“Sometimes eat alone” or “A little minuet”

In the late silent night waiting for the phone to ring

Time stands still since he last sent mail last year

In my boring and lonely room, I play a minuet

Spread that feeling of loneliness

– A little minuet – Cheer Chen

In the late afternoon, after a long and busy day when I hardly had any chance of having my eyes off the laptop screen, I received a message from my father and my cousin, notifying that they would not come home for dinner. As my younger sister has been on business trip for nearly one month, the absence of my father and my cousin also means that I had to eat alone. At first, I thought of asking my friends out for dinner, however, after scanning through several possible names, I decided to eat alone.

It is not by accident that there was a best seller named “Never eat alone”. When it comes to “eating alone”, everyone often imagines a lonely individual uncomfortably sitting in a corner of restaurant. Eating alone seems to be generally considered something unwanted and undesirable.

The last time I ate alone was two weeks ago when I traveled to the South of Vietnam. I remembered I ate alone in my very first lunch and my very final dinner in a small foodstall in a small lane in Saigon. The period in which I often ate alone the most was the time in Taiwan. At that time, eating alone was somehow like a habit. I remembered the time when I was not urged to come home early. I often wandered around the campus bookstore or the library for hours, then randomly picked up any foodstall at the school gate or any canteen inside the campus, having meal and surfing Internet on my smartphone or watching the news broadcast on the television of the foodstall or the canteen. I miss the self-service foodstall named Xiangxiang where there are two Vietnamese people working there with the male owner, whose Chinese was really difficult to understand. I miss the Thai foodstall with the two kind Thai employees who often offered smile and a light nod at whatever you ordered. I miss the aunt doing cleaning job at the Cisian Building. I miss the 60-Taiwan-Dollar set of lunch box with delicious braised chicken thighs at the canteen of Zih Ciang Dorm 9. Or someday when I was not in campus, I miss any food stall somewhere in Taipei. I miss any food stall with any basic Taiwanese dishes like beef noodle in Zhongxiao Fuxing, Xinyi, Gongguan, Tamsui, Yonghe, Dongmen even when I often complained to every friend I met in Taiwan that nothing could be compared with Vietnamese dishes. I miss the time when I traveled to Tainan, I ate in a food stall where the owner played and played again Stefanie Sun’s songs. When staying far away from home, eating alone became a habit and it was not weird at all. Sometimes, admittedly, I really miss that feeling of eating alone in a place far away from home like that.

But eating alone in my hometown is somehow bizarre, isn’t it? Though the introvert side of mine overwhelms the extrovert side of mine, sometimes, I also feel bored of doing something alone like this. Perhaps no one is lonely by nature, as a friend of mine stated.

Cheer Chen (“陳綺貞”) wrote a very famous song named “Lonely without you” (還是會寂寞). By the end of the song, the couple, after days parting from each other, meets each other again. Another favorite song of mine written by Cheer Chen was “A little step” (Or “A little minuet”) (小步舞曲). This song was the soundtrack of the movie named “Blue gate crossing” (藍色大門). (For Vietnamese fans, you may find the Vietsub version here. For more reviews in Vietnamese, you may visit this link and this link.) If there is something impressive about this song, it should be its lonely atmosphere. Lonely yet not hopeless, lonely yet somehow brilliantly poetic. Throughout the video, it was Cheer Chen on her own, dancing alone, singing alone, thinking alone in her old apartment, by the riverside. On imagining that Cheer Chen, singing this song in 2001, at her 25, I cannot help being emotional for such coincidence of loneliness shared by a girl at the same age 16 years ago.

The lyrics are highly emotional, striking a strong chord with the lonely soul:

天空突然下起傾盆大雨 戀人在屋簷下相偎相依
移動我的腳步輕鬆躲雨 人潮擁擠握住濕熱的手心
再也不願想起不快樂的旋律 呼吸這一秒的空氣

還有多少回憶 藏著多少秘密 在我心裡翻來覆去 什麼叫做愛情
還有多少回憶 藏著多少秘密 在你心裡我也許只是你欣賞的風景

夜晚靜靜等著電話響起 時間躺在他去年寄來的信
空蕩的房間我播放著舞曲 旋轉這一秒的孤寂

還有多少回憶 藏著多少秘密 在你心裡我也許是你輕快的遊戲
還有多少回憶 藏著多少秘密 在你心裡我也許只是你緩慢的練習

音樂響起我一個人演出重複的舞曲

English translation

Suddenly there comes a rain

Lovers stand shoulder by shoulder under the roof,

Naturally having me walk in to shelter from the rain

They stay side by side, tightly holding each other’s hand

Who cares about the unhappy melody now

Trying to breathe every littlest part of this atmosphere

 * How many memories to come, how many secrets that are still buried

I keep wondering, again and again, what can be called “love”

* How many memories to come, how many secrets that are still buried

Perhaps I am nothing but enjoyable scenery of yours

 In the late silent night waiting for the phone to ring

Time stands still since he last sent mail last year

In my boring and lonely room, I play a minuet

Spreading that feeling of loneliness

How many memories to come, how many secrets that are still buried

Perhaps I am nothing but a small game of yours

How many memories to come, how many secrets that are still buried

Perhaps I am nothing but the warm-up in your practice

The music is on. Here I am, alone, dance, again and again.

Vietnamese translation

Trời xanh bỗng trút xuống cơn mưa rào

Người yêu nhau tựa đầu sánh vai bên mái hiên

Thật tự nhiên níu bước chân em trú mưa

Người người chen chúc nắm chặt lòng bàn tay nồng ấm

Thiết tha chi những thanh âm buồn bã

Hít thở bầu không khí nhỏ nhoi này

Còn biết bao nhiêu hồi ức, chôn giấu biết bao nhiêu bí mật, trong lòng em trăn trở tới lui, vậy thế nào mới được gọi là tình yêu

Còn biết bao nhiêu hồi ức, chôn giấu biết bao nhiêu bí mật, trong tim anh có lẽ nào em chỉ là cảnh đẹp bên đường

 Đêm yên tĩnh ngóng chờ một tiếng điện thoại reo

Thời gian ngưng đọng từ ngày năm trước anh gửi phong thư tới

Giữa phòng trống em bật điệu minuet

Xoay vần bầu không khí cô đơn

Còn biết bao nhiêu hồi ức, chôn giấu biết bao nhiêu bí mật, trong tim anh có lẽ em chỉ là một trò chơi thoáng qua

Còn biết bao nhiêu hồi ức, chôn giấu biết bao nhiêu bí mật, có lẽ em chỉ là khúc dạo đầu chầm chậm thôi.

Tiếng nhạc cất lên mình em nhảy rồi lại nhảy khúc nhạc này.

Perhaps the loneliest moment was when Cheer sang that “In the late silent night waiting for the phone to ring. Time stands still since he last sent mail last year”. Imagine in 2001, when e-mail and social network have not been as popular as they are nowadays, how it should be lonely for one to wait for a phone call or a mail.

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