Richard’s stomach lurched as he stared at his pad. He had taken the pen that he tucked behind his right ear and was rolling it in his fingers.
Kimmy, his waitress for the last five years. They aged together in those said years and two hour spurts. She was tall and Richard could see her slim hourglass figure through the oversized piss-yellow uniformed shirt with a cream colored apron tied about the waistline of her white shorts. Her long fine blonde hair was always tied back and he can imagine it cascading about her shoulders and covering her A size breasts. Only imagine. When Kimmy asked, “The usual?” Richard’s mouth took on a life of it’s own, “Yes, please.” Habits were hard to break, also she would sense something was amiss. Richard didn’t want that, not that there wasn’t, when in fact there was. It would mean that he had to talk.
Kimmy returned moments later with a full coffee pot and set down a white mug on the laminated confetti blanketed table top. Richard was now in control and wished he wasn’t; as the hot steamy coffee was poured he just watched it. No ‘hi’, ‘good morning’ or ‘thank you’ not even a glance up to look at her smiling green eyes.
“What’s the matter, Sug?”
Richard flinched the same as when a kid gets smacked with a ruler across the back of the hand for being unruly. Also, his mind was trying to process that a twenty-something blonde girl used ‘sug’. That was a term meant for black women or overweight, smoking trailer trash women.
He tried to act as he wanted to be left alone, yes, he wanted that. At the same time he wanted company, of course, that would require him to perform the four letter word he was dreading. His morning prior to coming here was horrible, and he has been mulling it over in his mind. The consideration of spending more of his day here just to be in the presence of others.
Richard noticed that Kimmy was not beside him, he felt like crying. On a day like this it wouldn’t take much before he reduces to a bumbling mess and spills his guts. Sitting in wait for the food that will just sit uneaten, the pen held between his index and middle finger of his right hand wiggling it up and down. Every now and then hitting ends against the top page causing him to jump as he zoned out. It was baffling to him how the ideas that used to come in droves, suddenly stopped. The accident had perforated the link between him and the ideas, for the last five years he searched for the ‘trigger’: a smell, a color, a phrase said by someone, anything to reconnect and get the flow back. Flow enough to tell that one great story, that was all, one story and he’d be done. Or the hunt would be less fierce as now. And another thing, he would be able to shove it in his dad’s face.
“Here you are Richard.” Kimmy was baring his plate of French toast in one hand and in the other holding a portable syrup rack.
“Thanks, Kimmy,” he looked up, “sorry for my sourness.” Richard apologized.
Kimmy nodded and smiled, “Is writing really that hard?” The question was bluntly innocent.
Richard looked down at the pad, then back at Kimmy.
Here we go, he thought, with a sigh, “it never used to be.” Pushing his legal pad aside and pulling the plate closer to him. The smell of his comfort food relaxed his rigidness now the tears were close.
Habit, now the plate was in front of him.
“For five years I have watched you sit here for two hours, eat and play with that pen. Maybe this is not the place you need.”
Richard considered, she was surely right in that regard. However, he had drawn up the same conclusion about three years ago. At the time he was researching tools that could help generate ideas. One most common piece of advice, one of which didn’t help was, The great ideas are not forced but found. Another found piece of advice one that he actually considered, this one was given by the noted master of storytelling, Sheldon King. Don’t settle for one place to work, especially if no ideas are coming. When Richard tried to follow that piece of advice, he soon discovered that he was drawn back to The Midnight café.
Richard shrugged, “I am fond of this place.” The overwhelming urge to cry was now replaced with the urge to spill his guts.
Kimmy seated herself across from him, “You should eat.”
“Not hungry, I guess ordering was just a habit.” Richard took the coffee mug in his left hand. Lifted it up to his nose and sniffed the bitter steamy liquid, and then his eyes met Kimmy’s green ones.
She was looking at him in curiosity, “Richard, you can tell me to shut up and mind my own business, but out of all the regulars we have here. You are here everyday and you have no story. Even Hot Sauce guy, has a story.”
Hot Sauce guy, huh? Richard thought, shit I have been bested by Hot Sauce guy. He took a sip of coffee. For the past five years he hasn’t a story let alone a life. His life has consisted of the eight blocks to and from the café, five in the other direction to the discount store, an empty legal pad and phone calls every week from his pissed off drunk father. The call this morning was especially bad and the reason for his want to not want to be alone today.
The bell on the door rang as people entered the café, “Have a nice day, Richard.” Kimmy bid him warmly and before she was fully standing. Richard, in a split second decision, never to know if it was all him or a pull from deep within that knew something.
Placing a gentle hand on Kimmy’s arm, “When you are free, come back to hear the story.”
Kimmy nodded and went off to help the new customers.
Richard’s heart began to race at the thought of talking. Hopefully, she’ll find a way to get out of listening to the whole sob story. While Hot Sauce guy had a life worth something before he sentenced himself to slowly burn from the inside out. Richard was a failed job-doer who had a knack for writing, which for the last five years has failed at it. He had no secret life, no adrenaline pumping career or weird and mysterious friends to talk about. Thirty-one, today thirty-two and was now realizing that his life amounts to $1.50. His wife...late wife always said to be $50.00 or more. A single tear rolled down his cheek he missed her dearly and he felt like he failed her.
Being ordinary, Less Than.