This place reminds me of the Lakeline Mall food court back home in Texas. High ceilings, a cold metal decor, food trays, and a hum of echoing voices that could probably put me to sleep if I were a child. Strangers stand in line spewing out their rehearsed order to the workers behind the counters--one small turkey sandwich please, extra olives. Eye contact is optional, smiles are trite and often not entirely sincere. This is the new cafeteria.
For me, it's a factory--come in, get your work done, and leave as quickly as possible. I am suffocated by the eyes of a hundred others. She's here every day. They must think. She never eats anything but salads. They tell their friends. She's beautiful but alone. I hope some of the people that I see frequent the cafeteria consider coming over to talk.
Any time I think of hopes like these, I am reminded of the scene in Amelie toward the end when she is in the kitchen making dinner for herself. She imagines the man she loves coming up the stairs to her apartment, opening the door, and brushing his hand through the beads she has dangling from her door frame. In reality, she hears the ticking of the beads, but looks to find it is just her cat gliding by. Moments later, she hears the doorbell, and it is her love.
I am sitting towards the back of the cafeteria where a lesser percentage of the people can watch me stuff my face. I poke at a stubborn piece of lettuce that does not want to fold in half to a size more suitable for my mouth. I hear a group of 20-something-year-old men howl their Chewbaca impressions to see who could be most accurate. I am happy this is the caliber I have to choose from. Man, did you hear that burp. They say. That burger tasted like a cow pie. They must think. That girl's hot and I now will be as obnoxious as possible. They snort out some laughter and pat each other's backs.
I throw away my styrofoam plate at the big rectangle trash can, stack my tray on top with the rest, and exit the least populated route to avoid eye contact and smiles.
I hope. But its always just the cat.