The diner’s lights are bright and they are the only thing you can see in the dead town.
This place isn’t like what you’re used to. You stay here because you dread going back to Florida. Your excuse is that you want to see the nightlife here in this retirement town.
But you aren’t used to the partying, the noise, the people, the sounds, the smell. You’re not used to anything any more. You’re just grateful you’re here and not in the goddamn swamp.
You slip into the diner.
There are only three people in there, including the server boy. None of the three people raises their head to greet you.
You take a seat that faces the couple. The server boy finishes with them and heads over to you. He has an eyebrow raised and a notepad in his hand.
“Cup of joe,” you say.
The server boy nods and makes it for you.
You don’t know why you’re drinking coffee so late. It’s nearly five in the morning and there are less than three hours before you’re supposed to head off to work. Or, maybe that’s why you’re drinking coffee. You don’t want to sleep. The days are the same anyway, might as well blend them all together, right?
Your coffee is done and you grab the handle, feeling the warmth soak into your fingers. You take a sip. It’s hot. It is freshly brewed. Your tongue burns and then you can’t feel it anymore. You keep drinking.
Pain is the only thing that reminds you that you’re still alive.
You look over the brim of your coffee cup and watch the couple interact.
“I still say we get a dog,” the woman in red says.
“Can’t handle no dog,” the man replies.
“Sure, we can,” the woman says.
“You can’t even handle your mother,” the man says.
You like listening to other people’s problems because they make you forget about yours, at least for a little while.
“Why are we even together?”
You put down the cup and the plate makes a loud clink. The couple turns to look at you. You stare at the coffee.
“If you’re so upset with me, then I’m moving out.”
You pick up the coffee cup again. You don’t feel like drinking it.
“You can’t do that. You need me.”
You sip it.
“Where are you going to go if you move out, huh? Sleep on the streets? You’ll be lucky if no one murders you.”
You don’t even know who’s talking anymore. It’s just a fucking dog.
You know it’s not just a fucking dog.
“I should’ve stayed in New York.”
You should have stayed in Florida.
Coming here might be a mistake. You recognize that, at least. There’s a nagging feeling inside your chest that things didn’t have to go the way it did. You let it sit for too long and since neither of you were going to confront the other about it, you just up and left.
You didn’t even tell anyone. You packed your bags at four in the morning and left the house at five. Then you just waited at the airport until you spotted a flight that suited your fancy and made a booking. Things didn’t work out as smoothly as you wanted it to but it eventually got you out of the States and landed you here.
Even if it isn’t worth it to come here, you have to make due.
By the time you finish your coffee, the couple isn’t arguing anymore. The server boy comes back to take your empty cup away.
“That’ll be three dollars,” he tells you. You pay him four and tell him to keep the change.
You leave the diner. The cold night air hits you in the face. You duck your head and walk down the street. You don’t know where you’re going next but you’re going anyway.
You find yourself standing outside of the hotel. You don’t know what time it is and you can’t be bothered to check. All you know is that it’s early in the morning and you have work soon.
You head to your room. You tell yourself it’s just to take a shower, to make yourself presentable at the supermarket till, but you really just want to check your messages.
Maybe after all this time, she finally realized you’re gone and is wondering where you went. You grab your phone and it doesn’t turn on.
Your phone is dead because you didn’t switch on the socket when you plugged it in to charge overnight. You put it back on the table and go to take a shower.
The shower leaves you feeling clean and only slightly warmer. You change into a fresh set of clothes and move your arms a little to stretch the fabric out. Your phone is still dead.
You leave the hotel and head to work. You enter and your boss greats you, you nod at him and head to the back. You change into your uniform and then go out to the tills.
“You look like crap,” a coworker says. You turn to squint at their nametag and then you shrug off their comment.
You might not be looking your best but at least your mother didn’t name you Apple.
You go to grab a quick coffee before the store is officially open, finding a group of other coworkers already huddled around the table.
“Hey,” one of them greets you, waving you over. “I was just telling them about how you’re from Florida.”
You give them a weak smile and answer any questions they might have for you about Florida. It’s the same questions, really, when it comes to anything related to the States.
How are the gun laws? Did you vote for Trump? Is it true that Florida is really messed up? Have you ever tried a chocolate surprise egg?
