No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

This one will speak to anyone who has ever tried to make friends with another human being as an adult. Especially if your personality is on the abrasive side, poor John isn’t sure why he was invited to lunch, but he doesn’t trust it, not at first at least.


I waited for the punch line, and it didn’t come. So, I tentatively, trying not to hope, went back to work. I put it all to the back of my mind until an alarm went off at 11:55, 5 minutes to lunch time. 5 minutes to truth time.

I saved my documents, put away what I was working on, and headed to the cafeteria, hesitant, but hopeful. There he was, sitting at the table with a few others and my stomach dropped. Was it a joke after all, or maybe I was just that forgettable?

I was about to turn, walk out, maybe send a message saying I was working through lunch today, when he turned and caught my eye. He smiled, and I froze.

“Hey, John, you made it, come join, saved you a seat.” He patted the empty spot beside him, and I smiled, which was probably way more awkward looking than happy, cause thats how I roll. So, I walked over, in way that was probably a way too eager, and stated. “Uh just gonna grab some food first” and then went and joined the line.

I usually did the hot lunch, but I was nervous enough without adding the complication of trying to wind spaghetti to the mix, or keep a soup spoon level, so I grabbed a sandwich, an apple, and some pudding. Might have to come back and grab a snack later, but better than getting fries and flipping my lid if someone else touched them. Got coffee though, needed coffee to make it through whatever this is.

When I got back, Chris was alone, and he gestured to the seat across from him. “Guys were on early lunch, had to head back. Just you and me now. On that note, I am going to go grab something myself.” He explained and was up and heading towards the line before I had even figured out where he wanted me to sit.

I sat down, and tried to figure out if I was supposed to start eating,or wait. It had been a long time since someone had wanted to eat lunch with me. I wasn’t exactly what people would call friend material. I was loud, and abrasive, and if my sister was to be believed, pretty fucking obnoxious.

I focused on adding the milk and sugar to my coffee, stirring, tasting, adjusting. I was saved the trouble of what to do about the rest of my food by Chris returning just as I was double checking I got the lid on right. Nothing is worse that taking that first sip, and then wearing your perfect cup of coffee instead of drinking it.

“And I’m back.” He slid back onto his bench seat and grinned again.

“And my coffee is perfect.” I joked, holding it up and taking a small sip. God it really was perfect. I looked across the table, and saw that he had the spaghetti. I couldn’t imagine having the confidence to do this and eat spaghetti of all things, but then again if I looked like Chris, maybe I would.

The standard small talk followed, and then I blew it with an inappropriate comment, only instead of getting offended or chastising me, he did the unexpected, and laughed.

“Really, kind of served her right a little. But don’t tell anyone I said that, wouldn’t do for someone in my position to making comments yanno?” And he was grinning, he was entertained, and I realized that he didn’t want anything. The whole lunch was just that, lunch. The other shoe didn’t drop, he actually seemed amused, sent back a few zingers himself, and like me he was a lot more relaxed leaving the cafeteria than he was entering it.

I want to say I accepted the implicit offer of friendship, and went with it, but well, it was three more months before I realized that we were friends. That was all that this was, friendship. There was no ulterior motive, and it was watching him chat with someone else, one of the other “popular” people at work that made me realize it.

If I hadn’t known him better, I would say he was relaxed, cool, confident, and enjoying himself, but I did know him better now. His shoulders were hunched a little forward, his body turned away, and his smooth answers were too smooth, rehearsed, a little boxy even for him, not that his companion seemed to notice. He was like that with most people, playing the cool guy. He wasn’t like that with me though, he was, shit, he really was my friend.

I watched him another few days, between our weekly lunches and I came to a realization. I might be his only actual friend here. Everyone else came, they chatted, wanted something, got it and left, except for me. I literally just wanted his company, we weren’t even close enough in departments for me to see him most days. If it hadn’t been for that stupid supervisor lunch and learn where we ate horrible food and learned nothing, we wouldn’t have even met.

Next lunch, I had the spaghetti, and when the topic of movies rolled around I found myself blurting out. “Ya, I can’t wait for that to come out. We should go!”

He froze for a second, and I thought I fucked it all up, but then he smiled. The real smile, not the impressive one. “Ya, that would be great, I haven’t gone to the movies in ages.” And I went back to my spaghetti trying to keep my face from showing how happy I was. I think I actually had a friend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s