The sun still has the strength to scare me back into my apartment, even after 3 months of living here. But not today. My stomach is grumbling and so I press forward to find some lunch. I walk and squint and smile whenever I feel stares. Finally I find myself at my favorite spot. The lovely lady deemed “The Pad Thai Lady” greets me as I walk through the restaurant entrance. She nods at me and I know this means “What would you like?” I say in my broken Thai “Pad Thai Gai Ka.” She nods at me and smiles. She already knew what I wanted. The nod was unnecessary but I get it every time I come in. I sit down at a table by myself facing the rest of the restaurant acting as though my new book has consumed all of my attention. I find myself losing my focus as I begin to watch those who call this restaurant that I eat at once a week, home. There are three generations of women who use this description for this modest house/ restaurant. The teenage daughter of Pad Thai Lady and the mother of Pad Thai Lady are both there. The teenage girl is wearing high rise jeans and a see- through white button-up blouse. She has taken no measures to make her bright blue bra any less obvious. Her blouse is tied just high enough that you get a glimpse of her thin stomach, her bellybutton only sneaking through when she reaches for something. She walks with an “I am so tired of this life” kind of attitude which turns me off immediately. I get defensive on behalf of the Pad Thai Lady. But then I realize that this frustration is stemming from assumptions and biases. I continue to read my book.
As I begin to twirl my pad thai around my fork I begin to wonder why I must then put it on a spoon and then put it in my mouth. It seems like an unnecessary step and so after one bite of all three steps I skip the spoon and decide to go with my Italian instincts. After all what is the point of being a part of so many cultures and heritages if I don’t make use of them? My Uncle Eliseo would be proud. And then I found myself cutting my pad thai noodles. Uncle Eliseo’s feeling would turn from pride to abhorrence. I remember he used to say in his beautiful passionate Italian “You Americans eat too quickly! You can’t take the time to twirl your fork or switch hands to cut a piece of meat. You need to shove all that food in your big mouths as quickly as possible.” This is a paraphrase. My aunt would always translate in a much calmer and nicer way. But you could tell by his tone that he was disgusted by us. You did not need to understand his words. The first time my grandma put the spray butter on our dinner table with the rest of Christmas dinner he almost exploded he was so angry. I haven’t seen the spray butter since.
The mother of Pad Thai Lady is lounging in a chair reading the newspaper as the teenager is flipping through the channels on the television as she eats her pork and red sauce that her generous mother has cooked for her. A friend comes to visit the mother as she lounges. The friend sits facing grandma with her back to me. Teenager has not even made eye contact with her grandmother’s comrade and sticks the remote control in between the two women as they attempt to have a conversation. The friend leaves as if giving into the teenager, and my feelings of frustration make an encore appearance. I begin to read once again hoping my book will refocus me. As I begin to read in a much more absorbed manner I come across this sentence, “I try not to compare his life to mine.” And so I continue reading until I end the chapter and say farewell to the teenager, mother and of course to the generous Pad Thai Lady.