At my favorite Thai restaurant
someone I know is just inside the door
waiting at one end of the bar for takeout.
He’s husband of a poet friend. I pause briefly,
ask after his poet, his family, wish them well.
With the waitress I move on toward an aquarium,
to a table for two
now with second set of tableware removed
a table for one.
As usual I eat alone,
order potstickers, a hot blended tea,
and basil fried rice with chicken.
With fish circling above me,
around the decorative, dead coral,
I decline seafood. It wouldn’t be kind, I think.
The waitress brings hot tea in a French press,
and then brings the potstickers.
The potstickers aren’t quite history when
she brings the basil fried chicken.
I’m sure the fish look on, approvingly.
There’s enough tea and food for two.
I finish the potstickers, and tell the waitress
They’re the best in the city. She’s never tried them.
The basil fried rice is mild
but delicious, garlicky.
The restaurant slowly fills around me.
A piano player arrives
(or perhaps he was between sets
when I arrived)
and plays Chopin.
I wear the silly armor of not looking around,
of not taking anyone else in,
of not returning any looks,
the looks trying to figure out Who’s the dude eating alone?
Is he anybody I know? Is he anybody?
But I’m not eating alone:
See this crowd? See these fish? Hear Chopin?
I overhear a waitress saying
There’s an eel, too: he’s a loner,
he’s keeping to himself, he’s OK.
I take in only my reflection.
See, there — in the glass, silhouettes of firs
and the Fairhaven branch library to the north?
I savor the fried rice and Chopin,
glance up at the fish occasionally.
I eat half of the rice,
ask for a box, pay my bill,
drop a couple of bills into the piano player’s tip jar,
nod to his Thank you, escape from tight confines
to the freeing space and fresh air.
Tonight — two nights later —
I microwave the basil fried rice leftovers.
Again, it’s good, but mild. One on a scale of four,
I think the waitress said. Next time I’ll go hotter.
Next time I’ll try two, invite someone, spice up my life.
Andrew Shattuck McBride
NaPoWriMo ~ 2013 | My Day 10
April 14, 2013