Table for One

I used to be scared of dining alone at restaurants. In my mind, dining alone is reserved only for fast food chains. Haha. It is hella awkward when the staff asks you, “Table for how many, Sir?” and you respond with, “One.” I don’t want to do that.

But then I did it in 2014, at Pizza Hut. I was alone, I just got hired, so I wanted to celebrate. I didn’t consider that a real success, though. In my mind, it was just Pizza Hut. So I kept doing it. Now, whenever I do, I don’t feel weird anymore.

These moments of solitude – eating by myself and cherishing newfound discoveries in my mouth and through my eyes – leave me with so many happy thoughts.

The strangers around me tell me so many stories, their unknown voices make me feel like a paparazzi because I don’t even have permission to listen, but sometimes, I do. Dining alone is how I found out this guy got dumped by his longtime girlfriend and said girlfriend already has a new one. She even introduce the new guy to her family, which she never did for him. Poor guy. He kept talking to his friend, so I put my earphones on because I couldn’t take it anymore.

I enter the lives of these people without their consent. Sometimes, the stories are funny. Sometimes, they’re too personal, so I keep my distance. Even though I’m practically sinless (after all, I’m only dining alone and it’s not my fault I don’t have anyone to talk to), I still feel guilty. That’s why I don’t allow myself to know too much about the lives of these strangers. It seems unfair that I get glimpses of their innermost thoughts, ones they only tell their closest friends, and they know nothing about me.

When the outside noise disappears, I will be left with my innermost thoughts. They are too many.

During my alone time, I play my favorite songs and sometimes even sing along. When I’m feeling creative, I write. When I’m feeling nostalgic, I browse through old photos in my gallery, favorite quotes from eBooks I’ve previously read, and screenshots of my past conversations with friends. I will then be taken back to the times when those things actually happened. Sometimes, I couldn’t even remember being part of those moments, so I use my imagination to relive them, often with a smile on my face.

Tonight, as I devour my spice-rubbed pork, I saw a screenshot of how I described 2015. I suddenly realized there’s only a few days left in 2016.

It made me ask, “What made 2016?” I think and I feel like it was such a plateau, in a way but not really. There were wonderful highs and quite a few lows, but it just went by so quickly! Aside from going back to counseling, attending an outreach program, publishing online magazines, and learning how to take photographs, two breakthroughs I realized I had were my growing willingness to accept what I simply couldn’t control and my increasing awareness of what I want and who I am.

I used to feel restless when I don’t get what I want. Whether it be a new shirt or someone I love. Now, there’s a sense of peace in me, knowing that whatever love I give away is never really wasted even though it wouldn’t be given back to me at times. When you give love, you don’t expect it in return. That is not how love works. This sounds so cliché or naïve to me as I write it, but I do believe that.

After all, love is an act of giving. You love to give. You don’t love to receive, or expect, or demand.

Loving someone is such a pleasure, a delight. If you love someone, don’t feel guilty or ashamed about it. Just love. Unless you’re ruining a relationship or affecting someone or yourself negatively, that’s when you back down and try to not feel what you feel.

If it’s unrequited, so what? In hindsight, you’ll love again. Even Adele who wondered if she’ll love again did in the end. We all love again. If it’s unrequited, just love, accept it won’t get returned, and wait until you love again. Who knows, maybe the next one would be the right one.

Sometimes, as I dine alone, especially at night, I wonder when someone would sit in front of me so I could have someone to bounce back these ideas with. I wish. I hope. But I’m happy. I am comfortable with that empty chair in front of me, the stares from people, the weirdness of what the hell I am doing, the silence that’s unveiling, and the singularity of the moment. I cherish it even, notwithstanding if I’m alone, because I know in my heart someday I won’t be. I know in my heart someone will quietly appear there and my innermost thoughts will be heard and that someone’s innermost thoughts I will hear. For now, though, I’m happy with what I have – myself – and these words that keep my life meaningful.

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