Thursday, April 9, 2015

H is for Habits

 Scenes from an American Diner: A Story in 26 Parts
All 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.

Suddenly a din arose from the corner of the large room and everyone turned in their seats to watch the commotion.  The couple from the casino who had been arguing were now in a full-on fight and the man banging his fist on the table had sent a glass and plate off the edge.

The four men watched awkwardly as the woman began to cry, her tears landing in the wavy hair nearly covering her face and glistening in the dim light from overhead.  It was a universal truth that seeing a woman cry undid the most unbreakable facade and not one of them knew how to respond though all felt the need to end her state.  

Greg clenched his fists, wanting to punch the man sitting across from her who, for his part, seemed lost with his his hands continuously running across his scalp as if trying to wring her emotion out of his hair. Ted swallowed hard and hated himself for not knowing what to do.  Stew just stared, unabashed at his rubbernecking.  Scott hesitated for a moment, and then got up from the booth and walked across the room.

The three men watched him go with utter shock on their faces.

Scott arrived at the same time as the waitress and waved away her protests as he started picking up the broken pieces and loading them onto the plastic tray she'd brought.  He joked with her as he loaded the shards and even though the three of them couldn't make out his words they watched her nervous laughter.  The man at the table busied himself digging in his wallet for cash, pretending to not even notice the two people kneeling on the floor next to him.  The woman, now looking up from her damp hair, had a look of disdain on her face and the scowl set into her jaw showed lines in her cheeks put there by an expression used too often.

"Well, I'll be damned," Ted said, awe in his voice.

Scott stood as the last of the shattered remains were collected and walked with the young waitress back to the counter.  Behind him the man stood and huffed an angry command for the woman to follow.  Greg stood as the man walked past him and hesitated on the verge of a really bad decision but Stew held him back, a careful hand grabbing the corner of his jacket and holding it firmly.  The man was ignorant of his rage and proceeded to the small counter where he paid the bill as the woman slowly collected her coat and followed, moving like a wilted flower.  The three of them watched the couple leave and with them left a weight that hung on each of them since failing to respond.

"What the hell is wrong with us?  Are we just too old and cynical now that we can't get up and help?" Ted asked aloud, anger in his voice.  "Are we too damned embittered to get off our asses and do something selfless?"

"I wouldn't rush too quickly to judge yourself, there," Stew warned and pointed towards their young fellow who was still standing with the waitress.  

Now that she was standing close by they could see her face- the arched eyebrows, the triangular chin, the long neck declining into cleavage visible through the deep v-neck of her black t-shirt.  Her nervous laughter had subsided into a lilting chuckle and her head tilt let them know the conversation was more than friendly.  Scott was animatedly telling her some story which conveniently involved him flashing  his best smile.  An exaggerated gesture brought his hand into contact with her shoulder first by accident and then purposefully with a quick apology.  He let it linger there and she did nothing to dissuade the touch.

"That's not good," Ted said, staring at the scene.

"You gotta forgive yourself, man," Stew was saying to Greg, worried eyes on the man who now sat dejected.

"Forgive myself?" he started, the rage boiling up again.

Stew gave him a steady gaze, like staring down an agitated child, and then softened as Greg let out a sigh.

"You know we all got demons, but that habit of yours is gonna lead you to into more," he said, a pat on Greg's back following.

Greg shrugged the gesture away but nodded, soothed for the moment.

"Hee, hee, hee- look what I got," Scott announced as he neared them, showing off the phone number he'd just obtained from the pretty girl who had retreated into the kitchen with a smile.

Ted made a quick motion and snatched the paper out of the young man's hands, leaving him balking.

"What the hell?"

"Nope, not a good idea," Ted said, jamming the paper into his pocket before Scott could make a grab for it.

"Are you freakin' kidding me?" Scott asked, indignant.

"Haven't you ever heard the expression 'don't shit where you eat'?" Stew asked, throwing cash on the table to serve as the tip.

"Yeah, so?" Scott asked as Ted made a shooing motion for him to move.

"So, it applies," