Henry watched as the waitress served the diners across from him. Three college girls who seemed to be craving fried foods – possibly having the late night ‘munchies’ on this Monday.
There was a miniature jukebox on the side of the booth where he sat and a Mexican bus boy dropped a menu and poured water into a small glass cup. He opened the menu and began to look for a healthy meal, as he always did as a false sense of controlling his destiny. He was about to decide on grilled white chicken with string beans and brown rice on the side when he had an epiphany. The waitress came over.
“Hello, my name is Wendy and I will be your server tonight. Can I start you off with something to drink?” She was maybe in her mid-twenties, dusty blond specks on dark brown hair. She wore a black and white waitress outfit with a name tag that said, “welcome my name is Wendy.” Her skin was smooth chocolate while her eyes were gray with a hint of blue and green. She was too pretty and too young to be working the night shift at the local diner.
“Hi, do you need a minute?” Wendy asked him with a forced smile.
“Um, no I am good. I want a…you know what I am gonna, you don’t know me from Adam. But I am a good guy, not that old but I am in a bit of a crisis and I don’t want to be – can I buy you a drink or dinner or something?”
Wendy smiled and let out a half-laugh.
“You are cute. I get off in 20 minutes and I am meeting some friends at a bar called ‘Walt’s Last Waltz.'”
“Walt’s last Waltz? Where is that?”
“Right by Penn and 2nd Avenue,”
“Well, where Oscars used to be. Its been almost 15 years since it was Oscars.”
“Oh – wow. I guess I haven’t been around in a while.” He felt a pang in his head.
“Are you alright? Drink some water. Al? He looks like he is going to faint – get me a wet towel please.”
“No I am fine…I just need to get fresh air…” He walked towards the front of the diner, pulled the door open, wind chimes sounded and stepped outside, Wendy not far behind him carrying a cup of water.
Cool breeze was consistent it seemed that autumn was blowing into town. Henry sat on the bench by the entrance of the diner, Wendy sat beside him.
“I get migraines all the time. How is your eyesight? Are you seeing a bright prism like thing?”
“No, its not a migraine…I have an issue with my head-“
“Should I call an ambulance?” Al opened the door and asked them.
“No I am fine – thank you.”
“What kind of issue with your-“
Wind chimes. “Wendy I need you back here – table 14 is looking for you.”
“OK…I have to” she pointed back to the diner, “Are you going to be ok?”
“Yes don’t worry – maybe I’ll stop by Oscars later and I’ll buy you a drink.”
“OK that sounds like a plan.” She stood up, stared back at him and said, “my dad was Oscar, he died a month after they closed it down.”
“I am sorry to hear that – he was a gentleman. We used to talk-“
Wind chimes. “Wendy.” Al.
“Coming.” She looked at Henry. “Come by later I would like to hear about Oscars, Oscar and some old stories.”
“OK – I would like that.”
He stood up slowly – he felt better – if not a bit queasy. Walked out of the parking lot and was on the sidewalk across from the park.
The wind was still blowing, once in a while a car would drive by; some parked by the diner and some moved on. It was early fall and he was feeling cold, scared and alone. His life was ending, literally, any time. He didn’t want treatments to keep him alive for another month – he wanted to be alive while he was still living.
He laughed to himself, “This fear I have felt – what good has it done me? It truly imprisoned me and kept me behind bars with a false sense of safety from pain. But emotions can walk through doors, fit between bars and head straight to your soul. Why was he still standing behind the bars on the floor in the corner of his cell, cowering from something that can get to you whether you are dancing, hiding, singing or silently retreating back behind the lines into a cave? The enemy here was the ticking bomb that could not be defused.”
He crossed the street and walked into the small park where people ate, drank and read during the day. He found a bench and sat there, put his feet up and closed his eyes. Without his knowledge he fell asleep and was still sleeping when the sun began to come up the next morning.