Keep the tea coming, please.” She sat here on nights like these hoping no one was watching her and frightened at the same time that most likely no one was watching her, that she was practically invisible.
At least she wasn’t alone. A man in the booth behind her had a scruffy voice projecting against the mirrors making it sound like there was a radio on somewhere. It was almost soothing to her racing, rambling thoughts.
This is pathetic. No, I am pathetic. Knowing myself, I’ll be making a midnight run for some Ben and Jerry’s frozen yogurt, justifying to myself that it’s less caloric and thus, not going to be on a fat-train down to hips-and-thigh town later. It stops here.
Packing up multiple to-go boxes, a to-go cup of tea and her over-sized bowling bag purse, she stared warily at the several fortune cookies the waitress had bestowed on her, most likely out of pity. Before leaving she opened a couple,
You will have much to be thankful for in the coming year, blah, blah,
Being aware of your fears will improve your life, tell me something I don’t know,
You find beauty in ordinary things. Appreciate the gift,
Before she got to the last one, a voice over her left shoulder said, “Excuse me,”
Her plan to avoid all unnecessary human contact had failed. She did not need this. He wasn’t even that attractive, but who was she kidding, neither was she.
“Listen, I see you in here a lot. You don’t notice me because I sit in the booth behind you, but you tend to order way too much food and you have this look like you’re waiting for someone to come through the door, but no one ever sits with you. I just, wanted to say that, I’m here a lot too, and if you ever wanted a friend to eat dinner with, well, maybe I could be that friend. We don’t have to arrange anything, just, if you see me in here next time and want to move out of your back corner booth for a night, you’re welcome at my table.”
“Thanks. I don’t know whether to be grateful, embarrassed or creeped-out, but maybe one of these days I might take you up on that.”
She hurriedly left with the intention to never see him again and to avoid Lucky Wok like the plague from now on. What a shame. They had the best-tasting fortune cookies. They were probably even home made.
At home, she savored the last fortune cookie and read its contents:
Watch for a stranger to soon become a friend.
A friend. She could probably use one of those. That’s all he said right? A friend to eat dinner with? Sure, it was slightly creepy that he had watched her looking pathetic alone at a table three nights a week, but watching people was what she did every time she ate there. It was impossible not to with all those mirrors.
Maybe, it was time to unfile herself from the back-corner-booth instead of watching a world that never watched her back. A friend might help her heal the wounds that had been left open by her many failed relationships. A friend might help her finish the ridiculous amount of food she ordered. A friend, might help.