Noodles for One

It’s a warm afternoon – but it’s pleasant within the restaurant. Open air, but somehow the heat requires invitation to enter by the establishment, which said establishment is loathe to give to this eager summer plebe. That sort of place. Mostly empty at this time of day, too late for lunch, too early for dinner. There are only a few patrons at this high-class domain – a few bored socialites and me.

The restaurant isn’t that large, but the raised ceiling gives it a cavernous feel. An assortment of gaily-painted pipes intersect that emptiness, strange how some bright colour can make an eyesore of a pipe beautiful. I imagine them as a syrinx; panpipes on a giant scale. Perhaps the giant will one day return for his instrument, tearing the roof off and reclaiming them. He’d skip merrily from the heart of the city, carelessly crushing cars and buildings in his wake.

That’d be fun to watch. To see the middle- and upper-class faces widen in shock as some gleeful uncouth titan trashes their most holy demesnes.

Something dissuades me from my daydreams, the unpainted “raw” metal pipe – it’s HUGE. It invades the nest of pretty pipes, unashamedly ugly but undoubtedly real. So real it derails my train of thought like a redwood sequoia toppling onto the tracks.

Distracted by reality, I start to wonder where the hell my meal is. I look to the brushed metal cutout of a kid holding a bowl, showing today’s specials. Around $25 a pop. I guess they are special to someone, but not to me.

Can’t help but have my eye drawn to the magnificent fish-table in the middle of the restaurant. Brushed metal like the sign, each time I walk past it, I have to run my fingers down the surface, it should be rough, but it’s dead smooth. Maybe I do it each time somehow hoping futile for texture.

I exaggerated – the noodles come rather quickly. #23, Peking Udon with Tofu. Spicy, but I like spicy. I still can’t stop thinking as I chew my cud like the proverbial cow. I look out to the street, socialites enjoying the latter day sun on the outside tables as other trendy folk amble past aimlessly.

I feel very out of place.

I wonder what they think of me, eating my seven-dollar late lunch alone. Something screams out inside me that I can’t do this; I have to have some prosthetic partner to prop me up. Look at them, the beautiful people in nicely matched couples attached at the waist like conjoined twins.

Maybe I’m being unfair; maybe I’m being paranoid – that they don’t deserve my silent, scathing resentment. Perhaps it’s just the simple envy of the have-nots for the haves; misplaced anger lashing out to smack random strangers.

If they made “prosthetic partners”, I reckon they would sell – there are enough lonely people out there.

I finish my noodles, pay for my meal at the counter and go back into the urban squeeze.

-——- -—— -——

Different day, different place, but noodles again. What can I say, just call me a ‘noodle slut.’ Lunchtime and the girls serving at the eatery look stressed and overworked. I use the term ‘eatery’ rather than restaurant deliberately; at a restaurant you pay after you eat, at an eatery, before.

They don’t call themselves either, they name themselves a bar, but there is no booze.

A pity. I could do with some booze.

Located on the side of a busy arcade, it’s pretty streamlined. Just a small alcove inset into the side of the arcade, most tables drifting down towards the nearby street.

The tag on the steam tray full of fresh noodles reads ‘Large serve: $4.90’, I hand over a five dollar note and inexplicably get fifty cents change. Considering she stiffed me on the delicious fried ham in dishing up my noodles, I keep my mouth shut and pocket the coin. But karma’s sting is very quick – I momentarily forget my plastic spork and obligatory serviette to see them whisked away to benefit some other customer.

Damnit. I grab another spork, feeling sheepish, and appropriate a table near the street entrance to the arcade. The flavour of car exhaust definitely adds something to my dining experience.

The noodles are a little bland, not spicy at all, but filling. Too little ham, unfortunately. I munch and watch the busy commuters bustle to and fro. Definitely a different view than my prior noodle outlet, by whatever name. No upper-class trendy socialites here, just a whole lot of normality going through the daily grind.

A few low-level salarymen get their noodles to go, no time to eat them here when their corporate masters could yank their choke chains at the slightest whim. There’s a certain doglike quality about them; I’m not exactly a dog lover, but I get sad when I see them chained to their doghouse, that wistful expression so apparent in their eyes.

And these rushed salarymen have exactly the same look.

At least here, no one cares if I have a prosthetic partner or not, I’m not the only one eating alone. This is a place for convenient energy absorption; any entertainment you may experience here is strictly coincidental. It’s some small comfort, ironically enough.

I’m racking my brains as I chew, trying to remember something that I heard or read recently which was really cool and I wanted to quote. It eludes me; all I remember is that it was by someone famous. Someone appreciated and respected for who they are.

I wish I was famous.

But how would that happen? I’m not one of the ‘beautiful people’, I don’t have connections; I’m definitely not a paragon of luck, dancing through a charmed life. I don’t have a majestic manifest destiny written in the stars before my birth.

That isn’t me. I can’t put on airs; I have to admit that the hoi polloi that scurry past me are just like me – normal.

Maybe I don’t even want to be famous; maybe I just want what it represents – to be considered in some way a success, not a failure. Vindication that I haven’t totally wasted my time here.

I guess, to look at those pinnacles of greatness in humanity we admire, they didn’t start out at the top – they worked their asses off to get there. Through opposition internal and external. Insanity. Substance abuse. Discrimination. Broken homes. Maybe not even that extreme, perhaps just a run of the mill wage slave that breaks off from the pack and explores a new direction. Maybe such success isn’t granted by Fate, but earned; by attitude and ambition. The desire for success being the path.

Maybe back then, in the beginning, they had noodles for one, like me.

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