Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Friday the 13th

I didn’t even notice it was Friday the 13th. I just remembered that this would be the first day that I won’t be able to talk to Gabriel for one month. His family is in transit to the East Coast and he won’t be anywhere near a computer for that long. My heart is feeling tiny little fissures of breakage from missing him so, but now I can get out of the house early, instead of waiting until after noon for our conversations to be done.

There’s always a bright side, even when things are so dark.

Although I was ready to leave the house at 10AM, I still dilly-dallied around until a little after 11. Force of habit; I’m not supposed to leave before I can talk with my Gabe-Gabe. I made myself walk out before noon. Boy, is this habit going to die hard.

My original plan was to go to Hankou, to Computer City and look around, and then walk to Helen’s for a pizza. Helen’s is a Western restaurant run by a charming woman who is a student at the nearby University. She owns/runs the restaurant in her spare time… what spare time? I don’t know how she does everything she does. It is not like she’s going for an easy degree; she is studying medicine! She has internships to do, as well as write papers and attend classes. And, oh by the way, she runs a restaurant that serves some of the best food I’ve had since living in Wuhan.

My plans got scrapped before they got started. One of the English teachers, also named Helen needed me to meet her at 3PM on campus to go have a fitting for a dress I was buying. As she had coordinated the purchase, I felt her request had weight over my plans. I decided to go to Hanyang and buy Western style pasta for next week’s Teacher seminar instead of going to Hankou. I’ll be making pasta salad for the seminar.

Do any of you have a good recipe for pasta salad? I could use it; I haven’t made it in a while.

Because my original plans included lunching, I had brought a book. The trip to Hanyang was not as long as the trip to Hankou normally is so I was not hungry yet. I sat on the boardwalk, enjoying the sun and reading my book. An hour or so later I started making my way to the grocery store that sells Western goods but looked to the right and spied an Italian restaurant. ‘I can have my pizza there’ I thought. Off I go, trying a new restaurant.

The restaurant is rather small at this foyer level, although there is more seating available upstairs. All three small tables were taken; the only table not occupied was a long, bench type table that would have comfortably seated 6. Not sure whether upstairs was open for seating at lunchtime, I stood at the bar to order my food. After the waitress had noted my selections she encouraged me to make myself comfortable at the long table. I turned to do that and… why! There is Ozgur!

OK, I know you’re going to ask: what is an ‘ozgur’?

Not what, who. Who is Ozgur? She is a woman I met several months back, when life was hard and I was doing my best to only give you light-hearted news so you wouldn’t see the depth of my despair. I didn’t write about meeting Ozgur, her daughter and her brother in a Pizza Hut over the winter break because I was embarrassed.

I had gone to Pizza Hut for a meal even though it is so expensive to eat there because I craved human companionship, and Pizza Hut is one of the few restaurants where it is socially acceptable for a woman to dine alone. Even though the waitresses are not my friends, at least they speak to me and there is something to be said about being spoken to when you are so abysmally lonely. I ate my pizza and my salad with my eyes glued to my book, only looking up when the waitress was talking to me or when I needed to call her for something. As I was paying my bill I looked over and noticed people who did not look Chinese. Boldly I walked over to their table and introduced myself.

With no hesitation whatsoever, Ozgur smiled and introduced herself, her daughter and her brother. She invited me to join them for their meal. Ashamed and embarrassed as well as full from having just eaten a pizza and salad, I declined her offer but stuck around, talking with them until their food arrived. By that time we had exchanged names and phone numbers.

In the intervening months I did not call her. I was simply too embarrassed to have barged in on a family enjoying their outing, and I didn’t want to be reminded of that terrible, lonely time when I had to pay for people to talk with me. She didn’t call me, either. She has a full life with a husband, a child and a complete circle of friends to keep her fulfilled.

But, to my amazement, here she is in Hanyang, in another part of town and in another pizza restaurant! Our eyes met and our mouths broke into smiles of recognition. Quickly we embraced and exclaimed at the coincidence. She invited me to join her for her meal, this time I accepted joyously. She said she was waiting for 2 other friends and with me, it would make us a foursome for lunch. While waiting for everyone else we got caught up on each other’s doings.

The pizza was not fantastic but the company was. Very seldom have I ever participated in a women’s luncheon so I took careful notes in case the occasion ever arises again. We parted company after about an hour and a half. Ozgur and I promised to stay in touch. I intend to keep the promise this time.

There is more to be said about Friday the 13th, but I don’ t want to overdo the length of this post so… here we go again: a post in two parts!

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