Scenes from an American Diner: A Story in 26 Parts
of us have had our lives touched in some way by the disease of
addiction. Be it a loved one, friend, family member or even ourselves
no one is immune to the impact of this devastating illness. This story
is dedicated to all of those people, especially the ones who have found
recovery through the 12 step fellowship.
"So what's plan B?" Ted asked, redirecting his attention to the issue at hand.
"You're not gonna try to change the subject on me?" Stew asked, surprised.
"We came here to talk, right? Besides, if plan B involves anything other than me calling the same number a million times with no response then I want to hear it!"
"Fair enough," Stew said, and took another sip of his coffee. "A letter."
"What, like send him an e-mail? I don't-"
"No, I mean an actual letter. Like pen and paper, stamps and zipcodes, the whole nine."
"Wh- why? I mean... yeah, why?" Ted asked, dumfounded at the suggestion of something so simple.
"Because, it's less invasive- doesn't require a response right away."
"Well, clearly neither do my phone calls- I don't understand why I'm backing off when I can't even make contact."
"That's exactly why- clearly he's not ready to talk to you. You call and call and he doesn't call back because- well, really, who knows why? I'm sure he's got his reasons. But a letter? He can just leave that sitting in a pile of mail if he wants to. He can think about it without needing to do anything about it."
"Or he can burn it, which seems like the most likely response," Ted said flippantly.
"I don't think so, Ted. He's your son- no matter what he's interested, at the very least. I think you'll get a response, eventually."
Ted was about to protest again when the waitress from earlier approached, a pot of coffee in one hand and two menus in the other.
"There you are- you ran off on me," she said, dropping the menus on the table and putting her hand on her hip. She stood with the pot of coffee hanging from her hand and her head cocked to one side in what seemed like an accusatory manner. "What can I get you boys?"
"Alice, let me ask you a question," Stew started, not missing a beat, "when was the last time you got a letter? Like an honest-to-God hand-written letter? In the mail?"
Alice furrowed her brow and pursed her lips at the same time, an expression of deep though that came off more comical than contemplative. Ted couldn't help but smile, in spite of himself.
"I think I had a pen pal in third grade. You know, one of those classroom exchange things? He lived in... Buffalo, I think. Some place with a whole heck of a lot of snow," she finally announced, pride in her voice at the recollection. "It was fun, you know? Gettin' all excited about the next letter and what it would say. The anticipation, I guess. Like waiting to open a present."
"And if you got a letter today, how would you feel about that?"
"Oh my goodness- I don't know," she laughed. It was a melodic, lilting sound and Ted got the distinct impression it was the secret behind most of her tips. "I think I'd be just about set to die happy."
Stew looked at Ted, folded his arms at him and said, "I rest my case."
"Alice, let me ask you this- what if the letter was from someone you didn't like, someone who hurt you?" Ted asked, challenging the point.
"Well, why are they writing?" Alice asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean is it a nice letter? Or a mean letter?"
"Nice!" Stew jumped in.
"Then yes, especially yes. Even more so, yes," Alice responded, her enthusiasm lighting her face.
"But if the person really hurt you. Like, really, really hurt you?"
"Honey, there ain't a whole lot of letters goin' around in the world, and even fewer nice ones at that. If someone who done something wrong to me in the past came out of the blue with a letter that they took the time to write, and it said nice things to me? I'd be dancin' on the ceiling with happiness to see that thing," Alice concluded, that big smile back on her face as she poured more coffee into Stew's mug.
Stew for his part grinned at Ted in the most annoying way he could. "Like I said, I rest my case."