Letting Life Lead
Had I sipped from a bottle marked “Drink Me?”
The cursor on the the chat message might as well have been a middle finger. What thirty-three year old dumps someone on messenger?
The phone flopped in my apron and glowed through the pocket. I pulled it out to stare every time I grabbed a fresh coffee pot or waited for the soda refills. What was I doing? Between a second job and the last requirements for my degree, there was no time to decide how to feel.
I plunked down a full plate too hard.
“Sorry! Butterfingers.” I produced a smile and promised to replace the launched toast.
My elderly regular patted my hand. “Don’t worry about it, Evie. I bring it home anyway. Dogs don’t care.”
The morning could have been busier, but the routine helped when the phone vibrated. I should have turned it off. A woman in her thirties shouldn’t have to deal with off-hand, digital rejection. Two mixed-up orders, three dropped juices, and a mis-brewed pot later my coworkers rushed me to break.
They asked in succession, “You okay?”
“No,” I said as the tension headache crawled down my temples to my ears and throat.
A dozen responses proved inadequate. I found shade on top of the crooked picnic table out back and listened to the the sizzles from the diner’s grill and the clinking of heavy-duty porcelain. I brushed lint from the sun-blank screen and hunched over it to cast a shadow.
Delete. I wanted to jump through and shove the pixels down his throat.
What did we do before editing? Delete.
I erased his number and blocked incoming messages. I dug around in my purse for sweets therapy and indulged in a warm bag of Swedish Fish. Unsatisfied, I rummaged deeper hoping, and an opportunity touched my fingers. My absentminded, new ex-boyfriend had left a coveted CD in my car, and I had rescued it from the heat of the dash. I could recycle or donate it.
The brittle case broke with little effort, and the disc inside shattered between a rock hammer and packed gravel.
It was true; juvenile actions were cathartic.
“I feel the same way about their music.” Anton had been busy busing tables and general clean-up. Both of us reeked of coffee and grease. He kept his long hair stuffed into a hairnet and looked like he jumped out of West Side Story.
“It wasn’t mine.” I confessed even as I ground it deeper with my heel. The diner hubbub quieted. “Did Claire send you to check on me? I’ll be, okay. Really.”
“You’re better off. Before him, you smiled more.”
“Everybody and your tips.”
“You’re a nosy bunch.” How did everybody even know when I rarely talked about it? Though, tips had been light the last few months. “I didn’t mean that.”
“Yes, you did.” Anton laughed. He retied his apron over a t-shirt — which was always crisp and clean — then pointed to the CD carnage. “You meant to do that, too. Don’t apologize for it. Whatever he did, he’s getting off easy.”
“I’m not sad, just…shocked. I think I’m more mad that I didn’t do the dumping.” I stuffed my mouth with the rest of the chewy candy. “I’m good. Better get back.”
“Glad to hear it.” Anton’s stance shifted from one foot to the other and he broke his confident eye contact for a second. “My timing is always shit, but can I buy you a drink sometime?”
I hesitated because my teeth got stuck together in a sugar mass and his eyebrows curved disappointed. Swallowing almost required the Heimlich. “Yes, you can. Just, please, not coffee.” I sniffed the short-sleeve of my shirt and wrinkled my nose.
As I turned back, several movements at the empty doorway caught my eye. The clinking that had stopped resumed. Busybodies.
A fruitful lunch rush filled my wallet and as Claire brushed between me and the cook behind the serving window she muttered, “About damn time.”
playing by my own rules
We take the heat 'cause we gotta eat.
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Musings through the journey of writing my first novel
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