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.
Cole turned the coin over in his hand once more and stared at it, then with a flick of his wrist sent it flying onto the table where it landed with a loud clink. It bounced once, twice and on the third turned as if it would start spinning but then fell, finally landing on its side. Ted almost reached for it mid-bounce, a token so precious it hurt him to see it tossed aside so carelessly. But he kept his hands in his lap until it settled.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Cole asked. The gesture had been careless but the words held far more emotion.
Ted inhaled deeply and said "That's what I have to offer you." Now he picked up the coin and gave it a serious look. "You get this coin in the program when you've been sober one year- so that's what I'm offering. My sobriety, and everything that comes with it."
"And what's that?" He was nervous. Ted could hear it in his voice. He wouldn't let on on the outside- but it was clear in the question.
"Honesty, for one. Not being a miserable bastard, for another. Christ, Cole- I know what I did to you was... you know... would've put me up for the worst father in history award. But that's not who I am." He'd been holding it together alright until then but he couldn't fight it anymore. His eyes burned as the first tears crept out of them and he swallowed hard, his throat convulsing.
Cole just sat and watched him with his arms folded, as if the tears pleased him. But at the corner of his mouth a frown was forming.
"This isn't me tryng to get anything out of you- it's not a manipulation. I wanted to talk to you because I am sorry and because I do want to be your dad in whatever capacity you'd be willing to let me be-" he cried, but then his breath caught in his throat as he realized he'd done what he wasn't meant to do.
The request seemed to crack the facade and Cole finally let loose. "Let you? Let you? I was begging for you to be a father- for years I tried everything I could possibly think of to get you to look at me like something other than a cold beer delivery system! You think I liked driving at the age of 13 to pick you up from the bar? You think I liked working 30 hours a week when I was still in high school when you couldn't keep a job? And you think I killed myself in school for fun? No! I had to! I had to be perfect because you were such a screw up!" Now it was he whose eyes betrayed him with their moisture, it was his voice that attracted the attention of the lunch patrons.
Cole seemed to notice this at that moment as he shot a glance towards the onlookers. He angrily wiped his face with both hands and then pushed himself away from the table, moving towards the edge of the booth.
"You don't get to come in here with one stupid coin and wipe away everything you've done to me!" he said as he stood- pointing a threatening finger at Ted. Then he leaned in close as he growled out "And you haven't earned the right to be my father." And with that he turned and stormed out of the diner, side-stepping a waitress loaded down with trays and a small child by the door as he went.
Ted watched him with tears flowing freely from his eyes, unaware of the other people or their concerned faces. The sunlight on the door as it closed behind him hurt his eyes and he found himself wishing desperately for the cool, dark interior of a bar.