“Why did you come here?” one of them asks you. “Florida seems like a much better place than here.”
You pause, not expecting this.
Why did you come here? Florida is home to a lot of weird things, so why not a psycho wife?
You instinctively reach for your phone but you left it at the hotel. You pretend you weren’t searching your pockets and scratch your head and say, “I want to see life outside of the United States. It can get a little too self-centered there.”
“I can see that,” the same person says. “I heard that Americans are mostly only taught about America.”
You are about to answer but your boss pokes his head in and looks around. You think he’s about to tell all of you to stop slacking off and that it’s time to open, but he zeroes in on you and then jerks his head back to indicate that he wants you to follow him.
“Um,” he says when you walk up to him. He nods to himself a few times and then he takes you to his office.
“I don’t know how to say this,” he says on the way. You think he’s about to fire you, even though you can’t think of anything that warrants this reaction.
“Someone just called my office,” he says, “claiming to be your wife?”
Why today, of all days? You were just beginning to have fun, you think. Your day was going just fine.
“She wants to talk to you and, now, I wouldn’t normally allow this but she’s…”
You get it. When you enter your boss’s room, the phone is resting on the table. Your boss nods at you and you go inside to pick it up.
“I’ll give you two some privacy,” he says and he shuts the door.
“Hey,” you speak into the receiver.
“Well, well, well,” says your wife, “would you look to see who it is.”
“What do you want?” you ask her.
“What do I want? What do you want?”
“What kind of question is that? I didn’t demand anything from you,” you say. “You’re the one who called my work, bitch.”
“Not a minute into the conversation and you’re already insulting me,” says your wife.
You run a hand over your face and you sigh. “What do you want?” you ask her again.
“I want you to come back,” your wife says.
“Not with that attitude,” you say. “I think I’m perfectly happy here, thank you.”
“You can’t stay there for long,” your wife says. “Your visa doesn’t cover a trip that long.”
“I’m looking into getting citizenship,” you lie. “I’m not coming back.”
“Then we’re getting a divorce.”
You fall quiet. A divorce. Well, that has always been on the table, hasn’t it? You just never noticed. You look at the decorations of your boss’s room. It’s bland and there’s only one bit of decoration on the desk. You stare at the calendar, as plain as the rest of the room, and you reach over to cross out the days that have already passed.
“Well?” your wife’s voice pipes up from the phone. You’ve been quiet for a bit too long.
“Can we talk about this later?” you ask.
“Later? Why do we have to talk about this later? We can talk about it now, now that I’ve finally gotten a hold of you.”
You purposefully let your phone die all the time. It bites you in the ass sometimes, when your coworkers want you to help them cover a shift, but it never really bothers you because other than them, no one else actively looks for you.
Suppose you’re wrong, now.
“You packed your bags in the middle of the night and left without so much as a word,” your wife is saying. You bury your face into your hand and hold the phone away from you. “You took half of our savings and I find you in the middle of god-knows-where and all because of a little box of birth control?”
“It wasn’t just a little box of birth control,” you say and then you let out a groan. “Just… Can we talk about this later? I’m at work.”
“Why do I have to do as you say all the time? You clearly don’t trust me anymore or else you wouldn’t have let this affect us!”
“You didn’t have to use birth control! You didn’t but that box was empty.” You hold the phone away from you again and you screw your eyes shut, willing yourself to calm down. “Whatever, whatever,” you say into the phone. “I don’t want to talk about this. I’m going back to work.”
“I didn’t stay up all night trying to find you to just let you hang up on me again,” your wife says.
“My boss needs help opening up the store,” you say. “Actually, he wants me to go now. Bye.”
You slam the phone down and cut the call. You open the door and your boss turns to face you.
“How was it?” he asks you.
You shake your head and he understands. As he walks you back downstairs, he says, “Wives, huh?” He lets out a small laugh. “Married twice,” he says. “Divorced twice. I think being single has its perks.”
You manage a strained smile and then you resume your position on the floor.
You never should have left Florida, really. Just because you can’t face your issues and deal with your problems doesn’t mean running away from them is the solution.
Now everything is blowing up in your face and you smile pleasantly at a customer as you ring up their items.
You dread going back to Florida but maybe you should.