An old woman looks over at my table, her face lined downward, as if she has been concerned her entire life. I could believe it. She looked into my eyes for a few moments, then returned to her conversation.
I often eat alone. "You're a young, pretty person, who often eats alone," someone told me once, as plain as newsprint. I'm not looking for flowers or anything. No "Get Well Soon." Sometimes, I'm even enjoying myself. The other day, I had a slice of banana cream pie. Everything was chilled and smooth and refreshing, and I didn't have to share it with anyone.
When I'm with other people, I'm mostly a listener. I have never liked the phone, so I just listen on that, too. I realized today that I pay someone else to listen to me, so that I can speak and not be interrupted. I can be free. I can talk about my research or my students or my new cat tattoo without feeling like I'm boring or stupid. This person is paid to care about me. It seems more direct that way.
I think about all of this as the old woman looks away, her frown in a perfect upside-down "U," like a Muppet's mouth. I smile to myself and finish my pie.