Table for One

I sat today restless and hungry, pondering my options:

Easy Mac

A bowl of rice krispies, honey nut clusters, or stale off brand raisin bran

Microwaved/scallopped potatoes

Chicken noodle soup –no soda on the side

Or I could take the car to a restaurant. No fast food places…I decided if I was going to go out to eat I should really do it. And to somewhere I had never been before. Originally, I set out for Chillis but the thought of eating alone in such a large place seemed a horrible idea. That and the bar would tempt me…with no one to keep me in line I might not make it home. Cici’s pizza nearly lured me in, I mean I was hungry and I knew I could eat fairly quickly as much as I wanted food I knew I liked. Then I remembered, a small Chinese restaurant right next door to Cici’s. Fm 78 is no Walzem or Jones Maltsberger, but I decided Ling’s Asian Cuisine would suit me fine.

The rain did not bother me until after I got out of the car and headed to the door of the restaurant. I silently wished I hadn’t left my warm water resistant Stanford jacket to be taken at a party at Mr. Gatti’s a few short weeks ago. Left to layering and an umbrella, I trekked to the door and walked in. Unsure of the layout, I approached the counter initially and was met by two older Asian women. They asked, “Take out?” I shook my head no and smiled politely. One of the women grabbed a menu and lead me to the dining area. Three tables were occupied:

One family of four, three older people, and they were waiting on others

A black woman who looked impatient as she looked past me obviously wishing I had been someone else

A couple, white, young, and discussing Christmas parties as I sat at the booth behind them

I opened my menu and a tall Hispanic man with earrings in both ears asked if I would like anything to drink. With a little help, I located my options on the menu and settled on a Big Red. I hadn’t had one in a while and figured…why not? There were not many soft drinks to choose from and I did not want to select a wine or beer or sake to go with my lonely meal. While the waiter went behind the door marked “In”, I perused the rest of the menu. For the most part, the Chinese food I have consumed thus far in my life came from China Sea, a buffet place. I knew what I liked, but I was not sure if I could venture from my comfort zone further and order a new dish. I didn’t even get the lunch special, which thinking back would have been a wise choice since it came with soup, an egg roll, and a shrimp toast as well as an entree.

When the waiter returned, I mulled for a brief moment more over my decision and decided on a dinner meal: Sesame chicken with steamed rice. After he took my menu, I sat and waited. The rain swelled and calmed outside the window next to me. A slit was visible through the sliding wooden panels. I looked at the empty booth seat in front of me, wondering what I would be talking about had there been someone there. Another group came in as I continued to drink my Big Red. I started to think I should have opted for Cici’s at least I would be eating by then. The waiter returned to my table with another Big Red. I thanked him verbally and looked up at him to smile. I wondered if I could flirt with him, he was cute, and since I never lived the life of a single woman I feared I would never know the excitement of a strangers approving glance. He faded back through the “In” door and the new group occupying the booth slightly in front of me discussed spicy chicken dishes.

When my meal did arrive, I asked for chopsticks. Did the waiter think it was odd for me to ask? He didn’t seem phased by the request. Could I happen to mention to him that I lived in Japan, even if only for a short while, that I spoke Japanese, that there was more to me than a pink umbrella and and lonely lunch date? The opportunity disappeared when he quickly moved to the new group to take their order. I moved the white steamed rice from the small bowl to a porcelain plate. I spooned a few pieces of oddly shaped and sesame seed coated chicken over the rice. The chicken pieces were flat and much bigger than the “popcorn chicken” like pieces from China Sea. The smell was also less sweet. My hunger won out and I began with the first bite. Immediately I regretted ever walking into that restaurant.

The recipe is just different, I kept telling myself, bite after bite. I forced more pieces down to ebb my hunger and winced inwardly at the $8.95 mistake I was consuming. To be polite, and get another chance to chat up the waiter, I asked for a to go box. Well, really he was walking past me to service another table and saw that I was trying to say something. He assumed my need was for a to go box when I was really wondering when his shift ended. When he brought the box, he also handed me my bill and a fortune cookie. The bill said his name was Ryan and my fortune cookie made no sense whatsoever. I didn’t even keep it. I slipped into the restroom since my nose insisted on running. Not cute. After using the clean and well designed restroom, I took a few more sips of my highly carbonated soda and made my way, to go box filled and in hand, to the front counter. There I met one of the older Asian women and a young man in a chef’s shirt and jeans.

Being polite I’m sure, he asked what I had and how everything was. I told him the recipe was different from what I was used to. He offered, “Too many sesame seeds?” Yes, I thought, that’s it. He persisted, “Was it good though?” I hadn’t the heart to crush him, so I told him, “Yeah, I even got a to go box for it. I will have to come back to try more of your recipes.” He began talking about the various specials they had and the owner Ling who passed down the recipes to him and his cousin who were related to Ling. I told him about my fortune cookie and the older Asian woman handed me another. I didn’t open that one until I got back home and was taking off my jacket. It reads:

All things come to him who goes after them.

By the way, banana in Chinese is xiang-jiao.

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