Bob’s Diner, Carnegie, PA
The Game: while waiting for your food at a diner (or any public place, really, though diners are most fun), choose and describe people around you. Don’t give away any blatantly obvious details, but write with the intent that someone could look around the room and pick the subject out.The Sketches:
A waitress with too much belly — she’d be the quintessential American girl, but she was too soft around all the edges, and too tired. “Just you today?”
“Yes, just me.” His voice had a slight tremor, and his shoulders weren’t straight, but he walked steady.
She took him up the stairs to the top part of the diner, and he sat slowly, facing the rest of the diner, easing his joints down.
She spoke not quite to him, but past him. “Do you know what you want?”
“Yes,” he said. “Two eggs.”
She wrote something on her pad — like she didn’t trust herself to remember two eggs — and walked back through the diner to the kitchen. He sat and stared out across the diner with eyes that had turned dim from seeing too much life. There were still a few strands of dark around the bald spot on his hair. He wore a black sweater and a blue checked shirt — dressed like he’d come from meeting someone, or was meeting someone here. The careful class of a man who had outlived his time. His ears looked leathery, from years and years of sun.
He watched the open kitchen, watched the two cooks moving across the open range. His face was impassive, as if he didn’t think, just saw. The waitress moved back and forth through the rows of tables. From far away you could see she was wearing old running sneakers. She looked like she didn’t sleep at night.
Old diner along an old stretch of road. Run down town that passed its prime about fifty years ago and then got left behind. A young waitress who watched the road out the window but would never leave. An old man who had never left.
There was an upward tilt to his eyebrows, and they rose when he smiled. His hairline came down in a point on his forehead, turning his face into a heart. He was rather pretty to the eyes. His shirt was garish — too many colors, too bright. Trying to be hip, suave, hipster, but just looking out of place. The smooth movements of his eyes and the darkness around them. He’d about halfway gotten it, was halfway sincerely embodied, but the other half was trying too hard. He tilted his head back when he smiled.
She had a slim frame and a face with strong bone framing, wide at the top, and rounded, but with a sharp chin. It looked almost like an insect. It was the kind of face that could be beautiful if it was framed with her hair, and with darkness around her eyes, and her lips slightly parted in a photograph — the kind of photo that would take her own breath away, but she couldn’t see it, drowning in a tshirt and with her hair back.
She wore a hair tie with flowers. Her shoulders rounded slightly as she bent over a table and wiped it down — movements with so much vigor. She tried too hard to be happy, peppy, energetic. She moved faster than anybody else working there — bounced slightly when she walked. There was a slight awkwardness about the way she carried herself, a girly awkwardness, and an innocence.
She’s the kind of girl that men watch but who herself can’t understand why — she can’t see it when she looks in the mirror.
Her lips were so pink. She smiled too much at the customers when they came and left.