Table for One, Grazie

January 28, 1991.

This evening, we went to Olive Garden to celebrate Mum’s birthday with a group of people from church.

Everyone was enjoying the endless salad and bread sticks. Our table was quite loud. I guess great food brings out the Italian in everyone. We were sipping ice water, drinking from glasses heavy with condensation garnished with lemon slices.

Someone taught me how to swirl the noodles with a fork inside the roundness of the spoon.

Amid the noise and chaos of our table, I couldn’t help but to look and take notice of those seated around us. There was a woman sitting alone in a booth. She captivated me. Her long, curly hair seemed too large for her small features.

She wore gold gypsy earrings that seemed to stand out against her bronze skin. She was drinking a decadent red wine that seemed to stain her lips in a divine burgundy shade – I think she called it merlot.

This regal woman had a fur coat draped over the plush cushion and her gold bangle bracelets seemed to sing like wind chimes each time she moved. She was dining by herself and seemed content with her salad and a book that appeared to have been read a thousand times…yet there were moments she would throw her head back with laughter as though it were the first time her eyes gleaned the pages.

She spoke with an accent that sounded much like my French studies, yet it was somehow distinctly different.

I decided she must be Italian and have a secret lover named Frabezio.

Mum struck my hand with a fork and told me to stop staring as it was impolite. But, I couldn’t stop. I was mesmerized. I kept stealing glimpses and wondering what kind of life she lived. Did she have a family? Is she a widow? Why would she choose to dine alone?

By the end of the meal, I decided she was the most interesting person I have ever seen. I would very much like to be like her one day. She was a giant sparkling thing (even though she was so petite) amidst a graveyard of souls.

She was vibrant, beautiful, elegant, and carefree. She was beautiful. She was confident enough to dine alone.

She knew what she wanted and did not need anyone to accompany her to get it.

One day, I should very much like to have a confidence that bold.

Apparently, she caught me staring because as she was leaving, she stopped at our table, right in front of me.

My cheeks instantly caught fire. She smiled sweetly and caressed my flushed cheek with the back of her fingers.

And then she was gone. Just like that.

Our table went completely silent during the interaction but conversation resumed immediately after. Of course, all the adults at the table thought it was very strange. I think I may have been forever changed. She looked into my eyes and saw my soul. I am determined one day I will be her and she will be me. I will dine alone because, who needs a companion anyway? And, I, too, shall drink blood red wine and read from only literary giants, the greats.”

Author: Mary Rogers

Editor: Renee Picard 


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