By John Clise
She sat alone drinking a cup of coffee in a corner booth of a diner watching the rain, thinking about her life.
She’d been bought and sold more God damn times than she could remember. She was a fresh faced, just turned 18, hungry with two younger brothers, angel the first time. A fat, sweaty business man came in 30 seconds, and threw a wad of crumpled up sweaty bills at her as he was pulling up his pants.
All the times after that it was just a blur. She just knew what to say and what to do to make her date feel like he was the only man in the world.
The rain slowly and beautifully washed the dirt and grime off the streets, sidewalks and cars. The storm gutters swept it all away. It was like a baptism for the city. She figured it was as close to a baptism she’d ever get in her life.
She lived her life in a melancholy kind of way with a sound track rolling in her in mind of Steely Dan, Joe Jackson, and Gordon Lightfoot. She wasn’t unhappy, just melancholy.
She loved Mac’s Diner. It was her safe place. Almost like a church to her. She could gather her thoughts there. She wasn’t judged. She enjoyed watching people coming and going. There were no come-ons or begging for a discount or a freebie. God, the freebie seekers were the scum of the earth.
She engaged in harmless flirting with truckers in plaid shirts with pearl buttons, big shiny belt buckles, turquoise rings, and smooth lines like… “Hey, darlin’, buy ya a slice of lemon meringue pie.” And that’s where it ended. A slice of the best meringue pie in the state, according to the truckers.
She was just a person there. No one asked her questions, or gasped “How can you do that with your body?” Within 10 seconds of entering she had a hot cup of coffee and a menu in front of her.
On rainy days like these it was small slice of paradise to be warm, dry and safe. She was friends with the waitress Pearl who ruled the diner with a polite, friendly iron fist. She’d been known to take a smartass trucker by the ear and drag him to the door, and physically throw him out.
Pearl once hit a guy in the face with a frying pan after an unwanted advance was again advanced after he’d been rebuffed. Pearl was not a woman to be messed with.
Pearl was about 15 years older than her, and was much a mother she imagined. She had no actual reference point, as her mother left her abandoned long ago. Pearl was just wise about the world, but kind in her observations about the world. And kind in her observations about her.
The two chatted about this and that. Politics, movies, news, pie recipes, and that sort of thing. She never brought her work to the diner. It isn’t a place she wanted tainted with her work, or by anything else.
It was one place she could just be.