When I first came to Hawaii, when I was doing a work exchange and cleaning rooms at a bed and breakfast in exchange for room and board in a small run down trailer in the jungle, I had one of those moments Oprah is always encouraging women to experience. I had spent the day hiking down to the bay to swim with sea turtles and I had returned to my trailer tired, dirty and exhausted. There was a mirror over my nightstand and as I took my sweaty hat off, my hair a mess of tangles and wild strands, I paused and stared at myself. I looked kind of somber, but that was to be expected because I had been missing having a boyfriend or any kind of companion, a friend, a dog even. Sometimes traveling around by yourself gets lonely, and I was in one of those dark mental ruts. Suddenly, the reflection in the mirror wasn’t me, but her majesty Oprah. “Take yourself out Ma, who needs a man, or even a Gale, self love comes faaaiiiiiiiiiiirst,” she told me. I lowered my eyes. “But first, call the glam squad.” I showered and put on the one nice dress I had brought with me and curled my hair, just like I would if I was going on a date with a new guy. I looked in the mirror again, this time I looked somber, but presentable. I hope he likes me, I thought.
Down the road from my trailer was a romantic little Italian restaurant called Mi’s Bistro. When I got there a boy wearing glasses greeted me. He didn’t ask but I told him anyway. “Just one, that little corner looks romantic and nice,” I said with what I hope was a twinkle in my eye. He grimaced and looked at me suspiciously. As I swished past couples dining, one hand holding my dress like I was modeling couture gowns in front of the Beckhams and Anna Wintour, I started eyeing everyone’s dinners- oh my God I am so freaking hungry. As I sat down at my table across from an empty chair, the boy asked me if I wanted a wine list. “Oh I’ll just have a glass of your chea- of the house red wine?” I asked. He smiled and then turned to leave, stopped, and turned around again, “Can I see your ID?” he asked curiously. I handed him my driver’s license and smiled as he looked from the picture to me a few times. “I looked like a terrorist as a fifteen year old,” I told him and he scratched his head. “I am fifteen in that picture,” I tried to explain, “I’m also not a terrorist. Not then or now.” He gave me back my card. “California huh? Are you…on vacation?” he asked. “Kind of, I’m working at the bed and breakfast down the street in exchange for room and board.” His face brightened. “What a great way to stay at the bed and breakfast for free!” he said. “Oh I don’t get a room in the bed and breakfast, I live in a trailer in the back,” I told him. I could see in his eyes that his impression of me had changed from suspicion to confusion with a twinge of fear the moment I said trailer. I don’t blame him, mobile homes, especially immobile ones just lurking in the middle of a jungle are spooky, and the people who inhabit them should be approached with caution- similar to people who drive around in windowless vans. “I’ll be right back with your wine,” he replied. “My name is Foshay by the way.” “Hi Foshay,” I said and waved. I waved to him from the table. He walked away and I looked around. Next to me a man reached across the table and held the hand of a woman wearing a push up bra and low cut blouse, they smiled at one another. Awww love, I remember that, I thought. And then, I can’t believe I’m still waiting for puberty to give me something for bras to push up. And then, what if these two people are related? I wonder how often that happens now and where. I almost started shaking my finger at them, sick twisted bastards, and then realized I was being the sick twisted bastard, as usual.
I put my napkin in my lap and gazed across the table at….no one. It was then I realized I was all slouched over. Where are my manners! I sat up straighter. As I sat at attention, alone in my cozy little booth, I peered around at all the other restaurant patrons On a scale of 1 to 10 how creepy do I look in comparison to everyone else? Probably a 5. I smiled. The smile just bumped me up to a 7. I stopped smiling alone in the corner. Where is my wine? I looked at the incest siblings dining next to me, trying to see if they had a basket of free bread. Just then, Foshay appeared with my wine and a basket of bread. “Do you need a minute with the menu?” he asked. The menu! I totally forgot. “I will need just a minute,” I said, all frazzled and beginning to perspire. As he disappeared again, I started studying the menu and shoving my mouth full of bread. Duck sounds good. I can’t eat a duck alone, that’s for special occasions. Then like a genie, Oprah appeared across from me, just her oversized head, floating in a haze of purple smoke. “Why can’t this be a special occasion? Why can’t you treat yourself? Ma, you don’t need a man or a Gale to have duck!” she told me before bursting into glitter falling all around me like the end of the Superbowl. Why is Oprah calling me Ma?
Foshay appeared. “Ready?” he asked. “Are you ready?” I said wiggling my shoulders. “Huh?” I stopped flirting, closed my menu, and my eyes grew dark. “I will have the ceaser salad to start, a bowl of minestrone soup, the roasted duck with lemon, and the tiramisu.” He stood there with his pen poised on his notebook, staring at me, not writing anything down. “And another glass of wine,” I added. He looked at my untouched glass of wine. “Anything else?” he asked. I shook my head. “I’m celebrating,” I told him, silently thanking God he didn’t ask “what?” He just nodded and left. I started sipping my wine. What am I celebrating? Myself? Is that wrong? Do bitches take themselves out to dinner? Do sociopaths take themselves out to dinner? My salad appeared and as I started shoveling it into my mouth I realized I was in complete ecstasy. I love dining. I smiled at the couple next to me, and this time the woman looked at me with a strange expression. I realized my teeth must be tinted red from the wine. I looked at them in the reflection of my spoon. My teeth looked dark purple a hue that appeared almost slightly grey in the reflection of the spoon, like my teeth were sixty in my twenty something body. As I devoured all the food on my table Foshay appeared again. “Are you a surfer?” he asked. “I’ve tried,” I explained. “I stood up but my top fell off…and then I fell dow-” I stopped, and we stared at each other. Oprah’s head appeared again, floating in between Foshay and the table, “TMI MA!”
As I waited for my duck I started thinking. Dining alone isn’t depressing, it’s great. I stretched my feet across to the other empty chair and leaned back. Who needs a guy or a Gale? Just then, Oprah genie appeared again only this time she kind of had a neck and was peeking out from behind the plant that was next to my table. She winked at me. I winked back. Creepy level has surpassed 10. Foshay came back with a steaming plate of duck, “Bon appetite,” he said. “Oh what are we celebrating? I forgot to ask,” he added. I put a piece of duck in my mouth and shrugged my shoulders like oh shoot, my mouth is full of food now, hold on. He nodded and I kept chewing and chewing until it got uncomfortably awkward and he went away politely. I sat there, half asleep from all the food, my table for one cluttered with a million empty dishes. Foshay set a piece of tiramisu in front of me and I almost fell face first in it. “I am seriously impressed with how much food you can eat. That’s why I thought you surf. I mean where does it all go?” Foshay congratulated me. “To my brain,” I whispered. “It takes a lot of fuel to keep this mind going.” As I said it, I imagined myself to look just like Eleven from Stranger Things.
The best part of my solo dinner was when the check came. It was huge, but oddly, it felt really good to be able to buy a huge meal for myself. I left Foshay a huge tip because I’m a gentleman. As I rolled out of the bistro and down the street, I felt like one of those people who takes life by the balls- a liver of life- a life liver. You know what I mean?