Table for One, Please: My Name Is LEGIONâ€
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.
My guides are at it again, reminding me of things I used to do but put aside. Like dining alone.
Itâ€™s not that Iâ€™ve been avoiding it. I just havenâ€™t thought much Â about it or bothered to get out that often. Lifeâ€™s been busy, you know? Plus, Iâ€™ve had the girls with me so much in the past year, doing the mother-thing with them and not a lot of the me-thing.
I woke up this morning thinking about a habit I fell into a decade ago and later fell out of because I just didnâ€™t have the time for it. Every Tuesday like clockwork, I planned a cozy meal alone in a busy little soup and sandwich place near my job. Traffic wasnâ€™t so bad then, and it took about Â five minutes to get there and five to get back. That left 50 minutes of Â my lunch hour to sit alone with my thoughts and write, write, write on my novel.
Getting lost in the universe of my characters, whole legions populating my brain, I would sit amid the bustle, the smell of hot soup and hotter bread, the soft music in the background drowned out by the din of chatter. I kept a pen and notebook on the table beside me and wrote bits Â of dialogue or whole chapters, all while sitting, mulling, eating. Thatâ€™s Â how Â I wrote most of A Man Called Regret.
I woke up this morning missing those days.
The idea of walking into a restaurant alone is daunting for most Â people, especially for women. But itâ€™s extremely empowering, too. I got Â used to it while traveling on business so often. Otherwise, I would have spent all my nights alone in my room watching TV and waiting for room Â serviceâ€”which was not always a bad thing either. When my kids were Â little and I didnâ€™t have much time at home for self-indulgence, my favorite thing to do on business trips was to forgo room service and slip down to the luxury hotelâ€™s restaurant, enjoy a lavish meal alone while I plotted my next chapter, a glass of nice wine, and then saunter back to my room for some serious writing interrupted only by a much-desired and very quiet bath. The rocket scientists I traveled with preferred watching football in sports barsâ€” my Â next Â favorite Â thing Â right Â behind Â slitting Â my Â wristsâ€”and thought my solitary nights were boring. The truth was, I was so busy at home with diapers and housework in the evenings that having some time Â alone to pamper myself was a luxury. The hardest part was convincing them to go on to their sports bars because Iâ€™d be okay by myself for the evening, really. Little did they know, I was rubbing my hands together in anticipation be- fore the revolving doors of the hotel hit them in the butts on their way out.
But itâ€™s hard to dine alone. Mostly because the wait staff wonâ€™t leave me alone. Thereâ€™s the initial look of pity, like I got stood up or something, from both the servers and the other diners. Then confusion Â and Â curiosity over what Iâ€™m doing, what Iâ€™m writing, and the inevitable, Â â€œAre you writing a book or something?â€ And then they want me to hear their own story and write the book they have running around in their heads when I have hundreds of my own books running around in my head and begging to be turned loose.
Then there are the restaurants that seat a woman alone by the Â loud kitchen (no!) or by the elbow-you-in-the-ear-as-I- walk-by bathrooms (no!) or in a corner (yes!â€”quiet corners are good for writing!). The worst, of course, are the ones who want to put me at their â€œstag tableâ€ with other â€œlonelyâ€ diners. I al- ways get stuck with the extremely talkative woman who wants to complain about having to eat alone and how glad she is to have a dining partner. Funny, but she never offers to pick up my tab.
Dining alone got started for me at that little soup and sandwich Â shop, one thatâ€™s no longer under the same management and hasnâ€™t had Â a Â similar menu in years. Meaning, I no longer go there. But years ago, a friend of mine would meet me there every Tuesday for lunch. It was Pasta Primavera day every Tuesday (â€œNo broccoli, please.â€) and she and I would talk about work, about men, about ideas, about our plans for the future, about everything. We no longer worked in the same office, so our Tuesdays at lunch were a weekly highlight of laughter and dark secrets, with a little gossip thrown in. Then one Tuesday, she called the restaurant to say sheâ€™d been called into a meeting with the General and couldnâ€™t join Â me. So instead, I sat and wrote. When she moved to Washington the next year, I decided not to let â€œPasta Primavera Tuesdayâ€ fade away.
So I went alone. I sat alone. I wrote. I enjoyed every minute, Â except for the first few times that I had to assure the staff I was okay and didnâ€™t really need them to feel sorry for me. I was there alone by choice. Because of the food and the atmosphere. I already had companyâ€”the legions in my head.
So my guides are telling me to get out moreâ€”Kamala, Alva, Â Thomas, even little Mady. Not necessarily with anyone other than my characters, but out in the world. Because itâ€™s too easy to eat over my keyboard when the girls arenâ€™t with me. Be- cause itâ€™s too easy to isolate Â myself when Iâ€™m busy. I need to remember to interact with the world around me outside of the office.