Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Dine Alone Without Feeling Awkward


Sit at the counter or a bar,
cruise a drive-through in your car.
Short of that, make up a name
to give the hostess – something plain.

Request a table set for two;
they don’t need to know that you
are on your own, so just pretend
you’re waiting on a flaky friend.

Pull out a book or magazine,
some pages you can flip between
and gaze down at them pensively,
deflecting looks of sympathy.

Stir the ice cubes in your tea,
take bites alphabetically.
Apple, bacon, crouton, date –
what did I say? I’m sorry – wait -

Make believe you are a spy
or up to something on the sly;
check your watch, avert your eyes,
give curt and indistinct replies.

Act as if you’re on vacation
in some distant, pleasant nation
where you cannot comprehend
a single word that they extend.

Or maybe just get hammered first,
peel off that hunger with a thirst;
get too friendly, crass and strange –
let them feel awkward for a change.

11 comments:

Julie said...

Awesome. I love it, especially the last stanza. I also love the idea of acting like you're on vacation from a foreign land. Thanks for the fun, Joaquin. I'm a little under the weather today, and something told me you would cheer me up. Even your dark poems lift me, though, because they are full of humanity. But this one is just what the doc ordered tonight.

Karen said...

How funny and true (for most people, I think). The truth is that I enjoy going into a restaurant alone and I always want a seat where I can observe others dining. I feel freed by not having to wait on someone else to get his or her ordering taken care of. I can order (orderly) and then set about checking out the couples not talking any more than I am. I feel absolutely no self-consciousness. It's kind of a treat. Now, to understand all of this, you'd need to know that it's a rarity in my life that I'm not looking after someone else - just me.

At the same time, I sense in your poem the angst at not having the "date" you inadvertently ate. I love the last section, but also the other suggestions - the book, the foreign language, the indistinct comments - all. You have a sparkle about you, Joaquin.

BloggerMouth said...

"take bites alphabetically.
Apple, bacon, crouton, date –"

I actually do this. Should I hide now? This post if so witty! I need to try the getting hammered idea although I'm a little apprehensive about it :P It's so much fun reading you!

utopianfragments said...

long time, i think, i didn't read your rhymes.
i really enjoyed the idea and the way you put it down..
perhaps you can do one for going alone to the cinema, as this is a bigger problem for me :-)

Aniket said...

I've had many such awkward lunches. i used to listen to songs on my i-pod and read a novel as I waited for my food, to avoid those stares.

Should practice your preachings in the last stanza someday.

Glad to see Regina Spektar on the sidebar too. I absolutely love her voice and her songs. Especially Fidelity, Hero and Us.

Little Girl Lost said...

a moment of loud laughter at the end of a VERY hard day. thank you joaquin!

i usually slip thru pages or pretend to write in my notebook, so people think i'm a very intellectual person, a writer ...maybe.

still thinking !!! said...

nice :)

Moanerplicity said...

I feel as if I've watched the star, the being, the subject of this poem, and even lived in that person's skin on a few uneasy moments. I don't think I could've written a piece of this nature well enough to give it a working brain, along with a rhyme scheme, and so I leave it to people like you, so keenly adriot at capturing the pulse & the breath, & moments that exist in the life of a poem.

As usual, my friend, job well done!

One.

Lin

RachelW said...

Ah, hehe... such a human experience. I've never known how to dine in public alone. Maybe I'll just have to take your advice.

Sarah Hina said...

As someone who experiences bouts of self-consciousness pretty regularly, I'm taking notes. Because I really want to try that last one, especially.

Isn't it strange how the simple act of eating alone in public can take on such weight? And even if it's all in the head, it doesn't really matter. It's still there.

I love that this poem is playful, but that it also has a darker voice of experience pushing it forward. Like that blip in the fourth stanza could have been an unintentional break in the performance...or then again, not. Somehow, we know this narrator without his really inviting us in. If that makes any sense at all. Anyway, it's brilliant. :)

joaquin carvel said...

julie - i'm glad it made you smile - thank you.

karen - thank you - i don't mind it much either - i just stole the title from a real article on yahoo - didn't read it but the title got me thinking.

blo-mo - really? wow! no - don't hide - that's amazing. thank you!

u-frag - hmmmm...i'll have to work on that one. thank you!

aniket - don't know if that last stanza would work well at lunch - but let me know if you try it! thank you - and yes, it was hard to pick an album - all of hers are great.

lgl - my pleasure - thank you. (maybe?! who are you kidding? you're a writer.)

still thinking - thanks!

lin - and, as usual, you honor and humble me. thank you.

rachel - thank you. i can't say how well it works, but you never know....

sarah - i think it's self-consciousness that got this one going - trying to brush it off but getting sucked into it just the same. and yes, i think that makes sense. thank you!