I went to my favorite Ethiopian restaurant alone on Sunday night. It's fun to go with people, but sometimes when I don't have time for a whole evening with friends, I just go alone.
I sit at the counter, because they are too busy to seat individual people at tables. I order two dishes, so that I can eat half of it for lunch the next day (Ethiopian is possibly the only leftovers I will actually regularly bother to eat. Fir-fir.* Mmmmmm.)
I bring a book, usually, or I play on my phone, or I stare at the wall. If I had more space between me and the person at the counter next to me, I might write. Eating alone in a sit-down restaurant is a talent. I remember the first time I really tried it, for lunch in Montreal, while I was cramming French before going to Rwanda, and I felt mostly uncomfortable. I felt like everyone was staring at me and wondering why I was alone.
Now I like it, quite. I talk to P., the owner, if he has a few minutes. I wave to his wife in the kitchen. I listen to the guy next to me try to pretend he liked the food. (If you like sourdough bread, you'll probably like it. If you don't, it will take some getting used to. I never liked sourdough bread, and I initially didn't like injera, because it is fermented, but now I love it.)
P. had a few minutes to talk. "I'm not educated like you," he said, and I said, "I need wisdom more than education," and he gave it. He's kind of my guru, sometimes. He always has good advice. I've even gone in there on several dates, and he is one of those perceptive people who can tell me in an instant whether this is a good guy or not.
Then he slid my fir-fir across the counter and refused to let me pay.
And it isn't about paying, but sometimes things like that are exactly what I need to remind me that there are some really awesome people in this world, and I get to know some of them.
* As far as I can tell, fir-fir just means that you took your leftover food, stuck it all in a container, and heated it up the next day, mixing the injera and the sauce into one delicious mess.