If you are searching for the perfect book to read while eating alone at Chipotle, I would recommend Carmen E. Brady’s “Eating Alone at Chipotle.” One person even tweeted at Brady @therealcbrad to admit to the tragicomedy of reading it while eating alone and spilling food all over the pages. You can cry from spices and maybe smear half of your lipstick on your burrito and throw up in the parking lot, or you can have a far less troublesome experience, and it will be fine because all of this is mirrored in these brutally honest poems.
There is something despairingly lonely about being alone in public places, not just about eating alone. People can have some introspective moments when alone, because why not think about yourself when there is no one else to talk to? How do you avoid dwelling on thoughts of all the people who aren’t with you because they don’t want to be? “Sometimes when I’m looking at my reflection in public bathrooms I wonder why anyone has ever wanted to have anything with me,” Brady writes, echoing a common insecurity, whether most people say it or not.
There can also be something lonely about being with other people, or something unsatisfying when they are not who we expect them to be. Brady explores these connections and distances in a flippant way, poems littered with “like” and “whatever,” yet heartbreaking frustration still shines through the humor at times. Deep emotion and significance lies in just a few short lines:
“I was trying to be ok and so I cried and then we had sex but like in a “gentle” way so that maybe we both enjoyed it. I don’t know. I left before you fell asleep. You sent me a smiley face text in the morning.”
It’s a world that we can clearly imagine even if we cannot personally relate. Did that person succeed in trying to be okay? We may never know. Every poem is an insight into a life that we can enter only for a moment, and then we leave without knowing the rest of the story. This is how we go through the world alone, passing people on the street who lead elaborate lives that we merely catch glimpses of. What mystery there is, what wonderful stories we can create based on what little we know. What beauty there is in the gaps that remain.
Sometimes we rely on judging things by appearance or cliché. Sometimes it seems like suddenly everyone is chopping their hair off as part of a trend of displaying freedom from a long-lasting burden or change. Brady writes, “After winter I had my friends cut off all my hair to like prove something. Cute, someone said. I was angry because I wasn’t trying to prove cute.” We would do well to remember that we don’t know what the people around us are trying to do, struggling through life in their own individual ways. Unless they tell us, we can only guess and generalize. It is important to think about the limitations of this worldview.
Maybe hitting a cyclist with your car means you should never leave your house again. Maybe it doesn’t.
Brady describes whims and (over)reactions as a way of writing as a response to the world, especially when the world does not seem to respond as it should. Maybe hitting a cyclist with your car means you should never leave your house again. Maybe it doesn’t. It is one possible response among many others that we are left inspired to think about. What would you do if this was your life? The unique scenarios in Brady’s poems will encourage you to confront this question time and time again.
So, if you needed a reason to try eating alone at Chipotle, this book is a great companion for a lighthearted yet contemplative meal. Consider browsing Brady’s social media @therealcbrad and http://dispassiontea.tumblr.com for some company as well.
(Bottlecap Press, Poetry, Paperback, 2015)
BETHANY MARY is a meditative tea snob studying gerontology in Minnesota. She was once the poetry editor of Green Blotter Literary Magazine and now reads submissions for Spark: A Creative Anthology and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. As an asexual advocate for a sexual assault center and blogger for Resources for Ace Survivors, she focuses on boundaries and mental health in her own writing. Some of her work is out in the world, and she rants on Twitter @bethanylmary.