The Out There Cafe
It was raining when I pulled into the parking lot of the Out There Cafe. I had almost turned the car around twice thinking I must have been mistaken. The cafe was too far out in the middle of nowhere. But the desire to get out of my apartment (as well as a hankering for country fried steak) was strong enough to keep me going.
The parking lot was empty except for two cars. When I looked inside, however, the place looked packed. This discrepancy in logic was lost on me at the time. I could only think about how much I wished the place were empty. I gripped the steering wheel tightly and fought off the urge to put the car in drive and floor it out of there. Instead, I fought off the feelings of discomfort and anxiety, turned the key and took it out of the ignition. Walking towards the door I put my hand in the front pocket of my jeans. I fiddled with the few coins and bills in my pocket and hoped someone else would be tipping the waitress well tonight.
I walked through the door and was overcome with dread. Every head snapped to see who had set off the bell above the door. I kept my head down and quickly scanned the room for the first open booth I could find. I saw one right across from the main counter and threw myself down to the seat with a loud plopping noise. Without looking up, I knew everyone was staring at me. Eyes peering at me from every which way. I felt I needed something to do with my hands. Something to distract me from the stares. I wished I had a cigarette. The fact I've never smoked a day in my life hardly mattered. I needed a distraction. I resorted to tearing tiny bits off a paper napkin. It helped.
A voice cut through the clatter and noise of the other diners. A sweet, sing-songy voice. It said, "How ya doin' tonight, hun?"
It was a voice that had an air of exhaustion yet kindness. A shining beacon to dark ships in the night. I slowly gazed up to see where the voice had come from. It was the waitress. The beautiful, strawberry-blond haired waitress. I became aware that I was staring at her with my mouth open while she poured a cup of coffee for me.
"So, what'll it be?", she asked. At least, I think that's what she said. I was distracted by the warm glow emanating from all around her. I looked at her name tag. It said her name was Jeni. Just one 'n'. As beautiful and unique as she was in this darkened diner of gray and judging faces. I found myself unable to speak, fearing that I might say the wrong thing.
Jeni looked at me with kindness and compassion. She understood the effect she was having on me. She must have. This probably happened to her a lot. With the speech centers of my brain failing me, I tried to convey my feelings to Jeni with my eyes. She stared back. After what seemed like an eternity, she finally broke our shared moment.
"I'll come back when you're ready," she said and walked away taking her warmth with her. Leaving me in the cold stare of strangers who were no doubt jealous of the connection between Jeni and I.
Jeni walked behind the counter and put the coffee pot down. A guy, the cook, looked out from the kitchen through the pickup window. Without looking at me, Jeni gave a quick nod of her head in my direction. The cook, tall, stringy-haired, goatee having, wearing sunglasses on top of his in head in place of a hairnet doofus that he was, quickly glanced at me then back down to whatever menial task he was performing. He shook his head and said something to Jeni. I couldn't make out what he said to her but it was obvious it was about me. Jealous douchebag.
I returned to the task of tearing my napkin apart. Making the bits as small as possible. A hand reached into my view. A beautiful, clean, well-manicured hand holding another napkin. It was Jeni. A gift from Jeni. She walked away without saying anything and went to mop up the rainwater that was seeping in under the door. This time I openly stared. She noticed and came back to my table, once again basking me in her warmth.
"Decide yet, hon?", I think she said. Still difficult trying to concentrate being this close to her.
Jeni looked at me lovingly while I tried to find my tongue.
"How's about," Jeni again broke the silence. "Some eggs, bacon, and toast?" I nodded. Who am I kidding? She could've suggested I go drink from the toilet and I most likely would have.
She left me in the cold once again and went to place my order with doofus. It was only after she walked away that I remembered the country fried steak. I contemplated calling her over and changing my order. It could be a way to show my assertiveness and confidence as a man. A way to let her know who I am. Or it could be a way to be just another whining customer like all the rest she had been waiting on all night. Or it could be a way to let her know my true feelings. Tell her the reason I couldn't speak before was because I was entranced by her beauty. Or that could freak her out and make her never speak to me again since I hadn't even told her my name.
The vigorous debate happening in my mind was suddenly stopped at the sound of breaking glass. I jumped in my seat and looked behind the counter. Jeni had dropped a coffee cup. She gave a look of exasperation and then smiled at me. It was at that moment I had made up my mind. I was going to rescue Jeni from this place. Rescue her from this backbreaking labor. Rescue her from these gray faces and…
The douchebag from the kitchen was now behind the counter. He had a broom and dustpan with him. He touched Jeni on the shoulder and started sweeping up shattered remnants of the ceramic mug from the floor. Jeni nodded then grabbed the plate of eggs, bacon, and toast that I didn't order from the pick up window. She turned and looked at the wearing-sunglasses-indoors-even-though-it-is-3am moron, cocked her head to the side, smiled at him, and said thanks as she stepped around the pile of broken coffee mug.
She didn't touch him, though. Of course not. Jeni had no interest in touching that lowlife. I was sure the only reason she hadn't slapped him for daring to touch her shoulder was because of what a kind person she was. Or maybe it was a signal to me. Yes, it was. It was a signal that said she wanted me to be the one to touch her. I had been reading the signs wrong. It wasn't that she wanted me to love her forever. She wanted me to love her right now.
Jeni walked toward me with the plate balanced on her right hand. Although, I shouldn't say walked. It was an evil, seductive, little strut. For the first time, I looked at something other than Jeni's face. I looked up and down her entire body. She had a body from hell and it could get you sent there. She bent over and set the plate down in front of me.
