Shirley Harring

writer, farmer advocate, madwoman

Dining Alone

February 18, 2017

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.


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

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