“Hi, welcome to the Social Room. How many will be in your party?” the hostess said as she reached towards the stack of menus on the podium next to her. She looked me up and down as if she already knew the answer. “Just one”, I said, as my head retreated back into my turtle shell. I knew what she was going to ask next, and I always feel uncomfortable when I give my response. “Would you like to participate in the Social Room’s single diner offer?” Trying to act as normal as possible, I looked up to her and said, “Uh, yeah, sure. That sounds fine”.
The hostess led me through the dining room, and her bangle bracelets clinked with every step. Her white pants, tan Sperry flats, and coral polo shirt sent the message to everyone around her saying, “I go to Hilton Head four times a year and my family’s house is on the water”. I didn’t know which was more annoying – the repeated sound of the metal on her wrist smashing together or the fact that she’s wearing a polo voluntarily.
She sat me down at a small table, clearly only large enough for two people. I chose the chair against the window so that I could keep a view of any single diners who enter the restaurant. I’ve done this a few times before, but only once has another diner been placed at my table in the past. I don’t know if people specifically requested to not sit with me, or if there were just no lone diners those specific days. I guess I always hoped that one of these meals would end up with me finding a new best friend, a new lover, or even a new boss. First thing he or she would acknowledge is my Pink Floyd t-shirt and would then ask about my favorite songs. I would compliment their impressive dreadlocks or the variety of hand-woven bracelets stacked on their wrists. We would be so distracted talking about music that we end up forgetting to even look at the menus in front of us. The only social experience I had at the Social Room was an elderly man who had lunch with me and bragged about his grandson who just passed his Bar Exam. I never liked lawyers because of their conceited personalities, and I guess their family members act the same way.
After looking through the gluten-free section of the menu and deciding what I would order for lunch that day, I took out a pen and started drawing on my thigh exposed from the ripped denim that barely covered my skin; I drew a 3D peace sign and started to color in the lines until pen stolen from the doctor’s office ran out of ink. I looked back up at the table and grabbed my unsweetened green tea. As I sipped, I saw the hostess approaching me with a menu in hand. Behind her was a man in a grey suit. With his briefcase swinging from left to right with each stride, I assumed that he was meeting up with business associates for lunch to discus which stocks they should invest in and which ones needed to be sold. With a petty conniving smile on her face, the hostess continued walking my way and set the menu at the plate setting across from me. “Have a great lunch!” she exclaimed with sarcasm as she walked away satisfied with the decision she had made; the decision to piss off an innocent person just because they preferred to wear tie-dye instead of boat shoes.
The man in the grey suit placed his briefcase on the floor and sat in the chair across from me. I could tell he was much taller than me even when he was seated. His blonde hair looked so slick and gelled down that I could’ve broken it off between my fingers. I noticed that he was staring at my hair as well, but mine was overgrown and under kept.
He reached out his palm for a firm handshake, “Hi, I’m John. Nice to meet you”.
An aggressive handshake is not what impresses me. “I’m Violet”, I said.
“So, what do you do for a living?” he asked me, with a skeptical tone in his voice.
“I’m a medical student at Rosalind Franklin”, I said, as I slumped in my chair with a proud smirk and waited for his response. I love the reaction I get when I tell people that I’m studying medicine – the pure shock that grows across their face when they realize, “Wow, people can actually be smart no matter how they choose to dress!” An astonished smile appeared on his face as he said, “Ha, I’m impressed. Good to see someone like you doing something so big”.
I knew he was a lawyer; someone in a profession that actually requires manners wouldn’t have said something like that out loud. With my kindness tank running out of fuel, I looked at him with a serious face and said, “And let me guess, you’re a lawyer?”
“How did you know?” he said with a slight chuckle of what could have been embarrassment or cockiness.
“I can just tell. What you wear, what you say, it all just screams ‘let me accuse you of something that you probably didn’t do’”. I crossed my arms and sat them on the table; my body language sent him the message of how I thought lunch was going if my words weren’t clear enough. The look on his face was definitely embarrassment now. He tried to start saying something, but he stopped mid word and just decided to not; he knew there was no battle left to fight; the awkwardness of this lunch wasn’t going to end until someone left the table.
“What’s your favorite song?” he said, breaking the few minutes of silence we sat in while waiting to order our food. I was confused by not only the question, but also why he was even bothering the attempt for conversation. He pointed at the triangle illustration I was wearing and said, “Your shirt – Pink Floyd”. I didn’t appreciate a middle-aged lawyer pointing at my breasts. “Echoes”, I said, doubting that he even knew Pink Floyd as anything more than their Dark Side of the Moon franchise. He smiled at me and said, “Good, you’re not one of those music posers. Meddle is a really great album – very underappreciated”. I guess he wasn’t a music poser either.
The service was slow that day, and looking back, I think we sat at that table waiting to order our food for at least twenty minutes. I didn’t realize we had waited for so long because our conversation filled the time. We talked, we laughed, we sang, but I never brought up the fact that he was a lawyer; it wasn’t important anymore. We just kept naming bands and songs and albums: The Beatles, Sticky Fingers, Nirvana, Uncle John’s Band, Focus, Band On the Run.
“Have you ever been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?” he asked me.
“Of course!” I exclaimed. “That’s one of my favorite places. It’s downtown, right by the water, and is full of awesome rock and roll artifacts.”
“When I was a freshman in college, I thought I wanted to go into music management, so I spent the summer interning there. I got to see all the private storage rooms full of the stuff that they don’t put on display.”
In the middle of our conversation, I saw a waitress walking over to our table at a stressful pace. With sweat drops on her forehead and huffing breath, she said, “I’m so sorry to keep you waiting. What can I get you two to eat?” I looked at John, John looked at me, and he said to the waitress, “I think we’re okay here. I’ll just take the check to pay for her beverage.”
“What are you doing?” I asked, as the waitress walked back towards the kitchen.
“We don’t have to eat here; we can go somewhere better.”
“Where do you have in mind?” I said with a mixture of confusion and excitement.
He stood up from his chair, picked up his briefcase and said, “C’mon, I’ll go give you a tour of those storage rooms”.