"Anything else, sugar?", a nasty toned voice said. The glowing warmth was gone. It had been replaced by red-hot, sexual tension.
This time, however, I didn't feel the need to say anything. The desire from both of us was thick and there was no need to mention it. I leaned back in the booth and looked Jeni's body up and down, taking my time while doing it. When I looked her in the eye again, I gave her a wink knowing that it would make her shudder.
Jeni's eyebrows raised and then furrowed. She looked at me with a slight head tilt and then turned and walked away, swinging her hips as she went. Feeling satisfied with my first attempt at flirting, I turned to my food. I wondered if there was a seductive way to eat bacon.
Behind the counter, dickface was finishing sweeping up the mug. Jeni went over near him and then turned and looked at me. I gave her the most sexual and wanton face I could think of. She whispered something to the cook and his head snapped up first looking at Jeni, then at me.
That's right, boy, I thought. I win.
Jeni leaned in closer to say something else to him. And touched his arm.
She touched him. Her hand was on his arm. They were close. Touching. He had touched her. Now she touched him.
The red-hot sexual flames were extinguished. If she would get close to him, she would get close to anybody who would have her. For the first time, I saw Jeni for who she really was. Under the flourescent lights of the diner, Jeni looked haggard. Looked like she had been working here too long. Like life had beaten her down, chewed her up, spit her out, and left her here, covered in chunks of who she used to be.
Jeni was ugly. She was overweight and that stringy-haired moron was either too pathetic to realize it or was in fact so pathetic that their match was perfect for both of them.
He leaned close to Jeni and said something to her while motioning to the kitchen. Jeni nodded and then kissed him lightly on the lips.
Yep, they're fucking.
I knew it the moment I walked into this dump. This white trash piece of shit diner in the middle of nowhere. No wonder the place was empty. Who would eat here with these disgusting freaks preparing the food?
Jeni waddled her way into the kitchen while goatee boy started wiping down the counter and staring at me. Pathetic. I looked at my food and scoffed. No way I was eating anything from this place. I looked at the cook again and shook my head.
"Alright," he said, shocking me by using a more than one syllable word. " I think it's time for you to leave."
I slid to edge of the booth and scoffed again. Right in his face. I looked at his scrawny arms sticking out from his dirty white t-shirt and shook my head again. I stood up.
At this moment, Jeni stuck her head out of the kitchen. I stared at her with disgust.
"Pitiful sow," I said louder than I meant too.
"What did you say?" the skinny little cook screamed at me as he began charging around the counter towards me.
"Out! Now!" he continued screaming as he grabbed me by the shoulder and started leading me toward the door. Since that was where I wanted to go anyway, I didn't put up much of a fight.
When we got closer to the door the cook's foot slipped out from under him on the rainwater that Jeni never finished mopping. His left leg shot straight up in the air, depositing him harshly on his back. The sound of his brittle bones on the wet tile floor, along with his pathetic yelps of pain and obscenities echoed throughout the diner.
"Honey!" Jeni screamed from the kitchen and came crashing through the swinging doors.
I looked back to the cook who was slowly getting back to his feet while holding his lower back with his left hand.
"Don't you dare hurt him!" Jeni was now running at me as fast as her pudgy legs could carry her. It wasn't until she got closer that I noticed the fire extinguisher that she was carrying in her right hand.
"Get away from him, you freak!" Jeni bellowed and, now holding the fire extinguisher in both hands, swung it at my head. I ducked.
It was at this moment that the cook had finally managed to stand up straight only to have Jeni's fire extinguisher connect with the left side of his face. There was a sickening thud like a watermelon falling from a truck, the sound of teeth clattering on the floor, and a pair of cheap sunglasses flying off of stringy hair smacking against the glass door of the cafe.
The cook lay on the floor in a heap. Blood already pooling around his head. I turned to Jeni. She was still holding the fire extinguisher, mouth agape. She stood there for what seemed to be way too long considering her boyfriend looked to be in need of immediate medical attention.
The fire extinguisher finally dropped from her hands with a clang and then the screaming started. Jeni dropped to her knees by the cook's side and hesitantly touched the side of his freshly caved in face. She looked up at me screaming, crying, snorting, trying to speak but making only sputtering, stammering, gurgling noises.
The sunglasses that had smacked off the door caught my eye. They were about to be in the ever-growing blood pool so I picked them up. The sun was already making its way over the trees in the parking lot so I put them on.
As I opened the door, I turned for one last look at pathetic Jeni cradling the head of her soon to be if not already dead boyfriend and chuckled louder than I meant too before walking out.
Opening the door to my car, I realized I still hadn't had any breakfast. I put the car in drive and floored it until I found a truck stop further down the road. I walked into the convenience store. The tired old man behind the counter looked at me.
From behind the sunglasses I told him to get me a pack of cigarettes in a deep, cool, voice that let him know I just had one hell of a night.
"Any particular brand?" he said in a voice that let me know he thought I was a jackass.
Suddenly feeling flustered and wanting this conversation to end, I told him to surprise me. He shook his head and grabbed the closest pack he could grab and tossed them on the counter in front of me.
I reached into the front pocket of my jeans and suddenly remembered the small amount of coins and bills and the hunger for country fried steak. I wished I never came in here. I don't even smoke. I took the sunglasses off. To his right there was a box of what looked like miniature cigars that had a price of one dollar each.
I told him I would take one of those instead, threw the dollar on the counter, grabbed the little cigar and the pack of matches and walked into the parking lot.
I felt people watching me as I struggled with the cellophane wrapper on the tiny cigar so I jammed it in my pocket and headed for the diner.
I walked through the door and was overcome with dread.