The Diner; Anyway This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Six years old
Grumbling that this wasn’t the Rainforest Cafe as I was promised
I wanted my noisy animatronics in a  laser-lit room
Another vibrant blue drink--
that made you grin
While wrecking your mum’s car
But the scolding and screeching didn’t matter
Because you were in your booster seat anyway.
Hoisting myself into the seat sticky with god-knows-what
Maybe grease-- the smell of it
Has saturated into everything
Either way
It’s late
Everyone is beginning to fade,
I’m not as old  as  I used to be.
They’re talking
I should be listening but
I’m standing on my feet and tracing the panes of wavy glass
With a small finger
I may not  have ripped the seat of the van
But my mother chides me
The conversation turns to radio static
As I quickly try to change the channel
The plates are placed in front of us
Similar, very similar
To something mom would make
Not bad,
But not blue and sweet
And coming  with a silly straw  I would  prize until I left it at Her place
Half asleep, I’m stumbling
A bumbling child with just enough energy to make it to the car
Which I would mark up with my crayons
Sixteen years old,
Smiling, beguiling,
Hoping  they think i’ve got my s*** together
They smile back, he smiles  back,
And my shoulders relax.
Can’t stumble, can’t fumble
A single word  as I slide into the booth--
The very same booth--
Sticky  with what is  hopefully soda
The grease has found residence slicking  back  the hair of the patrons and in the food
They’re starting to talk
But I  can’t  keep track of  the verse,
I’m not as young as I used to be.
They’re chatting
I should be  listening
But I am tracing the  wavy panes of glass with my  eyes
As the boy beside me places his hand on my thigh
The conversation is turning to static
And I wait for someone to change the channel
As they place plates of food in front of us
Not great.
Instead I crave
My cavity-inducing blue drink
Where I crunch the ice - or is that sugar?- between my teeth
Wag my tinted tongue at my sister and giggle as she swats me away
Instead I sip the tap water
And offer half baked smiles
Half asleep,
It’s  eleven at night,
And the diner hasn’t closed yet
The fluorescents glowing
Green, red, white
In through my window
Fading, fading,
To a  fuzzy static I cannot decipher.

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