An Idle Argument
The jukebox is playing Smoke on the Water as the last rays of sunshine fight their way through dusty windows. This whole place reeks of burnt bacon and my coffee’s gone cold while I’ve been picking hair out of my food.
An elderly couple is sharing an omelet in the corner, and a withered waitress is dropping ash all over the floor because the wall mounted phone is too far away from the ashtrays on the countertop, where a large trucker is sucking on a beer like a baby would a pacifier.
These are not my people anymore, but I don’t know if I left them or if they left me. Whichever it is, I can’t help them now. I don’t feel bad for them. That wouldn’t help them either.
The old couple has had all the time anyone can reasonably ask for and they seem happy. The waitress is killing herself slowly one cigarette at a time and the trucker would probably die on the road tonight with the number of bottles he’s emptied while I’ve been sitting here.
All the same, it does feel strange having to say goodbye.
I gulp the rest of my coffee and shudder. The food I leave untouched. It feels wrong not eating it after all the effort I put into making it hair free, but I’ve got no appetite. I rarely do on nights like tonight.
I leave a few bucks on the table and get up to leave while grabbing my jacket. I almost make it to the door before he enters, a carefree smile on his face.
“Thought I might run into you here,” he says trough crooked teeth.
“You almost missed me,” I say. “You’re late.”
“Being punctual was always your thing, old friend. I’m happy as long as I arrive.”
“And arrived you have,” I say with a sigh. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
I move for the door, but he catches my arm. His grip isn’t forceful, and he looks at me with concern.
“Why do you insist on these goodbyes? You don’t owe these people anything.”
I don’t have an answer for him. A small jerk of my arm and he lets go. Before I’m out the door his attention turns to the room in front of him.
It’s gotten dark outside. I kick up dust walking to my car. It’s hard to make it out in the dim light from the dinner.
As I get in I hear a thud from inside the dinner followed by a panicked scream. I guess he’s gotten to it. This is his domain now and I don’t feel like staying one second longer. I shut the door and turn on the radio. I back up, turn the car around and leave without looking back, but as I get further down the road, I can’t help but notice the flames in my rear-view mirror.