Well, it was definitely warming up. Maybe hot is a better word. Maybe really hot. I absolutely had to carefully watch opening windows and playing with the fans. The shades needed constant attention too. This day wasn’t the first time I had to do that since early last fall, but it was very hot… I don’t think I remembered how to manage the fans and such very well. Edna was here then, and I didn’t have quite as much to do. It stayed pretty hot in the Diner that day until the wind picked up later in the afternoon. But I did remember how to turn the scary floor heater off; just turn the little knob the wrong way, and the little fire went out. That heater had not come on for months now, but I just didn’t get around to taking care of it until, wow, may… Then I slid it back into its storage spot until next fall. The springy, scary yellow thing curled up all by itself. Still, having that heater put away… One less nightmare to have to worry about. I would take that. Every little bit helped.

But as many nightmares and such as I was holding, just barely away… I think I was still getting better at acting normal for the most part, smiling at customers, getting better at understanding what they asked, and especially what they wanted us to actually make for them. But I still would often find myself near tears as I turned and walked away. There was just no way around that. I feared though, that I was just getting cemented into the same zombie routine… Serving meal after meal, cleaning and everything else, throwing myself in bed at the end of the day, get up the next morning and repeat the same thing… Nevermind…

Early that hot afternoon, a small family came in. I suggested a booth away from the window (11) because it was pretty hot in the Diner. Well, the wind picked up that day while they were here. They were travellers, that is for sure. I had never seen them here before. I usually note things like that. Travellers are usually nice, but can be easily put off and leave if you don’t get to them soon enough. Well, it was afternoon, so that was not a problem. Two cheeseburgers, some fries and a soda to share, well and a small water cup for their adorable, maybe four year old daughter. I brought their cups over, then went to take another order. But I noticed that my vision was getting… blurry, or something. I had never had any problems with that, even using the cleaning chemicals doing the bathrooms. But it was like I was seeing two scenes… Oh, I didn’t know, it was just wierd. But when I walked past that booth again, I heard the little girl ask quietly “Mommy, you crying?” This was clearly a question. That made me sad. A mommy should not have to cry, taking care of a cute little girl like that. Well, I was off to another table. Thankfully, the wind started to help cool off the diningroom soon after they arrived.

The family with the cute little girl stayed quite a while. Well, it was a little hard to pay attention; my vision was just crazy. But I passed that booth a few times. The mommy was still crying softly it seemed. The last time, that cute little girl caught my gaze, and said quietly “My mommy sad…”

I had to stop. I kneeled and looked into that cute little girl’s eyes, and said quietly “How can she be sad with such a beautiful daughter?” Her mommy cried a little more, I don’t know. But, she looked up, and said “Ari, let the nice lady do her job”. I… I… looked at the lady, this cute girl’s mom… I felt like I was looking in a mirror… Except for the hair, she looked just like me… That was just… bazaar… Still, I smiled, and said quietly “Your daughter is very precious. You must both be very proud.” The mommy put her head down on her husband’s shoulder and cried quietly some more. This precious little girl… She hugged her mommy… “I love you, mommy…” Then she kissed her mommy on the cheek. The mommy smiled. “I love you too, Ari” then the mommy hugged, then kissed her daughter back. I think that helped the mom to feel a little better.

The husband asked that I join them briefly. It was mid-afternoon, and, well it was good timing. I slid in next to the little girl. She kept looking at me too. “Miss, what is your name?” the husband asked quietly.

“Well, it’s Maude as far as I know” then I smiled. I thought about asking his name, but…

“Maude, where are you from?” the lady’s husband asked, again quietly.

I smiled again. “I’ve lived here for as far back as I can remember.” Well, I should have added that wasn’t very long, really, and I just couldn’t remember anything beyond maybe a year ago… I felt it just wasn’t worth the explanation.

I guess the husband wasn’t done. “Maude, do you have a husband?” This sounded a wierd way to ask… But actually… I had watched this man gently care for his sad wife. And all I had known besides were piranha… I answered how I honestly felt. “No, but I hope to find another caring man like you some day.” I was careful to look at the mommy while I said that. I certainly wasn’t trying to start something. That would be all kinds of wrong, as Edna would say.

The mommy looked up at me briefly as I said what I said, then turned and cried on her husband’s shoulder. “Oh, summer, he said softly”, and I didn’t understand that at all, using the name of the season like that. I wasn’t too concerned; there is still a lot that people say that I don’t easily understand. Then the husband looked up at me and said quietly “We apologize for taking your time. The food was delicious, thank you.”

I laughed, trying to calm things down maybe, even though laughing hurt my head. “Well, the cook made it, not me, but I’ll let him know.”

They got up to leave right then, and that cute little girl stood up on the booth seat and reached out both hands to me. Of course, I picked her up and hugged her. All of a sudden I was fighting back tears. I was sure a few fell at least. I just didn’t understand why. I reached over and gave her back to her mommy. Our eyes met briefly. We both had tears in our eyes. I turned, then walked over to the cash register, and they paid for their meal, and left a good tip. I was still trying… “Thanks for bringing your daughter, she seems like such a treasure!”

The mommy smiled, scooped her daughter up, hugged her, and said “She sure is…” Then they left, But I saw them standing out in the parking lot next to their car, the three of them hugging tightly together, crying together. I was pretty sure I heard the husband say “Summer, I just don’t know…” And again, I was not sure how I even heard that. But it was clearly his voice; I remembered it from our brief conversation. They got in their nice car as I watched, and drove off. A few minutes later, those double vision things were gone…

Ten more minutes, and the Diner was packed thanks to the dinner rush. I forgot about everything and had to work hard to try to keep my head above water, one table, one order at a time. I absolutely was NOT looking forward to another summer here at the Diner, doing just about everything besides cooking. All that stuff that I was trying to keep at arm’s length, it pushed perilously close to me at that realization. My growing urge when that happened was always the same; shoo everyone out, close and lock the doors, then run home and just cry… I fought madly to push it all back to a comfortable distance, at least until I got home. Then I could cry, softly. But, the Diner, Edna wanted me to keep it going… I would…

But as I was walking home, I remembered that couple and their adorable daughter. I suddenly felt so empty inside… I wanted a husband like that, so soft-spoken, so caring… Well, honestly, he was handsome, too. But I would never go there… But I just felt this augering emptiness… I wanted a good man… I wanted to have an adorable child like that… And that lady did look just like me, and if she could have that… And I realized, more than anything else…

But all I was though, and probably all I would ever be… just a zombie eyed food service worker… …serving meal after meal… …cleaning table after table… …until I died like Edna…

I didn’t wait until I made it home… I cried bitterly as I walked, even though it hurt a lot… Maybe I just didn’t care…

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1. Maude: Meanderings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.

 

 

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