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.
Ted sat there at the table, dumfounded at the task at hand. The idea of quieting his mind when he had so many thoughts racing through it seemed about as likely as the bustling diner suddenly becoming silent. There was too much activity, too much distraction, too much... reality. It was impossible.
But then he thought, maybe that was exactly what he needed- distraction. Something other than his own thoughts registering in his brain. Maybe the attention to external world would knock something loose and grant him the epiphany he needed. So he closed his eyes, and listened.
He heard the chaos- the typical clatter of forks scraping on thick porcelain plates and a mess of conversations bleeding into one another. From across the room the loud ring of the cash register and coins in a plastic tray. The scrape of a chair being pushed back from a table and a call for a refill from an impatient patron. Closer by the clinking of ice cubes in a glass and the squeak of someone adjusting themselves on the plastic upholstery of the bench. He found the sounds reassuring, reality marching on in spite of his uncertantainty.
As he listened he became aware of another distraction as the unmistakable scent of syrup-covered pancakes filled his nostrils. He inhaled fully and relished the scent, imaging the fluffy texture and sticky sweetness in his mouth. Underneath the scent of his own coffee, strong and dark and slightly acrid from being left on the burner too long. Another scent, one he couldn't distinguish immediately, drifted by. He focused on it and tried to place it but couldn't. Frustration forced him to open his eyes and look around for the source of the odor. Finally he spotted it- chicken soup landing on a table nearby as Alice placed the bowl in front of a salivating customer.
He smirked at the site and finally turned his attention back to the purpose of his auditory and olfactory excursion- the notepad app on his phone screen shone up at him, the maddeningly blank page waiting for him to start punching in letters. He hovered his fingers over the screen and waited for inspiration to strike. Nothing happened.
Now instead of the thoughts from before- worries about Scott, questions about Stew's judgement, the impossibility of Cole ever speaking to him, the endless pressure of day after day of responsibility and obligation- he had nothing. A blank space in his brain that was supposed to be composing an apology or a heartfelt confession or even just a word. A single, shitty word would have done. But there was nothing.
"You figure out what you want, hon?" Alice interrupted him from his abyss to again try to wrestle an order from him.
He looked up at her in a daze and then blinked. Without really thinking he said "pancakes" simply because the smell lingered in the air and he couldn't think of anything else. She nodded and walked back towards the kitchen, leaving him again to his empty screen.
He sighed and hated himself for going completely blank when all he needed to do was start writing something, anything. But there was nothing, nothing he could possibly say would undo the past or offer healing to the damage he'd done. And then it hit him- nothing was exactly what he needed to say.
"I know that nothing I can ever say to you will change what has happened," he began, and his fingers jumped around the keyboard in a flurry of movement. Finally, the words came.