Amazing things happen when you stop and look.
|"The first symptom of love in a young man is shyness; the first symptom in a woman, it's boldness." ~Victor Hugo
He sat in silence, pressed into the crevice of the padding of the corner booth. The waitress had brought him a coffee quite some time ago, and now she watched from the counter as he stirred the contents of his cup with a resigned stutter. He had sat there since before her shift started, staring into the void for some time before she placed the naked mug and its volcanic contents before him, and she was sure the contents had turned tepid before he took his first drag.
This was not the first time he had spent a Saturday night resigned to the booth as the diner filled and emptied with circadian rhythm. He did this often, never enjoying the company of another, always with a blank expression upon his face, as if he suffered from some unknown sullen melancholy.
She went about her night, waiting on customers, cleaning tables, moving back and forth among the patrons of the diner. Every now and then she would get the feeling that his eyes were gently upon her, as if he wanted something, yet was afraid to ask. She would refill his cup, offer him food, and comment on whatever she could think of to bring him out of his closed world.
He always had a book with him, some thick volume of science or philosophy that would provide him an escape from the world of the diner. She had learned from one of the regulars that he was some sort of superstar academic enrolled at the university here in town, and that he often could be seen strolling around town with a backpack and a camera.
He was normally smartly dressed, although the hems of his pants and the elbows of his jacket showed considerable wear. He always had a rumpled look, as if he had just crawled out of a clothes dryer before heading in for some much needed down time. His tall lanky frame seemed to barely be capable of supporting his jacket, let alone the bag resting on the edge of the bench.
She made up her mind. It would be tonight. Her shift was ending in an hour, and she knew that he would likely still be there when it was her time to leave. Something kept drawing him in, and she was determined to figure out what it was.
Shift change was coming close, and he rose to pay his bill as normal. She met him at the cash register, and started in with the awkward small talk that they usually engaged in. “Would you sit back down, just for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” he responded in a low voice, and he proceeded back to the booth in the corner. He was unsure of why she had asked him to stay, and looked back over his shoulder towards the counter.
She disappeared into the kitchen, set about cleaning the remnants of her shift, and talked with the cook. She wiped down the counter, talked with the incoming waitresses, and took care of the last of her customers.
All this time, he sat and watched. The anticipation in his mind built, unsure as to why she had asked him to stay.
A few moments past midnight she slid into the booth beside him. “Are you hungry?”
“I can’t afford to…”
She raised a finger to his lips, and was struck by how soft they were, despite the cracks that set in them like lines on a zebra. “My treat. And I will not take no for an answer.”
His eyes betrayed a hint of terror at her touch, then relaxed as she held momentary firmness against his skin.
With that, two omelets were set upon the table.
They ate. They talked. They sat for hours, lost in the some exquisite never ending moment. And for the time they passed, it seemed as if there was no one else left in the world. They talked about everything and nothing, about their pasts and their hopes for the future.
Finally, as they were finishing up, she asked him the question that had been on her mind for a few weeks now. “Do you have someone in your life? A girlfriend?”
He hesitated, then started to blush a little. “No, can’t say as I ever have.”
She stood, held out her hand, and pulled him out of the bench.
They fiddled with their jackets, he adjusted his bag, and she slipped her arm through his. They headed for the door.
And with that, they slid into the night.