Maria’s Story: “The kind of look that makes you feel you’d rather be somewhere else”

I was 17 and had traveled to Boston from South America with a couple of friends to learn English. My language school was near Cambridge square, and we had class until 1pm, and then we had an hour or so to have lunch before classes resumed.

One day I decided to go to some random restaurant because I wanted to eat something different, my friends didn’t want to come with me so I went there by myself.

I sat at a table, and after I ordered. A guy sitting at a different table started to talk to me. He said “how come such a lovely lady is eating all by herself?” I was very naive then and didn’t expect sexual harassment to take place in the U.S. (little did I know), so I just answered his question and explained that my friends didn’t want to come with me. I still answered with a particular tone to show that I was uncomfortable and would rather not talk.

The guy later asked me if I liked my food, I said it was alright and then I took some random thing from my bag to pretend I was reading so he wouldn’t talk to me. He had a strange look, the kind of look that makes you feel you’d rather be somewhere else.

He kept talking to me, and I told him that I was sorry, that I couldn’t understand what he was saying because I was still learning English. I thought that would be a good thing to say to end the conversation.

I asked the waitress to bring the bill, and she said the guy had paid for what I had ordered. I wasn’t sure I had understood what had happened, I was nervous and wanted to leave, so I asked again, and she said the guy had payed my bill. Confused, I asked her why??? She said she didn’t know why but he had indeed payed my bill. She gave me a piece of paper that the guy had sent to me, which said something like I was beautiful or something. Then she said, “apparently he likes you”.

I asked the waitress if I could leave, she said yes. The guy was staring at me. I (sigh…) said “Thank you”, then left the restaurant and staring running towards the language school. My heart was pounding, I was terrified and wondered if the guy would be following me. I thought that was unlikely because I was running really fast.

I was very annoyed and confused. One thing that bothered me was the lack of female solidarity, if I had been the waitress, I wouldn’t have let a random guy in his fifties pay the bill of a 17 year old without asking her first.

I never ate alone again during the rest of my stay.

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