Alone/ Not Alone

灣仔蘭街有一家標榜沒有味精的家庭式經營的小食堂叫友善坊,英文名叫 Charlie's Place。我從來不知 Charlie 是何許人,也沒有過問,我來這兒因為菜式簡單,味道不錯,價錢相宜:一個住家餸一個飯加湯或飲品都不過$45-$65。自己一個人生活,有時下班後懶得自己做飯,寧願到這兒靜靜地嘆個簡單一人晩餐。況且買餸做一人晚餐的成本也差不多,仲要花時間煮同洗碗 (which is what I hate the most),來這兒更為化算。

星期五,沒有約,也實在太累不想做飯,就來了這兒點個我最喜歡的蕃茄雲吞醉雞碢跟雞蛋腐竹糖水,自己安靜一下。

以前我是很喜歡夜夜笙歌的,每晩都要找個籍口去蒲 -- 那是當蘭桂坊還未有「灣仔化」,雲咸街還未變成新老蘭之前 -- 星期五晚更不得了,一定要蒲天光才夠爽!由 Phi-b 到 Kee,再由 Drop 到 CE Top 再到 Home, 連傳說中的 Yellow Frog 我都去過;仲要每星期都如是,那個時候,我只想玩鋪勁!

不過不知那時候開始,突然覺得這樣的蒲是很浪費時間。現在除了跟真的朋友飲酒吹水,我都沒有興緻動身去蒲 -- 畢竟歡場無真愛,為何要花時間精力去懶熱情的應酬在那些跟我不甚相干的人?我寧可吃一頓三小時的晚飯,說說笑笑的過一個簡單的晚上,至少大家聽得到大家說甚麼,又不須要 dress up -- 反正你的朋友不會因為你的外表去 evaluate 你們之間的友誼;跳舞就更不要勞動我了,我寧願在家中扮草蜢跳<忘情森巴舞>或用力放聲在卡拉OK唱<問誰令風騷>,在舞池中聽著那些 break beat 音樂,我真不曉得手腳應往哪裡放。

是夜我一個人安安樂樂的坐在友善坊,看著老板娘友善的招呼人客,䁵顧四週,駭然發現有半間餐廳都是和我一樣,是一個人來吃晩飯的職業女性。

細看她們都是衣著光鮮,漂亮動人的白領麗人。她們都自顧自的享受自己的一餸一湯,在我左邊的那位擁有長長睫毛的小姐在邊食邊看手機上播著的 video,在我右邊穿著住甚麼名牌行政套裝的另一位在讀 Kindle,距離我較遠的一位則從沒有將她的視線移離在她手上的王貽興的不知那一部書。

如果沒有記錯,灣仔是全港收入最高而又有最多單身獨居女子的其中一區。怪不得友善坊會那麼受歡迎,因為大家都知道要吃得好一點,但又不想付那麼多錢更沒有精力做家務;最重要的是坐在這兒的大家好像已學懂享受一個人的生活。

其實我也有對她們作出某些懷疑:為何大家都看似很 occupied?真的一定要邊吃飯邊做點甚麼?是否如果沒有書或電話在手,看上去會太可憐?

Put it out there -- 可能這真是一個難道極高的動作,尤其在香港,大家都太介意其他人怎樣看自己:官員在乎自己及政策的民意;女性太在乎自己身邊有沒有一個男人幫你挽手袋;自己的人生往往成為姨媽姑姐三姑六婆的八卦話題。人言可畏,阮玲玉都是受不了才提早了結人生。

想深一層,人家怎樣想真的不應有什麼所謂,看到眼裏的是其他人不是自己,其他人的想法與我又何干?是的,我的大腿很胖,但我都喜歡在夏天穿短褲,好不好看是其他人的事,自己熱死就只有自己負責。無人煩我問長問短仲好!何苦要勉強自己遷就他人?民意是否絕對?如果眾人皆醉我獨醒,我聽哂人講我咪好儍仔?

The Verve 的 On Your Own 有一句這樣的歌詞:"You come in on your own and you leave on your own"。人生根本就是要自己一個人走完的旅程,就算是有父母,老公,情人,子女在身邊,也有莫名的孤寂,有時甚至比獨處更難受。學懂享受 solitude 才有意思,自己跟自己食飯並非是甚麼可憐的事,又要食又要扮忙至搞笑。

我的蕃茄雲吞醉雞碢來了,終於可以慢慢嘆。

Tucked in Wan Chai's Landale Street, there's a family run eating joint called Charlie's Place. It's become one of my regulars since I moved to this neighbourhood. I never know who Charlie is. I visit there just because the food there is branded as non-MSG. On top of that, it is a heaven for singles who are too busy to make their own dinner at home: for a bowl of soup, a simple home cooking dish and a bowl of rice cost somewhere between HK$45 and HK$65. I'm not saying that I loathe cooking, but having worked 12 hours a day, it's virtually impossible to squeeze the last bit of time and energy to shop for ingredients and cook, plus the washing afterwards (which is what I hate the most). And in Hong Kong, cooking a one-person dinner is even more expensive than eating out. Considering all these factors, I would much prefer dining at Charlie's Place when I'm alone.

