He closes the diner door behind him and walks over to the booth on the wall. The middle one, next to the window, both equal distance from the door and the counter. You can see the room best from the middle booth. He sits on the side facing the door, the one with the best view of the parking lot.
He takes off his coat and sets it on the seat next to him. Deb comes and brings him his coffee. Caffeinated, black, hot. She doesn't have to ask. They make small chit chat about the bitter cold winds this morning and how they wished the warm spell from the weekend had carried over. Snow's coming they hear. She walks away with promises to bring back his usual.
His eyes turn to the window. He watches the trees bend in the wind, gusts picking up pieces of litter from the ground and tossing them into the air.
He tries not to notice the empty seat across from him.
He focuses instead on Harv and Rita making their way into the diner. Harv holds the door for her in one hand and his cane in the other. It's too cold for them to be out, but it's what they do every week, so they came.
Gazing back out the window watching cars speed past the drive. A truck pulls into the parking lot and for a moment his mind deceives him. Finally, he's here! But, as a young girl gets out, his mind is quickly reminded that it is the wrong truck.
But, his memory continues like a recording. His friend opens the truck door and pulls out his cane. He fights against the wind a bit, but soon makes his way over to the glass door and heads on in.
"Hey, it's my week to sit on the counter side. You owe me." He chides as he slides into the cold green booth. "It's cold out there!"
Deb brings over another cup of hot coffee, one with a spoonful of sugar and a bit of cream. "Morning Deb. It's cold and windy out there."
"You aren't kidding! Thought I was going to be blown away this morning. Sure wish it would have stayed warm." She walks away to get his usual breakfast, no order needed.
The two friends look up at each other. "So, how was your week?"
"Eh, you know. The usual. Wife's got a list of things for me to work on, and I got to get the car looked at. I did finish the ceiling in the basement, though. You?"
"You just said it. But no basement ceiling, yet. Got the order for the carpet placed-finally! My wife couldn't figure out the color."
They go on chiding and chatting and eating when their food arrives. About nothing, really.
"Here you go." Startled back to reality as Deb sets the white plate in front of him. He looks up at her and she nods, knowingly.
He looks back at his plate, and over at the empty seat across the table. The room is full of noise, but the silence is deafening. Many people coming and going, but he sits there alone.
He tries to eat, but remembers that the food isn't really that good. It was never about the food. It was about the company. It was the chit chat, the conversation, the friend.
He pays the bill and gets his coat. He looks to the empty bench and whispers, "I'm gonna miss you, friend."
He turns and says good-bye to Deb. "See you around."
She knows he won't be back. He never came for the food.
This post is for my dad. He misses you everyday, Bob, but especially on Thursday mornings.