If you’re from a small town, you’ve been there. A diner in Anytown, USA. A couple of teenage girls are cleaning up after people and sweeping the floor. Old folks chatter a around a big table. It’s the same round table they likely occupy every Monday night. Hop music is playing. Not Hip Hop but Hop. It’s something you could slow dance to. Maybe one step up from elevator music.
I recognize one of the teenagers. She went to school with my oldest daughter. She was always the immature one. The loud one. The “look at me” one. Most of the old folks get up from the table to leave. They’ve had their fill of milkshakes and conversation. The other teeeage girl hollers, “Ya’ll have a nice night.” One straggler tells her what a sweetheart she is and what a good job she does. She agrees wholeheartedly. She is good and she knows it.
Then there’s that man. The quiet older man with a short white beard and a bald spot on top. He’s probably not from around here. I notice he’s eating alone. I notice because I have never been to a restaurant alone. I wonder what it’s like, but I don’t really want to know. I wonder if he’s sad. He doesn’t look particularly sad. He just looks like a man eating a hamburger alone. I secretly hope that I never have to eat at a restaurant alone. I secretly hope that I don’t get old, either. I don’t want to be old and alone. Maybe I can handle just being old. It’s ok to be old. I’m already getting old, right? Thirty six is almost forty, and we all know what happens when you turn forty.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sweeper. She’s the one that knows she’s good. She politely asks if she can sweep under our table. I almost laugh. “Ok”, I tell her. My daughter and I raise our feet to make room for the broom. She sweeps until the brooms hits my shoe. It doesn’t hurt because it’s only a broom. She apologizes and thanks us for letting her sweep.
My seven year old is now eating the salt. She has been a salt eater since she was two! She craves salt. Gag. How can anyone just eat salt out of the palm of their hand? I guess it’s time to order some fries. The doctor says she’s fine. She just craves salt. Poor child. Poor salt craving child. What will I do with her? Will she grow into an adult that automatically pours salt all over her mashed potatoes before she even tastes them?
A flashback of my first husband enters my mind. He always looked inside his sandwich before he ate it. I noticed it so often that I made him a hamburger one night to test out my theory. I watched as he took the top bun off and looked inside. It must have looked ok because he started to munch down on it. I died laughing. “What?”, he kept asking me. “What’s so funny?”, he asked with a mouth full of delicious hamburger. That must have been 15 years ago. Wow. I AM getting old.