By Manny Jasus
Inspired by a recent trip to a diner in Albany, NY. The characters are real, but I may have embellished the details a bit.
She poured the coffee quickly without looking, stopping just as it reached the spot in the cup that still left room for the perfect amount of cream; the way she’d probably done hundreds of times a day for years. It was was piping hot and warmed my cold hands as I wrapped them around the porcelain mug.
As my wife read the menu, I slid my eyes past her to the guy in the booth beyond. He sat with his back to the full length glass, keeping half an eye on the rest of the diner car. His sportsball cap looked unnaturally new and sat at an awkward angle on top of his head. The glowing team logo was an annoying neon green and hovered about an inch above the stiffly flat, front bill of the cap. It bobbed precariously, as if it would fall off – not that it could – as he moved his head.
He was staring at the phone in his right hand, absently swiping downward with his thumb, squinting. On the the table, next to an untouched glass of water and typical napkin-roll of silverware, sat another phone. It was oddly out of place; a relic; a heavy hunk that flipped open and just made phone calls. Not sure why he had it, especially since he was actively rocking the latest holoPhone model. I stopped thinking about it when my mind started suggesting what line of work this guy might be in.
The waitress passed us and walked to his table carrying two plates of French toast, eggs, bacon and some sort of hash – each plate was an exact duplicate of the other. Hungry dude. He curled his right hand into a fist and the phone projection in his palm blinked out with an audible click. The antique on the table remained a paperweight.
Behind me, two old gents, relics themselves, talked loudly through juicy bites of eggs shoveled in with cold toast. Between slurps of coffee they laughed bawdily and tapped the small black pearls half buried in their temples, trading neuro-snaps of girls with provocative tattoos – describing each to the other in fervid detail. When their food was gone, they sobered and longingly reminisced about sons that lived somewhere upstate.
“You want more coffee?”
I jumped, then chuckled, more to myself than the waitress. That awkward jolt back into myself happened sometimes when I stretched my senses, trying to absorb everything in a room. So many stories.
I looked over at my wife, smiling at me in her contented way and smiled back.
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