Confessions from the Food Court

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

“The eyes believe themselves; the ears believe other people.” (Fortune cookie)

It’s time I came clean with one of my secret activities that even my husband doesn’t know about until now. I go to the mall once a week, not to shop but to watch.

I enter the doors by the food court and wend my way through tables to the last counter in a row of fast food heaven. No steak burger, chicken sandwich, sub, or pizza for me. I head straight for Asian Wok with its red and yellow sign proclaiming *Special* RICE or noodle with any 2 meats and eggroll $4.99. A young Asian woman with a red shirt stands waiting at the counter that never has a line. I order teriyaki chicken with rice, and she always asks, “To go?” I always respond, “For here.”

I squirt soy sauce on my rice and squeeze hot mustard out of a little plastic tube onto my eggroll. I grab my fortune cookie from a pile in a basket next to the condiments and head to a table on the edge of the food court so I can sit facing all the other tables.

I pull a book from my purse, but I don’t read much because I’ve really come to listen and watch. Grandparents tend toddlers at a few tables. Mostly it’s grandmothers, but today both a grandma and grandpa sat with two small children with sub sandwiches and chips in front of them. Before tearing into the wrapping around the food, all four bowed their heads and prayed.

Three teenagers sat next to me eating pizza. They talked occasionally, but their eyes did not connect across the table because all three were busy texting other people.

An elderly man sat alone at a table facing me. He ate his burger slowly as he stared out of the table without focus. I tried to keep my eyes on my book and away from his expression of morose. All of a sudden that expression changed and a sparkle nearly jumped out from his eye onto his French fries. I followed his gaze to an elderly heavy set woman wearing a red shirt and black apron. She’s holding a broom and sweeping debris from the floor into a dust bin. He said something to her that I couldn’t hear. It doesn’t matter. She smiled, and he picked up his burger, now smiling. They could be strangers flirting or a married couple together for decades. But what transpired between them was pure love.

The grandparents and their charges put their garbage in the trash. The teenagers pushed back their chairs to leave with pizza box intact upon the table. And the gentleman in front of me continued to sit at the table long after he finished his burger watching the woman sweeping the floor. I turned to my fortune cookie and decided it was time to read it.

“The eyes believe themselves; the ears believe other people,” I read.

In those around us, we see love, hate, happiness, unhappiness, peace, turmoil, courage, fear. No matter the words we spout, and the words landing on us, what we see with the blinders removed reveals more about the human condition than words exchanged over cell phones at the mall.

I could stay home when the urge hits me to go out into the world to see and save $4.99. I could turn on the television and watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Now that’s something to see, although the words not to be believed.

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