Eating out.

I woke up at seven in the evening today. It had been a wonderful night. It was dark outside and I realised I didn’t have much of anything to eat around the house so I thought I’d pop outside for a breath of fresh air and some contemplation, on my own.

I have just moved here and I don’t really know the neighborhood very well but there is one place that I do like. It is unfortunately located within the food court of a large supermarket, one of the most stressful places for me.  But, I thought to myself, it’s fairly late in the evening, few people will be there, it will be interesting.

Now, I don’t live in what’s called the safest part of town, but it’s not too bad either, all that happened on the ten to fifteen minute walk there was that I saw a bum peeing on a grafittied up wall, practically within the focus of a streetlight – little Paris indeed. Few cars on the street, people trying to catch a bus home in almost dark stops and walking home with cheery little kids back from a trip to the colorful mall.

It looks like it’s finally warming up outside so I ended up undoing the zipper on my jacket only to wonder at the silhouette of my own shadow walking in front of me. What was once a short kid walking home from school in uniform with a square leather backpack is now a hooded anonymous figure beneath the streetlights of the big city with but a lit cigarette to ironically show that a living man hides within, no one knows who I am or where I am going, and that’s alright.

The place is almost empty by now, the few people I see are mopping the floor or closing down their stores, some turn their gaze to me as I let down my hood and head for the place I want to eat, ‘I might be a bit late’ I think to myself ‘but that’s alright too’. There are customers on the one table though so I ask the smartly dressed head waitress whether I can sit down for dinner or whether they are getting ready to close. She smiles with her eyes at my ingenuity and tells me they don’t close until midnight and encourages me to take a seat.

The place is closed off but large windows allow you to see into the middle of the food court. People finishing their meals and putting on jackets before they head for home, fast food workers bantering as they push along carts of supplies, somehow always with a smile as they chat among themselves. It’s a Sunday so their weekend is shot but somehow they still find ways to be cheerful, and you can tell it’s genuine, not a customer to fake it towards in sight.

Some of the restaurant staff are getting ready to leave as well and I overhear them asking one of the waitresses what’s wrong, she looks like she’s had a bad day, but she’s determined not to share the details and just tells them to stop asking. She brings me my beer and ashtray and tells me that my ‘Penne al salmone’ will be served shortly. I am now the only customer.

The food was excellent, light yet filling and full of Mediterranean aroma, complimented by the rugged but soft addition of smoked salmon. I was half way through my beer by the time it arrived, and open to culinary suggestions. I am really starting to like this place. I finish up my food and start typing away at a message with a piece of warm foccacia in my other hand and lay back. I take in the sights and sounds and can almost feel the air of content around me. Life seems to agree with people working here, at least in this snapshot. I wave and the head waitress brings me my check. ‘I’ll use my card please, and please may I have a pen?’, ‘A pen?’ she smiles ‘Yes, please’

I was going to write it on the back of the receipt but she brought a piece of paper too, which I thought was rather thoughtful ‘An excellent meal, thank you. A smile for the young lady whom no one knows what is wrong with’. I leave a customary tip, put on my jacket and pull up my hood, walk away to the sound of echoing giggles from what I counted to be everyone in the scene behind me.

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