I imagine myself a part of a community
as I step into the restaurant—
a Chinese buffet
in an off-campus strip-mall. I just had my hair cut
by a man whose shop has been there since
seventy, and I plan on going back because it reminds me of home.

The waitress points me to my table—
a booth with a bench on only one side; on the other is a window to the parking lot.
She fetches my tea while I fill the first plate.
I still have to wait
because she didn’t know I wanted chopsticks:

I am just a white boy. Conspicuously,
I pull apart the sticks and rub the tips together,
the insider’s trick for avoiding splinters.

Maybe I’ll be back.
It fits my schedule,
two afternoons a week I’ll come. She’ll bring
my tea and chopsticks; I won’t have to ask.

I savor the thought with a piece of sweet and sour chicken,
when an older guy walks in.
He looks tired, and retired,
and looks at me in the booth.

She looks, too, and looks embarrassed. She motions
to the next table, and it becomes clear—
I’ve taken his seat.

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