Table for One–Laurie Sunderland


I found a stool in the center of the bar and ordered a club soda. The woman at the end of the bar heard my order turned in my direction and said in a loud voice, “Frosé! (as in frozen rose).  Not a club soda, Carla, get her a froze!”  I noticed the almost empty glass of frozen rose’ in front of her and two empty glasses lined up next to it. It looked like the bartender was keeping count.

“No, thanks. Club soda’s fine.”  She readjusted herself on her barstool so she was facing me and told me her name, which I immediately forgot. I followed with my quick introduction, as I didn’t really want to get involved in conversation with her.

“Carla, get her a frosé.”
“Maria,” the bartender said. “My name is Maria. I don’t know why you keep calling me Carla.”

“Where are you from? I’m supposed to be meeting a man here but he didn’t show up. I’m 60, he’s 45. Do you think that’s strange? Good or bad? Carla! I think Laurie needs a frosé!”

“It’s MARIA, not Carla!” Maria said with exasperation, then glanced over to me and shook her head.

The one-sided conversation continued with me answering only when I had to. She became more and more persistent and I didn’t want to be rude,  so gave short answers and no eye contact, but it didn’t slow her down. After I finished my club soda, I went over to the hostess stand and asked if to be seated early as I was to get away from the woman at the bar. The hostess nodded to let me know she understood the situation then led me to a two-top that was as far away from the bar as possible. As soon as I was seated, the frosé woman, who in my mind I’m now calling “Flo,” approached my table, seeming much more drunk to me now that she was upright.

“How come you’re sitting here all by yourself? Are you waiting for someone?”
“No, I’m by myself.”  Information I had told her earlier.
She nodded with a look of concern on her face then asked,

“Do you want me to join you? It just seems kind of sad you’re eating alone. I’m an extrovert. I’d never eat alone.”
“No,  actually, I like eating alone. And I’m also an extrovert.”
“Are you sure? You’re just sitting her all alone… and….well it seems….”
I interrupted her, “Yes, I know, sad. But I want to eat alone. I like eating alone. Have a nice evening.”  I returned to reading the menu while watching her out of the corner of my eye. She stood next to the empty chair at my table for at least a minute, rocking back from one foot to the other, then left.

I enjoyed a lovely dinner but drunk frozen rosé Flo, said something that would resurface the next night when I decided to dine at the lodge where I was staying.  I arrived for my reservation early so went to the bar and ordered a drink. During my fifteen minutes of sitting, I was asked by the bartender, two waiters and the hostess if I was waiting for someone. The hostess, who I had said earlier that I wanted a table for one, said she was ready to seat me but had the other person in my party arrived? When I said no, there wasn’t another person in my party, just me, Flo’s words entered my mind.  “It just seems kinda sad…”. Everyone but me was concerned about the missing person at my table for one. I regretted that I added the “just” before “me.” It sounded apologetic and I wasn’t. As I was being led to my table, I scanned tables in the room and a few on the patio for a head count. I confirmed what I already knew — I was the only table for one. Even at the bar everyone was paired off. I sat down, suddenly aware of an awkwardness I was feeling that hadn’t been an issue when I sat at almost the same table two nights ago. It was drunk Flo who put the idea of “aren’t you sad, don’t you want someone to eat with you?” into my head.

I didn’t feel sad to be led to a table for one, but couldn’t help but notice how quickly the hostess scooped up the extra place setting, almost like she didn’t want me to notice it and be reminded of my solo status.   I went back to the same restaurant the following night, sat at the bar and asked the bartender what their top shelf gin was.  I’m not a gin drinker, but it sounded confident, like something a brave person eating alone would ask.


Laurie Sunderland’s ties to the Oregon Coast began in the early 1970’s when her grandparents moved to the area. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, but travels to the Oregon Coast as often as she can. Her work has been published in the Reader’s Write column of the Sun Magazine and Motherwell.