A man walks into a diner. So what.
A man walks into a diner, alone, on a Tuesday night. The pretty, young hostess in a well-fitting turtleneck sweater confirms this with a quick "Just one then?" He blankly notices the slight tightening of her face muscles, particularly under her eyes. Perhaps in a former lifetime she would have rolled her eyes at him. Instead she gives him the booth by the bathroom.
A man walks into a diner because he figures there he has the most choices. He is suffering from a decided lack of choices. He knows he should have noticed how many choices he had sooner now that it's too late, now that he has so few. The judge decreed that he will see his son once a month. Not enough to really connect. But too much just to abandon. He reads the menu. A busboy shuffles over and fills his water glass. Oh, he hadn't noticed he was so thirsty.
A man walks into a diner and feels like crying because he can't figure out if he wants chicken fingers or a burger. He heads for the restroom.
A man walks into a diner, sits down, drinks water, then goes to the men's room and washes his face. Stay cool, he says into the mirror. His waitress is thankful for a few more minutes to sit and talk to that busboy. He's dumb but cute.
A man walks into a diner because he has nowhere left to go. The waitress, his waitress, prompts the man with specials, which include real home-made meatloaf and mashed potatoes. A man falls in love. He is just kidding. He will have the meatloaf, but could he substitute fries with that, please?
A waitress winks at her customer like she's letting him do something naughty to try to get a good tip. Seconds later his eyes are scanning the mirror-backed, 5 shelf bar of liquor bottles near the entrance. Jack Daniels, it says on the black label. The other names on the other bottles could be a million miles away. He fumbles in his pockets more out of habit for a quarter to call his AA sponsor. It's easier just not to drink than go through the whole ritual.
A man walks into a diner. He has choices. He can order food that his poor bowels would thank him for, like a salad, or he can order the meatloaf and have a waitress intuitive enough to give him a small bowl of extra gravy for his fries. He could fall off the wagon if he wanted to. He could. He could probably offer this waitress money to have sex with him until she couldn't possibly say no. He could also go to jail. Would his son visit him there? The boy would never even get to make that choice. Her lawyers would take away all visitation rights altogether.
A man walks into a diner. He eats a good meal and leaves a big tip. When he gets to the counter to pay he sees the cute young girl sipping a chocolate milkshake, yapping away to everyone around her like she owns the place. An older man, a few slow decades from retirement, hands him his change.
"Beautiful isn't she?" the owner comments in a way that tells this man he is looking at his daughter.
"Ahh, youth," the lonely man says before leaving the diner.
About the author:
Peter Schwartz holds his B.A. in Literature and Creative Writing. He's well traveled and has been in such journals as Barbaric Yawp, Freefall, Lullaby Hearse, Porcupine, and Zillah; with many more pending. He's the editor for 'eye,' which can be seen at www.watchtheeye.com.