I plop my butt in the seat indicated by the hostess and the waitress swings by with a pot of coffee in one hand, an order pad in the other. Her name tag says “Irene”. Her uniform is blue and white, crisp, starched. Sparkly red cat-eye glasses dangle from a chain around her neck.
I accept a mug of coffee. I say, “I’m supposed to meet someone at eight.”
She pops her gum and glances at the large clock over the door.
“Sure thing, Hon,” she says. “I’ll be back.”
And, she does come back too.
At 8:00 she swings by and tops up my cup while barely breaking stride.
At 8:15 she refills my mug and pauses, “The Salisbury Steak is good tonight,” she offers. “It’s breaded and fried. It comes with gravy and you can have either green beans or garlic mashed potatoes.” She slides a menu from the chrome holder fixed to the table, and sets it in front of me.
“Thanks, Irene.” I study the menu.
The hands on the wall clock tell me that it’s 8:30 when Irene comes by again with her coffee pot. “You still wanna wait?” she asks as she fills my cup. Her gum snaps sharply twice and she waits, staring at the corners I’ve managed to tear off the oversize menu I hold in my hands.
“No, I guess not,” I say. “I’ll have the Salisbury Steak with the mash.” I hand the menu back and she slips it into the holder. I could have done that myself, but I wasn’t thinking right. I was thinking of you.
“Good choice,” says Irene as she scribbles on her order pad and spins away to put my order in.
My thoughts remained on you.
What changed between us?
When did you cease to love me?
When did you stop caring?
Where are you now?
8:40 and I’m listening to your voice mail message, “Sorry, I can’t take your call right now. Leave a message when the tone sounds.” You sound so happy, so perky. I press the “END” button before the beep and set my phone down. Irene slides a plate in front of me and tops up my cup again.
I hope she doesn’t notice as I wipe a tear from my eye with the back of my hand and she walks away between the rows of Naugahyde bench seats and Formica tables.
I gather a forkful of potatoes and put them in my mouth but they don’t make me feel any better. They don’t cut through the pain.
A Monday morning response to a Monday Writing Prompt generously provided by The Secret Keeper.