It was like moving in slow motion, but I was gaining momentum at the same time. I found myself in that same place that I had been for the past three nights. Why was this place calling me? What was I supposed to see here? Each night something new was added, so I hoped that I had not missed anything. I looked at the clock on the wall in the greasy spoon and it read 3AM. I was on time. I sat at the counter and took the quarter from my pocket. I spun it and then slapped it flat with my hand. I did this over and over until the waitress in her sky blue uniform wearing a name tag that said Wanda came over with a cup, saucer and spoon and sat them in front of me. I smiled a thank you as she turned and retrieved the coffee pot from its burner. I watched the brown almost black liquid fill the white cup and just as she had done the previous two nights she allowed the pot to drop a single drip of coffee onto the rim of my saucer. I watched her. If I knew that this was going to happen, surely she had to have known as well. I watched as the perfect drip began to run and create a black path from the rim to the center where my cup sat. Wanda placed the pot back on the burner and put a bowl of creamer and two packs of sugar in front of me. Just like I had the previous two nights, I slid the sugar to the left of the counter and poured the cream into the coffee.
The chimes on the door jingled and without turning around I knew that entering the door was a truck driver named Ralph wearing a green and blue plaid shirt, crumpled, dirty jeans, work boots and a yellow baseball cap with his name stitched on it. I looked at the clock. 3:06AM. He was on time too. I knew that he would go into the bathroom and stay exactly seven minutes and nineteen seconds and then he would sit at the booth furthest away from the door to my left. Interesting things happened while Ralph was in the dumper. I watched as a silver Mercedes E350 pull into the parking lot with country music blasting. The windows were so black until I could never see who was driving. It didn’t matter. Out of the car stepped a hooker in a pink tank top that was supposed to be a dress, green high heeled sandals that had seen better days and of all things a pink feather boa. Her dirty brown leather bag dangled from her hand. She was barely out of the car when the driver took off spitting rocks at her bare legs with the tires. She tried to hit the hood of the car with her purse put missed and stumbled forward from the force. I smirked and shook my head. I knew that she went by Pepper. Pepper stumbled in and headed for the bathroom just as she had the past two nights. There was only one bathroom in this fancy establishment that I found myself in. Pepper banged on the bathroom door with enough force to break it down.
“Ralph! I know it’s you in there. Bring your stinking ass out of there. I gotta pee.”
I giggled to myself. Ralph did stink and we would all know it in, 3-2-1…
“Bitch, you should learn to piss where you fuck.”
The stench that came from that bathroom was enough to kill all of us. Wanda hurried and propped the door open and sprayed coconut air freshener that only made the situation that much worse. I looked down at my coffee and just like the last two nights there was a dead fly floating in it. I think Ralph killed it. I slid the cup to my left and began spinning my quarter again. I knew that Pepper would be in the bathroom for eleven minutes and thirty- eight seconds and that when she came out she would be wearing bright red skin tight pleather pants, black patent leather platform shoes, a lavender tank top with no bra underneath, and a beige plastic jacket that was too small, she couldn’t zip it. Peppers long, lanky frame was in need of both a good washing and some good nutrition. She was hard on the eyes in both looks and fashion, but I doubt that either mattered in her line of work. I have no idea what color Peppers natural hair was, but she wore a Cher like jet black wig with matted ends. I knew that the next person to walk through the door was going to be a black guy with dreadlocks, a dashiki, and khaki shorts. He would be selling incense and oils. Pepper would purchase the patchouli incense and light one in the bathroom. Last night I learned that his name is Ahmed. Right after Ahmed sits down and orders a cheeseburger, fries and a vanilla coke things pick up for me. I see a familiar figure outside the window of the diner. I just remember my heart beating quickly and my mind telling me that it can’t be. I slap the quarter flat on the counter as I had been doing and I look at the clock, 3:45am. I know that the figure is that of a woman and her hair is blonde and midway her back. There is something about the back of her that is familiar to me. She reminds me of someone, but it can’t be. That would be impossible. I am anxious. I see headlights beaming from oncoming traffic and then turning into the diner parking lot. I am looking and spinning my quarter. I feel sweat beading on my forehead and the patchouli, shit, and cooking food is making my stomach hurt. This happens every night. I squeeze my ass cheeks to lock up the idea of having to shit in that wretched bathroom.
