Ms. C. at lunch time

During lunch I sat alone at a table munching the Orzo salad from Taki’s the day before when a girl from my French class slouched down at the table and dropped a paper bag on it. I acknowledged her presence carefully with a limited smile. She just stared at me for a moment without a greeting. She called herself C., her teachers addressed her as “Ms. C.” with a slight tone hovering between reference and irony. She was pretty in an unusual way with dark wavy hair almost down to her hip. No make-up, silver earrings, green eyes. The kind of girl other girls like as much as the boys do. A girl next door, but in a perfect kind of way. The kind of girl that never has to compete with anyone for affection. I think her father had a “name” but she displayed a slight if still tasteful disdain for her environment. I had booked her under the category “snob” but it was obvious that she at least did not want to capitalize on her family’s riches as she was always just dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Then again, maybe she just didn’t feel the need to show off her social superiority by displaying expensive clothes. And she attended public school.
She unwrapped a sandwich with lots of lettuce from the paper bag and began to eat. We still kept silent. She still was one point ahead of me for not responding to my greeting. Oh, whatever.
She chewed methodically, eating around the rim of her sandwich until the crust was gone. Interesting. We still didn’t say a word. She looked at the bread the way a gardener might regard a trimmed hedge and – appearing satisfied – put it down on the paper bag. Another weird eater, I decided, thinking about Penelope. “You are staring,” she interrupted my thoughts, “it’s rather impolite and ill-mannered.” I looked at her and could not decide whether she was being serious. “Ill-mannered”, my gosh – this was the seventies not the fifties. I decided to be generous and replied well-naturedly: “You eat like a crazy friend of mine. You probably even have a direction in which you turn your sandwich, like only counter-clockwise.” She looked at me some more. I kind of held my breath but not really. This was a suburban chick after all. Why did she have to sit down at my table? “Who would eat their sandwich counter clock wise?”, she retorted with a hiss. What was her problem? I had more urgent things to think about, but then I caught the twinkle in her eyes. She giggled. “: “La majestueuse égalité des lois qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain. “she recited with an affected voice. “That was awesome.” She added with an appreciative nod towards me “Of course, France was a pseudo-left intellectual who is rightfully forgotten by today.” I stared at her again. She smiled broadly. I felt an amazing surge of affection for her. She seemed so real. I smiled back. Then I giggled. Then I laughed out loud. We both laughed until the kids from the next table started throwing us nervous glances. I wrapped up my well-trimmed sandwich, stuffed the Orzo container into the paper bag and left the cafeteria.

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