Due to exams and an unbelievably stressful house move, I haven’t been able to write for a while. After moving chairs, couches, tables, pans, books and every other tiny thing that you completely take for granted until you’re dragging it to and from your car, as well as spending over a week without my beloved internet; I was debating whether my solitary trip to Lancaster was interesting enough to continue with, as literally nothing physically amazing happens in this story. Would people want to read about a 20 year old’s thoughts and feelings she had whilst mooching about on her own? I don’t know. But I thought, if I still remember feeling the way I did on the day, so long after it happened, it must be pretty important and that maybe there’s a simple beauty in the lack of explosive action after all.
So… after handing in my keys and buying some CD’s my hungry tum called on me to look around for somewhere to eat. I got to the high street and walked past McDonalds and took the spot of first ‘potential food place’ in the mini Food Quest. Despite the menu being super unhealthy and offering me only one veggie option, I was nearly convinced to eat here for the simple fact that no one in Maccies looks at you funny for eating alone. It’s like a train station, so many people hustling around don’t have time to look at me sat on my own flicking iceberg lettuce around. It was the sheer mass of people inside that turned me off in the end, with the queue practically to the door with people who needed a break from shopping or had to get a quick meal for work.
As I carried on walking I saw the little falafel place on the corner that I’d been to once before, Go Shawarma. The food was nice when I’d been, I mean, they serve falafels, I like falafels… not much more to it than that I guess. But it was a takeaway, so unless I wanted to sit on one of the three bar stools facing the wall I’d be walking around trying to find somewhere to sit and getting myself worked up. I also remembered that they didn’t take card and I didn’t have cash out.
It was at this point that my attention was drawn to Bella Italia, introduce contestant 3 and my Jean val Jean style dilemma came in. There was nice food from a takeaway that I’d need to get money out for but avoid being looked at, or there was an Italian where I could actually enjoy my food without rushing and I suppose looking back, enjoy my own company.
It was decided. Lunch for 1 at Bella Italia. I opened the door, and was quickly sat down at a table near a window looking out onto the busy highstreet. After ordering what turned out to be surprisingly tasty vegan pizza, I could feel a growing strength.
It was awkward to start with, I won’t lie. Sitting alone surrounded by groups of people and wandering what they’re thinking.
Is she on her own? Has she been stood up? Are her friends in the toilet?
Because of this I fumbled for my phone, blindly scrolling down insta, double-tapping every unfocused animal I could make out as I stared off, regretting not just going to maccies and dealing with the masses. I could feel myself getting more and more anxious and so made a conscious effort to calm myself down. I asked myself if I knew anyone? Without looking around the answer was no. This thought made me realise that in a blissfully ordinary way, I was completely unimportant to the other diner’s lives at this point.
Is the woman at the table across from me, trying to stop her two young kids drowning each other in spaghetti, bothered about me sat looking out the window? What about the two women behind me, talking about the beauty of Sussex and their plans to move house; they aren’t going to be pulled away from their residential fantasies to question the single glass of coke sitting on my table.
So, I put the phone away, took a deep breath and began to enjoy myself. I started by staring at the candle-stuffed wine bottle sitting on the table and thinking that it’s something my mum would like for the house and how easy it would be to make. Then, I started looking out of the window at the hustle and bustle outside, realising that I was taking in so much more than usual. There was the music in the restaurant, the colours, the energy of passers-by, people laughing and kids lying on the floor in a complete protest to any more shopping. I was seeing tiny snippets of an absolute plethora of lives and seeing it alone made me realise the beauty of it.
After finishing my lunch, I begrudgingly headed back to my car. But, as I left town and crossed the traffic lights, a small passage to the canal caught my eye and without thinking I headed towards it.