The Lonely One

I like seeing the middle aged Chinese man in the window when I’m walking home at night. He’s usually cooking in the blond lady’s kitchen. Pots and pans and sieves, all hanging around him as he tends to this or that.

I used to work as a local barkeep. The middle aged Chinese man was a regular customer, drinking whiskey and craft beers. He worked in IT, odd hours, which meant he could do things like hang out in local dive bars until very late. He knew lots of little facts about a lot of things and he was respectful. He tipped well, and brought in food he’d made at home. I probably bought him more drinks than I should’ve.

At the time he was single. And lonely. He walked with a limp, and carried a cane. My boyfriend, who also worked at the local bar, used to sit with him until very late. We drank beer, and ate his homemade beef jerky, or scallion pancakes.

Sometimes we would talk about him at home. I would worry. He seemed alienated. My boyfriend would shake his head at me and then touch my face.

“You think about other people too much,” he would say to me. “That’s one of the reasons why I love you.”

That was lifetimes ago. I don’t work at the local bar anymore, and I barely even nod at the middle aged Chinese man as he walks down the street with his cane, and his girlfriend.

Still. I see him. I monitor his happiness. He lives in the apartment building next to mine now, with the blond lady who’s lived there forever, quietly assembling an impressive kitchen. Pots and pans and sieves – all hanging around them, as they tend to this or that.

I’m not a big part of their life or anything.

But I like seeing the middle aged Chinese man in the window, when I’m walking home at night. I like seeing her come into frame, from time to time, and peek over his shoulder. I like seeing him fish out a morsel or a scrap for her to savor. I like seeing them happy, together.

Even if I’m the one who’s lonely now.