It's Friday night. I have no plans to go out after work, but I would want to spend some quiet time with myself. Hence, I decide to pay a visit to Charlie's Place for my favourite "drunken chicken with wonton in tomato soup" and beancurd skin sweet soup with gingko nuts. 

I was a party girl once upon a time: it was the time when Lan Kwai Fong still hasn't been "Wanchainised", and Wyndham Street has yet to become the new Lan Kwai Fong. There was always a reason to go out almost every single night, and partying till dawn was a ritual for almost every Friday night. From Phi-b to CE Top, Kee Club to Drop, and Home (before it became a basement), I paid regular visits to all of them; I have even been to the legendary Yellow Frog once or twice. There was no particular reason to go out - I just wanted to have fun. 

But one day, I suddenly felt that going out like that was a waste of time. Now other than having a quiet drink with friends with whom I can have a real conversation, I'm not really in the mood to "party". Bars and clubs are merely a virtual reality. Under the influence of alcohol, the world could appear to become a more friendly one. People you barely knew would come over to give you a hug and an air kiss, and then they dashed away. You never had their phone numbers, never spent time with them outside the club, and they would probably know nothing about your life. You could never have a decent conversation with them because the only place that you have run into them was at bars and clubs, where loud cheesy music (sometimes good music), was screaming out loud from the speakers. 

So come to think of it, why should I be bothered to act as if they were my best friends in my life? I would rather have a three-hour dinner with friends, at least I get to eat and I can hear what they are saying. More importantly, I don't have to dress up to impress the people I don't care - your friends won't evaluate their friendship with you based on your looks. Dancing on the dance floor is really not my forte. Call me silly but I'd rather dance to my Canto favourite Grasshopper's upbeat classics at home or sing my heart out at karaoke. I simply don't know where to put my arms and legs listening to those break beats on the dance floor. 

On this Friday night, I choose to enjoy myself at Charlie's Place, waiting around for my favourite dish while observing the friendly lady-in-charge serving customers. Then it suddenly dawns on me that half of the customers are exactly the mirror image of me - single professional woman dining alone. 

These pretty ladies enjoying their own "dinner for one" are all well-groomed and beautifully dressed, and the one thing in common among them is that, they all appear to be very busy: the one on my left who has long lashes is watching a video on her smartphone through out her meal; the other on my right in a designer executive suit is reading off Kindle; and the one sitting much further away can't take her eyes off from a book by a local Chinese author. 

If I remember it correctly, Wan Chai is the district which houses the most number of high income single women. No wonder Charlie's Place has become this neighbourhood's favourite. Those who visit this place seems to have worked out how to enjoy living alone. 

But wait a minute, if they are truly enjoying themselves, why do they all have to act so occupied? Is it a must to keep yourself busy while you are eating? Or are they afraid that they would appear to be too pathetic if they are spotted alone without a book or a smartphone? 

We might want to simply put it out there, but in Hong Kong, this is comparable to the most difficult dive in the Olympics. People care too much of how they are judged in public: officials care too much about fabricated public opinions for their reputation and policies; women are too concerned if they have a man to carry their designer handbags for them; your life is always on the agenda of your nosy relatives' gossip sessions. "Gossip is fearful", and that was why Chinese silent film star Ruan Lingyu chose to end her life at the tender age of 24.

In fact, how others think about you should matter only to a very limited degree - it's their problems, not mine. My thighs are chubby, but I like wearing shorts in summer. It only hurts your eyes if I don't look good, but I could die from the unbearable heat. Is public opinion an absolute truth? What if I'm the only one who's right and everyone's just blindly following the herd? Does it make me the greatest fool listening to others?

In On Your Own, The Verve sings: "You come in on your own and you leave on your own". Life is a journey that you must face on your own. Even if you are surrounded by your parents, husband, lover and your children, you cannot escape from the occasional loneliness, which can sometimes be even more painful than being alone. We should be trained to learn to enjoy solitude. Dining with yourself isn't really that big of a deal. Eating while pretending to be busy is what's really pathetic.

Hmm...my drunken chicken dish has finally arrived. Bon appetite!


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