Loneliness and a Chinese meal

It was lunchtime, and after a day of errands, I was famished. I stopped by what seemed to be a cheap, Chinese food shop, and decided that my pocket needed to take a break from the usual meals I had. The shop was half-filled with working adults and high school kids who had just started lunch, so it looked like a safe, clean environment.

So I sat there, 10 minutes later, and just as I was about to fork into my mouth a huge chunk of roasted chicken and rice, I noticed her.

She sat there, looking down and twiddling her fingers. There wasn’t anything impressive about her – she looked absolutely plain, had a twig-like figure and round-framed glasses hiding beneath the limp fringe on her face. But there was this sense of… loneliness, that seemed to ebb out of her.

And as I watched, she looked up and gave this almost lopsided, yet delightful smile, that seemed to brighten up the plain face for a bit. I glanced at the door – three girls, probably the same age, had come in. They were probably classmates, I thought, and she had been waiting for them. I began to relax a bit, and chided myself for having an overactive imagination. The chicken needed more attention than some random teenager, after all.

But Plain Jane held my curiousity still. So I watched as the three girls, dressed in probably the school’s prefect uniforms, swish by her without so much as a wave or a smile. (They seemed almost like characters out of a teen movie – there was a plump, snotty looking girl, there was the pretty girl, and there was the almost pretty girl who seemed to think she was pretty. And man, did they look bitchy.)

Her hand froze in midair, then slowly came back down to the table. The smile slowly slunked away off her face, and the dull, sad look came back on. She went back to her finger twiddling, and I felt, for a moment, the same pang of loneliness she was feeling.

The girls sat down at a table just behind her.

Her food came, and she picked up the chopsticks and began to eat. There’s nothing more miserable than eating by yourself, I thought, when your schoolmates sit behind you and ignore you.

It’s different than when you sit alone, working on something and catching up on a meal, by choice.

What made this girl different from the others? Was it the fact that she didn’t fit in their clique? Was it because she wasn’t as pretty, as snotty, or as confident as the others? Why the segregation? The thoughts running through my mind seemed to speak out against the unfairness, just as I noticed more schoolgirls walk into the shop.

One of them waved at Plain Jane and walked to the Snotty table to plunk herself down on one of the chairs.

Another girl, stopped by Plain Jane’s table. My ears perked up as I tried to eavesdrop on the conversation. Not a very nice thing to do, but my curiousity needed to be satisfied. The chicken and manners could wait.

Nice Girl smiled at Plain Jane. “…. eating with anyone else? Why don’t you join us at our table?”

I could see an apprehensive, guarded look cross Plain Jane’s face, before she snuck a glance at the Snotty Table. Looking across at the empty seat opposite her, then at her bowl of Chinese noodles, then to Nice Girl’s friendly smile, she nodded.

And the Snotty Trio weren’t too happy at this. But it seemed that Nice Girl, dressed in a senior’s uniform, called the shots this time. They would have their revenge at Plain Jane one day, but today, they had to curb their tongue.

Plain Jane sat next to Pretty Snob. The trio continued their conversation with the rest of the table as a few more girls joined in. But they were very, very careful, to avoid looking at Plain Jane.

As the minutes passed, Plain Jane hadn’t uttered a word. She soon finished her noodles, and sat there for a bit.

Plump Snob looked at her once, rolled her eyes, and continued talking to Nice Girl.

Plain Jane was crestfallen. I could tell. I could feel it. She reached into her bag, counted a few notes, and stood up to pay for her meal.

“Going off so soon?” Pretty Snob asked in a sickly sweet voice. Plain Jane nodded.

Plump Snob was swallowing a snicker as she added in an equally-saccharine-sweet voice,” Do join us again, it was sooo much fun having you join us!”

Plain Jane left. But I could see the pain in her face; the sadness, the loneliness, and the hurt, as she hugged her books to her chest and slowly walked out.

My chicken didn’t taste so nice anymore at that point.


In actual fact, the entire story above was true. I did ad-lib a few parts of the dialogue, because I didn’t understand Chinese, which was the language these girls were speaking in.

But the actions, the facial expressions, the girls; from Plain Jane to the Snotty Trio and my roasted chicken did exist.

I’d welcome any comments or criticism (healthy please) about this story… thanks ever so much.

My Aunt

Here’s a picture of my aunt (Dad’s sister). I think she symbolizes loneliness to me, being shunned by her own kids and grand-kids in her own house – she lives with my cousins – and losing my Dad years ago (rest in peace Dad). I visit her sometimes, but being in a different state, it gets hard. In this picture, she’s laughing because I tried to take a candid photo of her and half-succeeded.


5 Responses to “Loneliness and a Chinese meal”

  1. 1 David Raho January 20, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Some very nice observations here. It is fascinating to watch the interactions of any group of people and especially school children who can be so openly expressive. You can’t help imagining why they didn’t like her. Was it because she was polite? Was it because she was a new girl? Or maybe she hadn’t paid her protection money that week? Who knows?
    Good stuff. Keep writing>

  2. 2 jcscribbles January 20, 2007 at 1:03 am

    I do run into these moments when I see a situation that seems so rich in story-telling, so this is my first time at putting it on – metaphorically – pen and paper.

    Thanks for leaving a comment here, David!

  3. 4 Desktopjunk April 23, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Thanks, always good posts on your blog!

  4. 5 wjsbfpn itmfpr September 10, 2008 at 5:54 pm

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