I don't remember the food, the cheap fries or how they tasted, if they were greasy. I don't remember the cheap coffee from mugs washed thousands of times. I simply remember one happy afternoon in a little greasy spoon.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Her hands lay next to mine on the cheap white paper tablecloth, among the neatly rolled napkins and gleaming silverware, waiting while the harried waitress finished her Virginia Slim and deigned to notice us. I watched only the hands, not the clock behind her, ticking away the minutes we waited on cheap plastic seats, and slowly worked my eyes up to her face, weathered and cracked by the years gone by, fissures and cracks etching the papery soft flesh. And yet she had an ever-present smile, the notches around her eyes, still youthfully and fearlessly bright, creasing as she spoke... Michael's oranges are doing nicely, her grandson Pete got into trouble at school again...very outspoken, she hooted, just like Grandma! She was beautiful. The weathering, the cracks, the fissures only served to speak of laughter and mischief she'd enjoyed...she never showed her inner sadnesses, except in those same fiery eyes, that could go soft and tender in a heartbeat. I gazed back at her hands, the gnarled fingers, the thin, papery skin, so close a cousin to the cheap paper we folded our hands upon, almost in silent prayer, as we waited, our cheap china mugs, sitting on mismatched saucers, yellow on blue and red on yellow, bright and cheery. The veins stood out, even more than mine, little blue green trees of life, sending their ebbing and flowing blood back and forth, bright against her faded, wrinkled spotted flesh. She reached out, unbidden, without a moment's thought, and rested her gnarled, but still so beautiful and delicate, arthritic fingertips on my hand, just as, with a click of her hard shoes on the dirty floor, the waitress finally arrived at our sides, young, pretty, but tired and fading already, in cheap cotton pants and a much-laundered pink gingham uniform blouse. She poured our cheap coffee, which still tickled our noses, still sent up a curly plume as it rested in the cup, still waited for us to sip, dark and full of promise. We thanked her and continued our talk... of orange groves, of rebellion, while her beautiful hands, fascinating in every twist, every spot, every vein, gently clutched that cheap red mug between them.