8.16.2004

It's a great little tavern in the middle of a sleepy town - full of dark wood and scarred barstools, a small television in the corner and a sign that proclaims "this is a cash bar only!".

The bartender is a woman with a wide smile and a friendly wave who pops open the Coke cans with her long fingernails while her husband stands lazily by the grill, watching Tiger Woods arc a perfect drive down a grassy green fairway on the television.

I ambled in just before the midday rush, and though I've tried not to a thousand times, I had the same small feeling of dread.

'I'm a single girl going into a bar alone for lunch. Everyone in there is going to think I'm some sad loser with no friends. They are going to feel sorry for me, and have whispered conversations mocking my sadness.'

It's irrational, I know, but I think it every time I step into an eatery alone, a movie theatre, an event.

The feeling only lasts a moment, but while it exists, I know I'm not fully confident in myself as I go through this world as my own person.

With a shake of my head and a squaring of my shoulders, the irrationality is gone, and instead, I slip from single woman in dire need of some iced tea into an observer of a touristy town's small tavern.

The pickings this day are ripe.

I eavesdrop on a crowded table, listening to one woman ramble on and on while the others nod politely and escape into their menus. I know they are too polite to interrupt, too consumed with being nice, too eager to play tour guide to this visitor from the East to risk offending her. She continues on and on, finally slowing to a stop when it's clear she should be looking at the menu, not discussing her husband's colonoscopy in great detail.

I watch two women in red hats and purple dresses consume two slices of cheesecake with contented smiles. They particularly delight in the cherries dripping in juice on the top. They eat it just as I would - crust first (the worst) and cherries last (the best).

I wonder at a couple in the corner, who sit through their entire meal and yet never say a word to each other.

I hope I never get to the point where I have nothing to say, no matter how trite or trivial.

More and more people come in, and from my perch on the bar, I'm afforded an uninterrupted view into their lives, their days, and their relationships with one another.

Suddenly, it seems I'm more fortunate than I thought to be alone in a room of such interesting subjects, because I get to see and hear the things they never will.

Leaving my tip on the bar, I wave to the bartender as I confidently walk to the door, enjoying the hush as people look up from their tables to watch me glide by.

I can't help but smile to myself as I push open the heavy door and step into the sunshine.

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