To My Future Self, Written at the Counter of Linda’s Cafe, Stockton, Kansas, Before I Drove on to Kearney, Nebraska
There’s a diner on the road to Phillipsburg. It was the last place, the last time you saw her. She left for Wichita and you flirted with the waitress. You looked out the window at the road to Nebraska. You sipped your coffee and knew that love fails, and people are love.
It started well, though, after all. There were smiles passed, a brushing of hands, desperate to manage some purchase on the other. There was passion, lust even. You can feel her legs squeeze you still.
Eventually, though, she no longer said “we” if she meant “I.” No hugs at the door, and it didn’t occur to you to say hello when you heard her put her keys down. It wasn’t anger, at first, just a sameness that became unintelligible background noise. There wasn’t anything to be angry about because there wasn’t anything to feel.
There were the long nights in the office and the business trips that had somehow become part of her job. And you found yourself at the bar more often. You drank more. You forgot your wedding ring, sometimes, accidentally, when you dressed.
Then, after a long, dirty day in the shop, you stopped to get gas and cigarettes and the woman standing there took your twenty and said she liked your rough hands.
The fighting that eventually came was only a small part, a symptom. There was already deceit, arrogance, condescension. A lack of warmth. These lay the foundation for the screaming, the broken dishes.
Your lives were like that, you tell yourself. You loved her. It turned into a burning, angry, loathsome love…
“Anything else, sugar?” I look up to see the waitress, hair in a tight bun, smiling. If she sees my notebook, it means nothing to her.
“No,” I say, imagining her turning her car around and coming back to me,“just the check.”
Travis Cravey lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania. He’s had stories published a few places. He’ll show you if you want.