Small Town Diners.
It’s meant to be this way I keep telling myself as I shift gears which aren’t there. Straight ahead I go with the time I bought in my pocket I am out to discover somewhere, I will know where when I reach, till then I keep following my whim.
The name of a place makes me turn left or right.
The sight of somewhere makes me stop or go.
There is no destination, there is just space and a dream in my head. The thing with dreams is that you often forget them, like I forgot mine all I remember is a notion. That’s my guide maybe not the best of guides, but I trust it.
Just before the sun gets ready to settle I reach a small town. It doesn’t consist of much more than a few houses a petrol station and a motel. There is a diner somewhere I am being told, it doubles as a bar.
I get my bag out of the car and into the room and there I am with everything that is me right now. All compacted, all small enough to fit, but probably the essence of who I am.
A little later I head for the diner, it looks much like the last one and probably much like the next one. There is always someone I remember, wherever I am, someone I recognize, be that person a real memory or an imagined one, one from the movies or one that you expect to find in a place like this.
Mostly they are old with a grey stubble, covering half their face wearing a greasy hat near enough as old as they are. They sit quietly at bars or in corners, sipping on cold beers. Sometimes they start mumbling and the barkeeper shouts something across, something like “You ok Willie?” something like that and then the old man stumbles across the room, sometimes to reach the bar other times to reach the toilet, but I rarely see them aim for the exit.
They live in trailers behind petrol stations, sometimes trailer parks and sometimes an old house out of town which they reach with their beaten up pick up truck, the one they got when they first set out to conquer the world.
The house is withered from the sun, the paintwork gone flaky, on entry a living room is situated to the left where a faded print of a faded woman who looks like a faded film star hangs to the side of a sofa. Some empty cans are stood on the coffee table in front. There is a comfortable arm chair which, over the years, has grown into the shape of the old man, a thin woollen blanket is draped over the back of it. An old colour television is opposite the chair right under the windows which are partially covered by a pair of nicotine stained net curtains. A worn down rug of indefinable colour covers most of the wooden floor. There is an upstairs bit with a couple of bedrooms one to the front another to the back of the building, the frontal one containing a bed and some fitted cupboards the one to the back contains mementos of time. Some women’s clothes, seemingly dating from the late fifties early sixties are piled over a chair and hung in one of the fitted closets. If you were to touch them they would easily come apart that’s how brittle they have become. The old man Willie doesn’t remember the dresses or who they belonged to, he barely remembers the room or the time he’s last been in there. One of the panes in the window has been replaced by a piece of wood so long ago that you could have grown a tree to the size of the missing glass by now.
When Willie enters his home he aims for the kitchen to the right there is a table with three chairs the table top coated with some sort of plastic that was fashionable at one point, an empty milk bottle, a couple of dirty cups, an overflowing ashtray and a day old newspaper cover most of it. He aims for the fridge of which there are two, the larger one is not working, the other hums away in a corner. He would take a can of beer from it then retire to the living room, switching the TV on before sitting himself into his chair, pushing it back till the footrest pops up. He lights a smoke, coughs a rattling cough, inhales deeply and takes a remote and an old pair of spectacles from a small pocket in the inner arm rest. It’s the end of another typical day. He will probably fall asleep later more listening to the TV then seeing it and one day not to far in the future he will not wake up. It will take a week or longer till he is found, the house swarming with flies leaving nothing but a stale smell of smoke.
There is a man like Willie in every diner I have been to.