She welcomes me with a smile and asks how many in my party. I raise a single finger, hoping friendliness is beaming from my face. The thin, Carmel-skinned hostess, clad in a butter yellow t-shirt and khaki pants, seats me in a single corner half booth, half table and I sit, facing toward the bustle of the midmorning rush. Directly beside me, not two feet from my table, is a lovely middle-aged white couple. She is blonde and attentive, reminding her Santa Claus husband that he need not eat all his meal. They leave soon after I order, and a bus girl is by shortly to clear their dishes.
My food arrives promptly; cinnamon spice pancakes with applesauce and whipped cream. Not my usual fare, but this is vacation and my last Tuesday in Nashville. The Pancake Pantry has been on my list for some time now and I am reminded, again, how food brings us all together.
I dig into my plate, keeping an eye on the time. I have an appointment this morning, but it’s not far from where I am. Three college-aged girls sit next to me, occupying the table that was momentarily empty. Their cadence is slow, slightly unsure, but drips of self-confidence. They are young!
Their chatter shouldn’t intrigue me but it does. One orders a half order of the chocolate chip pancakes, remarking how she couldn’t possibly finish a whole five pancakes. The two others order an omelette and talk about their water consumption. I notice they are thin and confident. I lose my appetite.
I sip my water, rummaging in my bag for a cash tip. I gather myself to leave and I awkwardly stand, inadvertently trespassing into their too-close bubble. I don’t look at them directly, I keep my eyes low, but I notice one girl grabs her bag reflexively.
Making my way to the register, I wonder if they are watching me walking away, noticing the jiggle of my thighs or how I seem to take up more space than they and their delicate appetites. The crowd around the door is growing thicker, people preparing to pay or waiting to be seated and my discomfort is growing. I pay and in a rush to get out the door, I nearly leave my wallet behind.
In the solitude of my car, I remind myself that these girls probably did not notice me, and my accidental too-far leaning into their space has likely already been forgotten. Such a silly thing biases do, alter an experience from pleasant to uncomfortable in the span of minutes. My insecurities are painting the scene in different shades and I’ve forgotten that this morning, in the shower, before I allowed the world to permeate my psyche, I bathed and caressed my body. I marvelled at its abilities, at its curves at my pillowy soft skin and the roundness that covers the angles. I forgot that I loved my body this morning.