Shirley Harring

writer, farmer advocate, madwoman

Dining Alone

February 18, 2017
15 comments

It was the woman in red dress that decided my restaurant choice.

Or, perhaps I should say, it was her face.

Behind large wooden doors pushed open to the night breeze were couples and candlelight, and I thought… no.

But something caught my eye.

Yes, it was her face.

At the time it was upturned, with eyes closed, unmoving.  In her hand an empty soup spoon poised somewhere between mouth and bowl. It hung in the air like a comma, waiting.  I, too, found myself unmoving, holding my breath.

She relaxed her shoulders and slowly swallowed, I could almost feel the silent moan of pleasure as it flashed across her face.

I exhaled

And I thought

I want to eat like her.

Barely able to avert my eyes, I entered.

Yes, a table for one, yes, a table by the window, yes, yes.

The chair proffering views of twinkling lights is shunned for one that affords the view of the red dress.  Of the woman.  Of the face.

Like me, she dined alone, but she wasn’t alone.

Her companions were scattered across the table.

A dish of pasta, the trails of sauce over linen.

A bowl of bread with crust broken, thick chunks lavished with butter.

Mussel shells, spilling from bowl onto platter.

These were her companions.

Spoon became fork, she twirled pasta. Ribbons raised then deftly lowered; once again the cutlery paused in repose. Then again. And again.

She chewed slowly, eyes closed; it was hard not to stare as she ate.

Between bites, she stopped, she sipped, she sighed.

The rapture on her face, evident.

Occasionally, her head gave a shake and the red dress followed suit, shivering in pleasure.

Her brows would rise and she’d run her tongue through her teeth, concentrating. First a frown, then a smile.

I imagined the inward talk.

The groan of satisfaction.

When the dessert menu was offered, there was only one word.

Yes.

I watched as she perused the offerings like a child would a picture book, tracing the words with her finger, mouthing silently as she read.

In the final clearing, the server comes to lift the flatware.  As he raises the bowl she stills his arm, extends her finger, and wipes it slowly across and around the base, scooping the remains of sticky sweetness before seductively sucking her finger.

And again I thought…

I want to eat like her.

She had no inhibitions. Where I was the visitor, she was at home. She occupied her space, living there, in that moment.

I wanted to applaud, for her meal had been my night’s theatre.

I have no idea what I ordered, no memory of my wine, my meal.

Yet I can recall her menu, her dishes, simply by closing my own eyes and thinking of her face.

Meg Ryan faked it.

The woman in the red dress had it.

I want it.

I want to eat like her.

Dining Alone

It was the woman in red dress that decided my restaurant choice. Or, perhaps I should say, it was her face. Behind large wooden doors pushed open to the night breeze were couples and candlelight, and I thought… no. But something caught my eye. Yes, it was her face. At ...
Read More

Room Service -a short story

The single glass of champagne wept tears of condensation, pooling on the white cloth marred only by the soft smudge of the spreading damp. Framed by yawning doors opening to rooftop terrace, the sunset cast a soft orange glow, catching rainbows in the glassware and rendering the suite quite beautiful ...
Read More

The Joshua Tree

Joshua's father and stepmother lived across the road from us. Like us, they were renovators, people who liked to tinker and do up old homes. They were about 3/4 of the way through their substantial renovation and had been in the street for around 2 and a half years when ...
Read More

Restoring Orwell: January 2016

The Hidden Doorway These old Queenslanders were built to catch breezes. For the most part they were constructed on stumps and boast a plethora of doors and windows that can be flung open to catch the air and provide relief from the warm subtropical air. From day one, we felt ...
Read More

Restoring Orwell: December 2015

First, the Flood. Within 24 hours of moving into Orwell, she flooded. One of the biggest freakish rainstorms in Brisbane saw many homes inundated with water. Upstairs, in the original house, all was fine. The problem lie downstairs. See, Orwell is built into the side of a hill, with the ...
Read More

Restoring Orwell: October 2015

James Sutherland, Brisbane In the 1830s, much of Brisbane's land and road infrastructure was built by convict labour. By the mid 1840s, wealthy free settlers began buying large portions of land. Particularly attractive were portions on hillsides, with a view across Moreton Bay or alternatively, the Brisbane river. One of ...
Read More

Are tattoos taboo?

It's a direct, strong message and it's cropping up more often. And it's being enforced. Venue websites and social media pages now feature separate policy pages. Should you be the person who says "yeah, I'll book" then you become responsible for letting the decorated guest know that he or she ...
Read More

Cooking for Bachelors~ Ted Moloney & George Molnar; 1959

Country bookshops and second-hand stores. They get me every time. I'm the one flicking through the old cookbooks, rattling through kitchen ware and cutlery, looking for anything that speaks of the yesteryear when time seemed slower and a little more genteel. Sometimes I find things. Sometimes I don't. This time, ...
Read More

Restoring Orwell – the beginning.

So, February 2015, we bought a house. Not any house. The house. We bought 'Orwell'. She's tired, she's old, and someone in the late 70s butchered many of her features. Now, we're putting her back together. So while some of these images might look a bit schmick, in reality, they're ...
Read More

The Commonsense Cookery Book: 1959 edition

The Commonsense Cookery Book, 1959 edition. Also a thrift shop find, this edition has the quirky addition of clipped and hand written recipes carefully stapled over food specked pages. This was a book that someone loved, and used - a lot. Who would part with such a gem? One of ...
Read More