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“Can I get you something else?”
The waitress put down the plate of greasy fries.
Eliot fidgeted with his hands, distracted. It took him a moment to realize the girl with the red hair and full face had spoken to him.
“Something else to eat?”
Eliot gave a look that lingered a bit too long. Those guilt-ridden eyes could fill a person with a sudden and profound sorrow so deep and unexpected that it would often take residence and never leave. Eliot focused his gaze on the cloudy grey specs in the eyes of the red-haired waitress, as if his gaping eyes warranted a reply. He said nothing. Not meeting his gaze, she put away her notepad cautiously. The waitress walked away.
Eliot reveled in the bliss of solitude once more. He thought to himself what a relief it was to be alone. The mechanics of social interaction were a like a foreign language to Eliot; impossible to decipher. After years of attempting to understand, he had finally come to the realization that it didn’t matter. He was alone. That didn’t bother Eliot. He knew that in the end everyone was alone. He moved from town to town, diner to diner. This gave him the illusion that he might make the accident of making a friend if he stayed put anywhere. He remained on the road; stranger to all. He enjoyed the desolation these fluorescent diners exuded in the strange hours of the night. He exclusively went to diners in the hours of the empty night.
The diner was deserted except for Eliot and the two waitresses. They sat on the counter, conversing loudly. It was difficult for Eliot to concentrate. He found this upsetting.
“It’s just so horrible...” the red-haired girl had a newspaper in one hand, the other on her face.
“I try not to turn on the news anymore because every time I do there’s just a new murder, a new town. Scary is what it is. Small towns like this one is what they are too. We could be next.”
“What! I can’t help it! There’s some crazy serial killer out there.”
“Crazy serial killer! You sound ridiculous. Don’t talk that way. I have kids y’know. A family.”
“What does that mean?”
“You know, just that I don’t need to be thinkin’ that stuff. I have people important to me.”
“So…you’re saying that because I don’t have kids, it wouldn’t mattered if I died, I’m not as important?”
“Now, there you go with that again. Did I say that? You are delusional. That is not what I said. What I meant was I don’t need to be feeling scared over nothin’. Then I start worrying about my kids. I already worry enough…” She put down the newspaper and took a sigh. Her hair was disheveled and her makeup was applied carelessly; the apron she wore was covered with stains. Despite all this, there was a joy in this woman’s essence that was arresting to anyone who laid eyes on her. You could sense it in the way she carried her peach shaped body in the baby blue kitten heels she wore like stilettos. It was as if she held on to the happiness from a past life, yet to be snuffed out by the heartache of her current existence.
“God…I’m sorry Janice. I mean it…I’m just on edge with this stuff. I don’t mean to rub it off on you. How’s Micheal?” The other woman was more physically attractive, with lush red hair and blue grey eyes. She seemed to care about her outward appearance, making sure to be perfectly groomed from head to toe. This shiny exterior was deceiving to most, but not to Eliot. He saw it as a mask shielding a somewhat blasé and superficial woman.
“Oh, you know.” The woman named Janice paused. She seemed pensive and distant. Eliot wished to know her.
“He’s balder than the baby. It’s been rough… But he’s strong. He’s staying strong.”
“Yeah…He’s always been strong.”
At this moment, the two women noticed the man in the lone booth intruding on their conversation.
“Excuse me, sir?”
Eliot glanced at Janice with a smile. “I’d like the check. And could you call me a taxi?”
Janice collected Eliot’s plate. She noticed that most fries were only half eaten. “Yeah, that’s fine. Where do you need to go?”
“The closest town. I’m ready to move on to the next one.”
Janice furrowed her brow in confusion, paused to observe this strange man with long fingers and thin lips. In a momentary glace, she noticed his eyes were an unusually dark emerald green that reminded her of her prom dress. Janice collected the untouched utensils and walked back to her friend. Eliot was left alone, just the way he liked.