Confessions of a People Watcher Issue #5: “Lunch for One, Please.”

It’s been one hell of a week.

College stuff, work’s the same, scheduling is a pain, a new client was found, and all while keeping a (somewhat) steady writing schedule. Confessions really is, at the end of the day, my only time to breathe. It’s like meditating, and I’m happy to be doing it.

Sometimes people watching can become as intimate as being right next to a total stranger; in fact, today was exactly the case. I sat down in a quiet restaurant to enjoy a good meal. It was a good relief from my busy schedule.

As the meal commenced, I began to overhear a young man and woman having a conversation. It had to have been their conversation. The restaurant was empty, save me, the couple speaking, and the owner; he had nothing but a host’s automated responses to facilitate a loose spending and eerily happy environment. Naturally, I had taken a seat directly behind them to listen in.

Don’t judge. It comes with the interest, and the benefit is what you read now.

They were young, late twenties to early thirties, and looked as if they were dressed for a church service; it was a Thursday. The young woman was in a simple purple dress with hair the color of black silk and wearing lipstick as red as crimson. She held a slightly disgusted look when I glimpsed her, and surprisingly, she wasn’t even looking at me. I didn’t get a look at the man. The walk flow called for a double take to do so. I thought it’d be rude to look back for a glimpse of his face, so I’m using my imagination.

He had a ‘what some could’ve mistaken for a safety vest’ colored polo, khakis rolled thrice exposing his almost clear, white ankles, and shoes with which he was wearing no socks. I can only imagine his face looked the part of any man at such an age who still can’t talk above mostly legible garble. His face, more likely than not, held either an empty glare of mental exhaustion from the day’s travel or a ‘pinched’ look, as if he’s trying to solve a very difficult math equation.

I don’t like math; I feel like I can level with this man for that, but I’m making a mental note next time I choose a restaurant to satisfy my cravings, both for people watching and hunger, I’ll first be sure to find one that offers more people. The service was top notch, but serving as a nesting ground for one of those golden people watching moments, t’was not. Still, even the worst hour you’ve ever spent on a playground is better than the best you’ve spent in the classroom

The following is a (loose) translation of their conversation:

“What’d she say,” he asked, shoving a french fry in his mouth. The young woman took what sounded like a sip of her beverage.

“She wus’ talkan’ ’bout hirin’ anuther’n down at the cawfee shop,” she said. Her voice was thick with a North Mississippi accent, like a whining, nasally cat trying to gargle mud and articulate useful knowledge.

The man must’ve felt challenge from the fries; his next word came muffled and hardly understandable, leading me to believe he had stuffed his mouth with five or six of them.

The words came out like a two syllable grunt, “Wha’ for?” I could hear her rushing past the next gulp of her soda to articulate more knowledge.

“Seriously,” she said.

I assumed it was because of the french fry stuffing. Correction, I had hoped it was the french fry stuffing; that might have led to a small argument. Seeing someone deal with such a thing in public is so deliciously uncomfortable.

She wasn’t upset about the fries however. She was upset because he had forgotten something she had apparently thought was delicious. I could almost feel him shrugging, as if to say I can’t remember half of your gossip, I’m busy tryin’ to eat these crinkle cuts, they’re delicious.

The excessive use of the word delicious in the previous two paragraphs were placed for the simple fact that the food, for this man and myself anyway, was delicious. I don’t know the owner’s name, and I don’t care how eerily happy his demeanor or how automated his responses, they make a damn good cabbage sprig bedded catfish in peanut sauce with fried rice. Right on, brother.

The woman went into explaining something that wasn’t very interesting. I decided this was a good time to chow down on those cabbage sprigs. They were crunchy and fresh. I munched in pure food ecstasy while hearing her talk.

“I dun told you …crunch crunch crunch… thas’ why they were thankin’ is was …crunch… who took the … crunch… They thank he got in bad with the …crunch… mighta’ been the reason he had that wreck. I can’t  blame …crunch… for taking the kids. She thought he was turnin’ gay cuz’ …crunch crunch crunch… I’da thought the same if I found that kinda stuff under tha bed,” she said.

At this point, I’m not sure if the french fry man actually remembered or just went along as if he did, but the host came back to refill her coke, asked how the food was, and painted a hasty scenario where she might put her foot down, decide not to cook some night, and the two of them come there to eat instead.

Yeah, woman power.

Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon began to play overhead. I love this song, but the host began to sing to himself, tainting the intro and, effectively, the whole song. I don’t blame him for singing because I had began to hum it myself. His wife was in the kitchen and I can only assume he gave her more than a few glances while he gave his own rendition of one of the Rat Pack boys.

The couples conversation had fizzled out, and I was finished with my meal. I paid the tab with a two dollar tip, thanked the owner for the complimentary tofu onion soup–”I needed that. Allergies are starting to rust the ole pipes,” I said, motioning to my throat–, and I left.

This couple was the best I could muster this week, but next week should be better, all things considered. I’ll be visiting a college campus, the long drive makes for good ideas, and I might relax in the park. Until then, check out the patreon page for Quarterstories. Remember, when we reach our goal of $100/month, The Think Tank will have two prompts pulled every month to have a short story written about them. I can’t wait to start, but I need your help.

Until then, dear reader.



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