In a heavy mid-day March downpour, I parked and slogged across the street to an old café. Eighteen and hungry, I could eat five meals a day, not gain an ounce and still feel starved.
MOM'S—the name painted on the window. Every city had one. Hunger opened the door.
High-back booths lined one wall. I hung my coat on a brass hook and took the only counter seat available next to a man sipping coffee, his face a road map to places I'd never been and never wanted to see. I made my stool wobble to keep time with the jukebox.
Mom, or whoever she was, pushed a plastic-covered hand-penciled menu across the counter. "Coffee?" She shoved the word through a cigarette cough.
"The pot roast special and coffee . . . please."
The cup warmed cold hands. Behind the counter, green holly leaves and red berries were painted on a large mirror, decorations left over from Christmases past. Windows and mirror were all steamed-up.
Just then a redhead came in with a suit in tow. They took the booth behind me. Can't remember him, but she was a Lauren Bacall movie poster. The suit hung her raincoat over mine. I watched her in the mirror—sliding into that booth—crossing her legs. Looking directly into my eyes, she gave me more to see than I could consider. Green eyes smiled into transparent wishes as easily as butchers slicing meat with sharp knifes. Young men are easily aroused.
Not a bite left, I chewed slowly, didn't wanna leave. It wasn't MOM'S cooking. Another stolen Christmas mirror glance. He was talking--she was sipping hot chocolate, not paying attention to him. Looking at me, she uncrossed her legs, and licked whipped cream from upper lip and first finger. Little streams of condensation trickled down glass surfaces, the room, suddenly too warm, my pants too tight.
"Pie?" Mom hacked so hard she couldn't speak.
I stood to pay the bill, fumbled for change, hard to make myself more comfortable. The redhead raised an eyebrow, gave me a knowing smile. I took my coat--hung hers back on the hook. She licked whipped cream lips and mouthed, "thank you," her tongue, strawberry pink.
By the time I got into my car I was soaked—full—but still hungry. I wanted to run back into the café, wanted to ask her name, wanted to do it with her as much as she acted like she wanted to do it with me. Instead, I started the engine and drove away.
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