on being alone / the art of the chopstick

Over the past business week, I’ve been resting. Partially needed, partially medically induced. This period of rest and literal inability to do anything has forced me to be introspective. Ahem, I mean, more introspective than I already am, which is saying a whole lot. I can think about my actions, like really delve deep, because thinking doesn’t involve moving. How splendid.

So here’s a story.

About 36 hours after the extraction of my impacted third molars, I was sick of eating non-solid food and also sick of being inside my house. I had exhausted the episodes of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix the night before, and I had spent the day trying to find a pot big enough to cook the box of macaroni and cheese my mom had bought me. So I ordered Chinese food for dinner. What else was there for me to do? I got dressed, grabbed my keys, and started out the door. It wasn’t until I was searching for my credit card in my purse that I realized my mom had my driver’s license. The oral surgeon needed to make sure I was truly Margaret Dryden and that a weird, sleazy teenage girl with a tooth fascination wasn’t trying to get her wisdom teeth out in my place. Oh, and did I mention that the surgeon asked me as I was going under if he was “taking out all four”? Like he wasn’t certain and was asking just to make sure? Alright. Long story still long (my apologies), my mom had my driver’s license due to my incapacitation post-surgery. Here’s the conversation that went down in my head after this discovery had been made. Or it could have been out loud, I talk to myself more often than I’d admit.

Okay. So you can’t get pulled over. It would be fine if you got pulled over at any other time. Now, it really matters that you don’t. Just drive really carefully, you’ll be fine.

But what if the person working at the restaurant asks for my ID?

For Thai Spicy Chicken? It’s not like you’re going to the package store.

Alright, well, I’ll bring my student ID. It has a photo and a signature…same thing, right?

With my student ID in hand, I walked out the door and got into the car. I drove the whole ten minutes almost forgetting I had no source of legal documentation that I was allowed to be operating a motor vehicle. It wasn’t until I was at the cash register that I remembered things might not work out the way I had intended.

I walked inside, and I paid $12.99 for some chicken and rice without a hitch. Success! I grabbed the brown paper bag and asked the nice foreign man if he had put chopsticks in it. They’re fun, and you really get a feel for a culture by the amount of practice and skill they put into eating.

“No, how many pairs do you need?”

I reply, “Uh, two, probably.”

Wait, what? Two pairs of chopsticks? I have been at home alone all day, and all of the food I just bought is, in fact, for me. I have eaten alone, gone out to eat alone, been served food alone more times than I can remember. Why am I in this particular moment ashamed to admit to a man and an empty Chinese restaurant that I am not sharing this food with anyone? Was it because I was flustered and ID-less? Or self-conscious of my post-surgery swollen cheeks (which really aren’t that swollen)? I have no idea. But for some reason, I knowingly and blatantly lied to a man-I-don’t-even-know’s face to maintain a facade of not being alone. Even barely after the fact I realized what a weird thing I had done. Right after the words left my mouth, I was purely confused. It was probably written all over my face. And also, who on earth “probably” needs a pair of chopsticks? It’s like I was trying to put forth some sort of mystery, like there might be a man in my life, but there also might not be. He might not want to use chopsticks; he might be more of a traditional fork-and-knife kind of guy. But I’m not sure, so I’ll PROBABLY NEED TWO PAIRS.

All the way home I thought about this true slip of the tongue. In a very simple conversation with a person I will definitely never see again, I was afraid of admitting, or maybe just looking like, I was alone. There is something deeper here. Something underneath a layer that I’ve dug up accidentally. Do I care more about appearances than I thought? Is there a certain social standard I’ve set for myself to which I don’t even think I measure up? Does “measuring up” mean having someone to take Chinese food to?

Maybe this is just the medication taking things too seriously, but alas, I am alone. And any guy I end up with better like to use chopsticks, none of that “probably” stuff.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
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