The Midnight Café
Richard Norm headed to the Midnight Café, his feet led the way as they have walked the same route for the last five years. It is eight blocks, two lefts, three rights and one more left then continues down 56th street. This allowed him to zone out, which is just zoning out into empty space but he waited for the day when something would be in that empty space. Tucked under his left arm was a legal pad, the same one that he has carried for five years. The once bright yellow top page now dull and nearly half the page curls up. No matter how much it irritated him he refused to remove it. The thought that it might help him to start afresh never occurred to him, maybe it had and he just blew it off. He bought this pad which came with two others and was still within the thin plastic covering sitting on the counter of the kitchen in his apartment. In hindsight, buying to single .89 cent one as opposed to the 1.50 for the three, sure not much difference. The reminder of what he no longer was able to do, nearly enough to drive him over the edge.
Reaching for the front door of the café, he gripped the handle to push. He doesn’t, instead he was looking at the sign pasted against the glass displaying the hours of operation. As Richard stared at it a thought crossed his mind, one of worry for his own will-being. He knew that he had looked at the sign, it was the same one. Perhaps, it was finally effecting him, setting into his ever repeating life or maybe it was just the day.
The phrase following the closing time, is what had him tripped up. The closing time is 8:40 PM ABSOLUTELY NO LINGERING! It is a weird time to close, why not 8:30 PM. Lingering should be loitering, but he has no right to correct anyone’s word usage. He then realized why he never let it totally bother him, shrugged and pushed the door open. His hours here were from nine to eleven AM.
The inside of the café was a contradiction of its title. The walls were a dull urine color, the plush vinyl booths and stools at the breakfast bar were agleam with yellow, red and green stripes. The table tops were the perfect example of why confetti and toddlers shouldn’t be left unsupervised together. More of the same urine color eaves over each of the lights above each booth and the bar. It was sunny, not at all attractive. Richard always came back, every day, it was his place. It was comfortable, painful to the eye however, but Richard spent most of his time there staring at the legal pad.
His feet did not stop until they were resting under the table of the booth at the far end, to the right of the door. Richard plopped down onto the plush seat, where he could look out at the café to make the light blue lines of the legal pad stop waving in his vision. With a glance around, now that he was seated, nestled into his place. His eyes met another’s, Fuck, it is Tuesday, Richard thought.
He was not the only regular customer on Tuesday, he normally had his back facing the café on Tuesday. What was wrong with him today? In a fluid motion he switched booths, relief to be from sight of the patron. Dull blue eyes, balding and dressed in a worn out and foul overcoat, one that might blow off the man in the wind. His overall look was not what got Richard’s skin crawling. It was how he fed himself, the meal was always two barely cooked eggs, a large pile of hash browns and a piece of Texas toast. Hidden within his overcoat, he would bring out a small unmarked bottle. It was dark red liquid in it, hot sauce. At the unscrewing of the cap a perfume escaped from it, how he was still alive Richard will never know. The ones unlucky to be within smelling distance, asses and urinary tracks would scream in protest. The man poured not just a few drops on his breakfast, instead the hot sauce became its gravy. Richard shuddered as the image of the first Tuesday he was here, when he was entranced by the disturbing sight. The old man had stared at him with the dull blue eyes, as if fighting to eat Richard himself. The mixture of food and red liquid fell out of his mouth like a waterfall onto his plate, and then proceeded to fork it back into his mouth.