I watch as the front lights of the car become the rear lights. I can’t tell what type of car it is. It is dark with four doors. The back two swing open. I watch the two figures. Both are women. One familiar and one not so much, the one that isn’t familiar is wearing jeans and red high heeled shoes with a red V-neck sweater. Her red hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail, but she has a shiny barrette pin of a sunflower at the top. I’m drawn to it. I feel like I have seen it before, but I’m not sure. I look over at Ahmed now because I know that this is when he is going to block my view and I’m going to miss seeing the face of the familiar figure. The familiar figure is also wearing jeans, but she has on flats and is just as tall as the unfamiliar figure with heels. The familiar figure has straight blonde hair that lies on the back of her black turtleneck sweater. Ahmed stands up and I want to scream for him to sit down, but I don’t. I’m afraid that I will mess things up. Ahmed stands there blocking my view digging in his pants pocket for something. It takes him a few minutes to realize that whatever he is digging for is there. He picks up his glass and walks behind the counter and refills it himself. I watch the window hoping for a glance, a peek at the face of the familiar, I just need one good look. It never happens. A yellow cab pulls up and the familiar figure gets into the back seat and as if she knows I’m waiting to see her. The cab jets off. Unfamiliar comes into the diner and takes in this strange crowd and the smells.
“Who the fuck died in here? I know yawl smell that. But you sitting up in here like everything is rosy. Rosy it ain’t. Wanda! Wanda, bring me a glass of ice and a 7-up.”
I’m just staring at this woman. Something is now familiar about her but I can’t put my finger on it. I watch her walk to the other end of the booth and dig in her purse for a package of crumpled up cigarettes and a book of matches. She puts the cigarette into her mouth and pulls from it like it is her saving grace. I want to walk over to her and ask her about her friend, but fear has me locked onto the stool. I spin my quarter and wait.
Wanda delivers the ice and 7-up. Ralph finally orders a half a fried chicken and an order of onion rings to go.
“Ralph, your stinking ass don’t need no onion rings. Try a salad or some coleslaw or something. Damn. How does your wife deal with you shitting in the house?” Pepper says, shaking her head leaning against the propped open door.
“Fuck you Pepper. I shit outside if you just want to know. If you had a yard I would shit in it. Don’t worry about what I’m eating. Why don’t you try a meal for a change? Boney ass heifer.” Ralph moves his cap up and down on his head and wiggles in the booth. I giggle to myself.
Ahmed walks over to the unfamiliar and shows her his case of oils. “My granny used to keep oils around the house down in New Orleans. I’m going to take this one. It reminds me of her. How much?” she says this smelling the oil over and over again.
“Just two dollars for a pretty lady like you. What is your name?”
The unfamiliar opens her purse and digs around. Finally she pulls out two crumpled dollar bills and hands them to Ahmed. “Call me Daisy.” She says and I look at the clock. It is 4am.
The ringing jars me awake. I slap my hand down on the round silver alarm button at the top of the clock. I roll over hoping to feel a body there, but there isn’t one. The spot is empty. It has been empty for five years. The last three nights have been torcher. I pull the yellow pillow close to me and I bury my nose in it and breathe deeply. I want to smell her. Just one last time, I want to smell her shampoo or her perfume. Something, anything, my imagination has mercy on me and I get a whiff of what I believe is her shampoo. I lay back on the bed with the pillow across my face. I miss her. I wish that I had one last chance to just tell her that I love her. I shouldn’t have let my male pride get in the way. I should have told her.
I’m sitting in my office with the blinds open and I’m looking out onto the workroom floor. I hate this design. I feel like a fish in a bowl. I know. A fish doesn’t have blinds. I’m watching my team work when I hear the ding of my email. I look over at my computer monitor and there is an email there that has been quarantined. I look at the name and it says, Naveen Patchouli. I look around to see who is looking at me laughing. No one is. I look at the time stamp on the email and it says 4am. Again, my eyes are flying around the room trying to see who is playing a joke on me. Who could it be though? I haven’t told anyone anything. I click the links that will allow the email to open and I read:
Dear Mr. Saunders,
You are cordially invited to the estate auction of Mrs. Wanda Emerson. Mrs. Emerson expressly requested through her will that you be invited. The auction will take place on March 15th at 3:15PM in Chicago. If you are planning to be in attendance please reply to this email and the address will be forwarded to you.
Stephen Manders, Esquire
To Be Continued…
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