Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Tale of Torries

I had a dream once.

In my dream, I opened my eyes to a place that I’ve been millions of times. I’m familiar with the staff. I’m familiar with the signatures that are carelessly crafted at the bottom of photographs of people in suits. Old black men in extravagant ties create a legion of soulful stares. As I stretch my legs beneath the plywood tables, they reach the booth across from me. I wish someone was there, but instead, I’m left alone. Eager looking waitresses walk by my table. They steal glances at me with no remorse. For good reason, I’d say. I’m by far the youngest person in the establishment. I’m too comfortable in this booth. I’m not bothered by the ripped pleather that I’m sitting on. Someone’s keys have ripped a hole in the seat, and a thick stuffing is exposed to the sunday sunlight. It was once a deep green, but the exposure to the window, and constant shifting of denim, wool, and polyester has faded the color to something much more ‘Granny Smith.’

There is no music playing. Instead the sound of clattering fills the space. Metal hits hard plastic as vicious and half-clean knives ravage the mixture of scrambled eggs, waffles, sausage, grits, or steak that rests on any plate at any given time. Beautiful women sit across from their husbands. They have distinguished looks on their faces. They don’t talk, aside from the casual comment on what the other doesn’t seem to care about. When they don’t receive a response, it seems expected. The women chatter sporadically about other people that the husband wouldn’t know without seeing their face. The men sometimes make unnecessary comments on the game football game playing behind the wife’s head. They hardly make eye contact, but it’s very clear that they all love the person sitting across from them. They would die without them. Some of them decide to hold hands while they eat- but make sure they don’t look at each other while they do it. I imagine this to be my future.

For now, however, the only thing touching my hands are a cup of coffee that I’ve let cool off for a little too long. It’s grown sour, but I know that if I don’t finish it I’ll feel undeserving of a third cup.I told myself I would switch to caffeinated tea instead, but my vice, once again, prevails. In my other hand is a copy of a book I’ve never read in real life, but have gotten through a few hundred pages by now. It’s a biography about a man of wealth. What his wealth consists of is uncertain- but he is in excess. I’m attempting to learn how to achieve what he has. Below my plate, coffee, and book is a spread out copy of The Wall Street Journal. I seem to be reading them both at the same time. It feels ridiculous, and I feel pretentious. That doesn’t stop me from continuing what I’ve been doing, however.

When I look down at myself, I’m dressed in the way that I usually dress. A wrinkled button down shirt, jeans that fit a bit too close to the leg (but are too comfortable to consider anything else), and a baseball cap. My watch, turned to the inside of my wrist, tells me that I’ve now been there for close to three hours. My plate once held a banana nut muffin. My plate now holds half of a banana nut muffin. The waitress has stopped asking me if I’m finished with my plate. She has stopped calling me ‘honey,’ or ‘hun,’ or ‘sweetie,’ or whatever else nice southern women who live in DC say to people like me. It’s not that she wants to turn the table, there are plenty of available tables in her section, she’s just tired of looking at me read. She’s sick of seeing it take me three hours to nibble on a pastry that usually takes people a few minutes to complete. She’s sick of my jeans, and my hat, and she wants to use me as an example to her kids as how not to walk out of the house. At the same time, she wants to engage me. She wants to ask what I’m reading, and have me explain it to her so that she could tell her friends and family how eerie I was when she’s done with her shift. I feel the same way about her.

Every time her hasty jaunt around the restaurant catches my right peripheral, I’m instantly intrigued by her. I want to ask her for her name. She told me when she first approached me, but I forgot it approximately three seconds later- about the time she pointed out their steak and egg special. I want to ask her if she’s married. The ring on her finger makes me wonder, but these days it’s not uncommon for unmarried women to wear rings on that finger. I’ve gotten to the age that I actually pay attention. I know it’s on the left hand instead of the right. I know the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring. I don’t talk to married women- but somehow am comfortable talking to the engaged. I can’t tell her marital status. I want to know, but don’t care what her answer is- as long as she tells me. I want to ask her where she’s from; her favorite NFL team; what color she wore to prom; her favorite television show growing up; what her favorite card game is; what her favorite thing on the menu really is.

We never make this connection with each other, however. She never expresses her interest, regardless of its direction, to me- and I never say anything to her. She walks by, and I nod at her to ensure her that I’m fine. I keep her at bay with this gesture of complacency. I tell her to leave me the fuck alone without lifting a finger, or uttering a word. I act like I don’t have time for her interaction. I’m too busy sitting at a diner by myself. I’m too busy reading two different things at once, drinking cold, sour coffee, nibbling on a now stale banana nut muffin. I’m too busy looking at love. I’m too busy imagining how I will look one day, in this same seat, with an old woman sitting across from me, mumbling things about other people, and recognizing how pointless my comments on the football games are.

At least she’s holding my hand.

I see myself on that wall one day. My signature is scribbled in the lower right hand side of my picture. I look exhausted- too exhausted to smile. I look fulfilled. I look as though I don’t want to be here- but have reached a level of undefinable prestige. I look distinguished.