“Tell me who you are," a guy sitting next to me said. It was the kind of place that anyone who wasn’t local needed an answer for.
I was devouring scrambled eggs and hash browns at a counter stool in a dumb diner between two tiny indistinguishable mall towns.
“What brings you to this shithole?” he said.
Even sitting down on a stool he was way too tall and skinny for my tastes.
"Tell you about me? Ok. I shave my legs and my armpits.”
This probably was not the kind of thing he wanted to know.
"As a kid I learned to do triple back-flips out of boredom and to impress myself. As an adult, I went to work for the circus. I perform backflips on the tops of roofs holding dogs," I said.
I should have said, "I like buying balloons and bringing them to kids," which was true, I bought them every other day for my sister and the other kids on her floor, but I hated sounding proud of it and it wasn't helping any of them. None of them were growing, in fact they were wilting no matter how many balloons I brought over or how much helium they had or how special.
"About your circus flips,” he said, 'The ones you do can't possibly equal the flips of this bombshell waitress, here," he winked at the pretty little blond, fuzzy haired chick-like waitress.
He said I was fine just as I was, and I should know that I was a goddamned liar. But he had to move his truck. He got up, tall as two, and left the waitress ten-dollar tip tip.
She said, "bye boyo.”
When the door closed she said, “Ain’t comin' back.”
She had huge belt buckles, two of them, was wearing two belts.
"Last time he got so scotched he didn't come back for a few months," she said. “His wife died on Christmas and he hardly gets in here.”
The Children’s hospital smell clung to my fingers. She seemed like the type to need a family. A lot of people grow into that kind of person, looking and looking but at the wrong men, ignoring the right ones entirely.
My little sister was also fuzzy-chick blond, but she would not grow up. And at the end, her hair was gone. I ordered a piece of pie and the waitress laughed because it was so unusual, pie in the morning.
“Celebrating anything?” she said. I couldn’t stop thinking how much balloons were a waste of time. How much money did people spend on balloons anyway?
She sat down next to me and said, “Hey, that asshole warmed up this stool with his bitty, tiny ass.”
She offered me a cigarette and I took one. I was ready to get addicted, hooked and lung-charred. I sucked in hard. She asked if she could help me find a place to stay. “How long you been on the highway?” she asked.
I hadn’t known how far I had driven from the city, from my sister’s empty room, from the look of so many dumbass balloons just hanging around there.