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 sunflower yellow 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…who needs a companion anyway? And, I, too, shall drink blood red wine and read from only literary giants, the greats…”


This morning I awoke to an email from a young reader, a “fan.” She inquired as to where and who I pull my inspiration from, who are my influences, what inspired me to begin writing, etc. As I read her email, I couldn’t help but think about the journal entry I had written when I was just fourteen and I couldn’t help but smile at my younger self, so full of awe and wonder, so full of drama.

Then I realized: I am now the lady dining alone. Meaning, I am now inspiring other young women to follow their dreams and their passions.

They are looking up to me. What an honor and a privilege.

What a great responsibility.

Somewhere, in the midst of reminiscing, I started to wonder about the younger generations of women in today’s society. I wonder who will inspire them. Who will be their role models? How will the older generation influence them? What will our legacy be?

As I started to respond to the young, aspiring writer that contacted me, I have to admit that I felt a bit like a fraud as I am just starting on my own literary pilgrimage. I expressed this in the email as well as expressing my delight when just a few months ago, I reached out to a writer that I admire and the excitement that swelled in my belly when she responded.

And then, I gave her this advice—the advice I wish I could have given to my younger self:

You are young and beautiful—you have your entire life ahead of you; take none of that for granted. Follow your heart and follow your passion now. Experience all that life has to offer—taste all of the wonder.

Travel the world. See and feel everything. Live in the moment—don’t worry about capturing the moment to share on social media, don’t contemplate selfies—just live and be in the moment. Later, write it down. Write it all down.

Reflection often brings clarity and a wonderful, true perception that you can bring to light through the use of words.

Writing has been the most rewarding thing I have done throughout my life. I have post it notes everywhere. I have kept journals and notebooks since I was a child. To this day, I carry a journal in my pack as I learned long ago that inspiration can hit anywhere—at any time.

My advice is to just write. Be a voyeur. Eavesdrop on conversations. Be a people watcher. Go to a cafe and dine alone just for this purpose. Find inspiration in everything: people, scents, scenes, nature, and emotion. Always know your worth…

There is so much chaos and beauty in this world.

Be transparent. Be true to your voice. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Share your thoughts.

Get naked on paper! It’s the most freeing thing one can ever do! Find a cause and let it kill you. Be a voice for those who haven’t yet found theirs or for those who cannot speak.

I know it sounds cliché, but be the change you want to see.


“There’s nothing to stop a man from writing unless that man stops himself. If a man truly desires to write, then he will. Rejection and ridicule will only strengthen him. And the longer he is held back, the stronger he will become, like a mass of rising water against a dam. There is no losing in writing, it will make your toes laugh as you sleep, it will make you stride like a tiger, and it will fire the eye and put you face to face with death. You will die a fighter; you will be honored in hell. The luck of the word. Go with it, send it.”  ~ Charles Bukowski



Author: Mary Rogers

Editor: Renee Picard 


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