She Waited There For Us All Day

Saturday evening, November 12th—Pudong district, Shanghai, China

Normally, Serena would tell me if she’d invited someone to join us for dinner. When the grinning lady with short hair and oversized red sweater sat down, I was a bit surprised, but still assumed Serena had been in contact with her.

I knew I recognized her. From Fortunate? No, the vegan picnic a couple months back (but probably saw her at Fortunate, too).

She was friendly, but even with the cultural barrier of sorts, I recognized something odd about her. Perhaps it was Serena not as talkative as usual; not her usual social butterfly self. Talkative only up to a point, even as the lady grinned and, at least by Chinese standards, asked a few too many questions.

Perhaps it was the lady telling Serena not to cycle outside because the skin on her face will darken.

Thinking she was a guest, invitation extended by Serena via WeChat, I offered to buy her a juice, along with our post-dinner chocolate oat milk drinks (excellent). After all, she had not eaten a thing as we devoured our meal before her, on this final night at Green Common.

She thanked me.

After dinner, Serena seemed a but more rushed than usual. Perhaps she was just tired from the day’s cycling. It was hot out.

I noticed a few holes in the red sweater.

The lady confirmed she lived at Huinan—so I knew immediately we’d all be traveling together for a while on the subway.

Later, I realized it was even odder than I’d thought. During the final stint on the train, just after the lady had very deliberately interrupted Serena to ask her yet another question—with her face leaning in just a bit too close—Serena told me this:

She had not extended any invitation. She had no idea this lady would arrive at our Saturday evening dinner date table.

The red sweater lady had read our messages in the Shanghai Vegan Foodies group, stating we could not make the 12:30 meet up. We would arrive in the evening. So, she met the larger group then…and then waited for us to arrive. That time was around 6:30pm.

Meanwhile, this lady has a 9 or 10 year old at home. What was said child doing? Why was said child not with her mother eating delicious vegan treats? Why was the lady also alone at the vegan picnic a couple months back? It was a gorgeous afternoon.

She was waiting for us to arrive.

All afternoon and into the evening. Once we did arrive, she sat down with us without warning, Serena as surprised as I was, it turns out.

It happened within 5 minutes of our arrival.

Just who is this grinning lady in the oversized red sweater?

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