Cafe

Picture a road. It winds on forever, flanked by miles of dead land. There is a dingy café somewhere on the edge of this road. It is a sudden interruption where you would expect more weeds pushing through the ground. The jingle of a bell is heard as the café’s door swings open. Picture a man and a woman, a corner table with a window view. He is too tall for the small bench, and his thighs graze the underside of the table. His hands are folded on top of the sticky black and white linoleum, hers are in her lap. She has a nervous habit of jackknifing her leg up and down, and he feels it as her knee brushes against his.

The waitress sashays toward them. He’s ordered a slice of pecan pie, and black coffee, no sugar. Perhaps to compensate for how much there is of it in the pie. The woman watches as he forks a bite into his mouth. Her palms are sweaty, and she feels a trickle of moisture run down her spine. She isn’t dressed for the occasion. Her navy blue blazer and proper skirt are stifling, and she refrains from pulling at the collar of her turtleneck. Her hair is the definition of sensible: not a single lock is out of place. Her eyes dart between his lips, which are still attached to the porcelain mug, and the window.

She can see the heat. In this place heat is almost tangible; she can feel it pressing through the glass and reaching greedy fingers for her neck. She is so transfixed on the waves of warmth that ripple in the air that she doesn’t see him put the cup down and fix his gaze on her. His eyes are on the mole that lies just to the left of the column of her throat. He is fascinated by it. It winks at him, a dark thing lodged on pale skin. He offers her some of his pie, directing his words at her neck. She turns to him, startled, as if she is surprised he can speak.

At one of the booths by the counter is the only other customer in the café. He looks like he could be older than the place and all its occupants put together. His back is to the odd couple, and he winks at the waitress as she wipes the counter with a rag. The old man wears a worn ball cap to cover the liver spots on his head. His hands tremble as he clutches the newspaper in his hand. The date on the front page is June 15, 1995. The old man rustles the paper, but he doesn’t flip to another page. His eyes stare at nothing in particular.

The woman once again stands up. She has finally caught on to the man’s obsession with her mole. Her hand flies to it; she is suddenly self-conscious. She whispers that she wants to leave, and he stands. They walk toward the door. She is holding her purse to her chest in a death grip and doesn’t look up until he stops. She glances at him, then at the door. There is no door. Behind them, the old man rustles his paper, and the waitress smiles.

* * *

The bell rings. Outside it is dark. Sheets of white cover the ground, and the woman continues to study the window. Her navy blazer is not enough to protect her from the chill seeping through the glass. The man across from her leers openly at the mole on her neck, and the waitress tops his coffee. She smiles at the woman. Her smile is not returned.                                                                                                     The old man hunches over his paper, his freckled hands trembling more now because of the cold. He squints at the page in front of him and rustles the sheets. The waitress seems to be everywhere at once. There is something strange in the way she smiles. The man and the woman in the corner avoid each other’s eyes. The old man rustles his paper. The day is June 15. The year is 1975.

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