The diner is jumping when we get there. Already the mat at the entrance has taken on water and squishes out thick puddles around my boots as I step on it. The waitresses weave past the octagonal, glass, pie rotisserie and the giant whiteboard that leans flirtatiously against the wall and displays the 30 or 40 different specials. The booths are cluttered with humanity of the best sorts. Fat,old men in suspenders sit across from each other and nurse the same black coffees they've been drinking here for three decades. The young families of the Low-Middle sit in Nascar jackets and quietly seeth at their children to stop behaving like animals. An old man and woman sit across from each other in silence. She wears a dress, as this is their night out. Her hair, coiffed into a beautifully-dyed beehive. We follow the young, buxom and thoroughly harried waitress to our booth, which is still wet from the light-speed mopping it just got. She assures us it's clean. I assure her it doesn't matter. We order.
This place. It's breathing. The humanity of it radiates outward,from the old cash register to the bad paneling. The cooks bark at one another and the fish fries, in their styrofoam cocoons, pile up under the heat lamps as burly men in long coats stomp the snow off their boots and tromp over to the bar to collect their pick-up dinners. A baby yowls at some injustice, and a couple of cops drink their coffee and watch CNN. I know half the faces here. It is real and tactile and good. This is maybe what I needed more than the pancakes. To be awash in my fellow man and to breath the same air as a hundred others and to know that no matter what my hardship, I am one of many. Our food arrives.
"How are your sadcakes, Daddy?" She asks.
'They're delicious.", I say.
"At least now you'll be able to spend more time with us.", He says
" 'At least' are the wrong words. More like...'Finally.' or 'Thank Goodness'.", I say
He smiles up at me and asks me to cut up his dinner for him. He's ordered pancakes too.
He wants to be just like me.