table for one

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I wanted to go and so I did - I jumped on a bus and off I went. It was a pleasant ride, the bus humming along smoothly, passing through stretches flanked by forests, where the trees softened the harsh tropical light, reminding me of light under water: luminous, ever-changing, impossible to hold on to. When I arrive at the café I order quickly, easily because I came driven by a clear, unshakable impulse, and settle down.

I am surrounded by people, conversation, snatches of laughter, the clinking of glasses and cutlery; everyone gathered to surrender themselves to two of life's greatest pleasures - food and company. But today I have no need for anyone; all week I have been longing to steal away, to go somewhere where my voice, my thoughts are not needed, and I listen hard to no one but myself.

I dine alone often during the work week - a hurried bite on the go, my mind distracted by work. But every now and then, when my time is truly my own, I snatch up the chance to literally make a meal out of it. Sometimes I bring a book, a magazine, or a newspaper to savour while I enjoy a coffee and something delicious and baked and buttery and sweet. Sometimes it's a proper meal that requires my full attention, from the soup to start to the espresso to finish. Either way, I enjoy the solitude amid a room full of people, where I am free to observe and imagine. I am invisible to others perhaps, but alone, I feel vivid and present, free to gather my thoughts, reflect and feel myself again.

A feast with the people you love is nourishing; but a solitary meal heals. I could not do without one or the other.

Comments

rachel said…
that all looks lovely...being able to eat alone is a true sign of having a good relationship with yourself, which is a very special thing.
hannah-rose said…
There's a really great essay in that Zadie Smith collection "changing my mind" about eating alone... It's something that I do a lot without thinking - at work, at uni - but that when I take the time to take stock I actually really enjoy. Especially when travelling. You are so much more in tune with your surroundings when you're alone.

x
Sue said…
I don't often eat on my own in a restaurant or a cafe but the last few times when I have, I have to say, it's been more enjoyable than I anticipated. I buy a magazine too so that I have a distraction and something to focus on rather than people watching too blatantly. I find that I don't actually read the magazine as the world outside is always ten times more interesting. I should do it more often so I can take stock and wind down a bit but school pick up times always come round too fast so I never totally relax. It's good that you can take this time by yourself and let yourself "heal".
Brittany said…
You write beautifully and poetically.
Amanda said…
I concur with Brittany - this is such a beautiful and eloquent post. I love eating alone, mostly because I get some time to catch up on reading or just being able to really be engaged with my food and savor each bite. That being said, I make it a point to wait for my husband for dinner each night - if I'm home, we have to eat together.
Natalie said…
Agreed. My Sunday ritual is to eat breakfast alone at a cafe with just a magazine to keep me and my eggs company.
Camille said…
There's something very luxurious about doing so, as if that time was truly your own and no one else's. I'm looking forward to the next time I can have such a meal, as its purpose would be defeated by my bringing homework readings instead of a magazine these days.
Kate said…
Being comfortable on your own is a really good quality. I like to go and see a film at the independent cinema and have a glass of wine in the bar. Lovely writing!
Katlyn said…
This is inspiring. I have the same situation with you too - lunch alone during work days. This post made me smile somehow.
Eileen said…
So beautifully written, Lin!

I used to enjoy days like these when I just started working. I would wonder alone in the city and stop by any place I fancy for a good meal, with book or magazine in hand.

These days, we move around in a herd. But this post has reminded me of the good old days and made me smile.

I love this quote "A feast with the people you love is nourishing; but a solitary meal heals."
Lucy said…
I am usually not one for food photos, but that waffle with fruit looks amazing.

I so enjoy going out alone, whether to savor a lunch and a book or see a film. Enjoying alone time in that way helps me refocus and, yes, heal. And then I feel ready to get back to tackling the craziness of everyday life.
miss sophie said…
eating alone in a cafe or restaurant is definitely one of life's small luxuries :) your post reminds me that i should do this more often!
Maja H said…
You know, I can't remember the last time I did this! Then again I'm a pretty natural loner - if you disregard work I'm pretty much around The Boyfriend and the dog 90% of the time, so alone time isn't something that I really miss. It does sound lovely though. A friend of mine swears by going to the movies alone, I'd like to try that sometime :)
lin said…
rachel: I do hope so!

hannah-rose: shall look up that book! i've never finished a zadie smith novel, for some reason.

sue: you can always tell who finds it a relief to be on their own and who's bored, haha.

brittany: thank you!

amanda: my problem with eating and reading is that i'm fumbling with my utensils and a book that doesn't want to stay open.

natalie: wish i cld find quieter cafes near my place to make it a more regular thing! sundays are the perfect days for these things but it's so crowded most places.

camille: i always tell myself that work won;t crumble into ruins if i took half an hour to eat and read something fun.

kate: i like watching movies alone too! it is especially fun if i bring along something decadent to eat, or like you, have a drink.

katlyn: thanks! sometimes i like eating with friends from work but often it's a relief to get away from people whom you see too much of because you work too much...

eileen: thanks! you should to steal some time alone too!

lucy: they were really generous with the toppings. made me feel like a kid again too.

miss sophie: and NYC looks like it offers lots of nice opportunities to do this!

maja h: i second the recommendation to watch movies alone; a lot of times my friends don't want to watch what i want to watch anyway.
I love it when I'm on my own at a cafe and still prefer my own company on the rare occasion when I'm at the cinema. I people watch, daydream, write etc etc...
lin said…
Marlene: Agreed. I'm starting to think many bloggers are introverts.
Cato said…
I think I havent't said this yet, but I loved reading this posting so much!! I love to escape and be somewhere just on my own, once in a while. And cafes are so perfect for those escapes. I really feel the need of doing something like that, too. I've been more or less ill for a couple of weeks and was supposed to study hard, so I'm a bit at a point where I just want to spend some nice time on my own, for a change.
And totally introvert...

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