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The Couple at the Corner Booth
“If someone was to look at us now,” says the boy, “they would probably think this is the morning after and you’re trying to work up the nerve to tell me you’re pregnant and I’m trying to think of an excuse to leave town quite suddenly.”
The girl sitting across the table from him organizes the metal rack of jelly packets. Strawberry. Grape. Blueberry. She does not look too concerned.
“Well, I am wearing your shirt.”
He takes the gum out of his mouth – something chewed more for the motion than the taste – and wraps the wrapper of his straw around it. “It makes you look homeless.” A pause. “I like it on you.”
The girl frowns. Doesn’t stay anything.
The two of them sit at a corner booth of a diner, occupying opposite seats. They have the air of the tired youth about them that stands out amongst the truck drivers staring blearily into their grey-white coffee mugs, but no one gives them much attention except for their waitress who wonders if they have money.
The boy flicks his gumball at the rack of jelly. Boom! He makes an explosion gesture with his hands before flattening them listlessly on the table top. He is nervous but trying not to show it. “Of course, the reasoning behind my disappearance would be very sensible and very urgent,” he says.
She flicks the gumball back. “Of course.”
The waitress with the cigarette lips – the skin of her upper lip grooved like tire tracks - had already been by to take their order. It’s early yet, but they had wanted burgers. This hadn’t been taken lightly in the kitchen, which ran parallel to the single line of greasy booths. The boy and girl at the corner table had watched solemnly as the cook, a very tired looking man, frowned considerably at their ticket when the waitress hung it up on the line. Eggs would have been more appropriate given the time.
“Don’t look now,” the boy slumps a little in the wooden seat where there isn’t much room to slump, “but the elderly fellow at the bar is starting to look at us.”
The girl looks. “We’re up to something?”
The boy frantically motions for her to stop looking. “Yes. We eloped. Remember? Everyone was terribly surprised.”
“Too boring,” says the girl. She sips her coffee. (Coffee is quite appropriate given the time.) “Let’s have robbed a bank. We’re on the run, and wanted in three states.”
“We still could have eloped along the way,” the boy protests. “And your grape is with your blueberry.”
She fixes the jelly accordingly. “I would never get married without my family there.”
“Fine, we are spies then. From different agencies. We’ve agreed to meet here at the diner to exchange information.”
Their burgers arrive, looking delicious despite being made at an early hour. The waitress makes them aware of their syrup options and then promises to bring ketchup.
The girl offers up a tomato slice, which the boy takes. “And what’s our cover then?”
“It’s the morning after and both of us are trying to work out a way to say goodbye,” he says.
“Or,” says the girl, smiling knowingly, “to get the other one to stay.”