Thanksgiving’s Better Place to Be

He was at the end of the silver counter huddled over his coffee cup, still in his painter’s whites, his cap pushed back on his head. Sleet storm wind blew wet down Irving Park Road and would have shivered the world if she hadn’t been there making her rounds with her coffee pot and her friendly open smile. She had always been a waitress. And she really didn’t mind working Thanksgiving. It wasn’t like there was a crowd waiting to flick on the lights in her third floor apartment, ready to great her with the smell of roast turkey, candles and wine.

So she circled the room as her shift counted down till six o’clock and it would be time to go home. She didn’t speak when she glided past his corner of the counter. But she looked straight at him. Her eyes clear. He would raise his head, offer a shy smile and a nod. Start to almost speak. But then he wouldn’t need to because she already knew what he was going to say. It was as if they were alone in their kitchen. Like the darkness settling in outside the steamed windows of the diner held them both to some unspoken promise of winter night warmth.

And when the clock went straight up six o’clock and she nodded hello to her relief, she went over and stood to lift her coat of the hook next to the sink. Her back to the painter. She stood there for what seemed like a very long time. Her shoulders tense. The painter in the corner looked up, cleared his throat, and stood as she turned around and looked in his eyes. He buttoned up his coat, looked at the waitress now ready to go out into the sleeting cold. Still not a word exchanged. As if the sight of the other were enough to propel each of them forward. He opened the door for her and she glided through smiling like a city street queen.

Once outside she linked her arm through his and they walked off together into the street light night.

Walked off together, having now found, as Harry Chapin once sang, a better place to be.

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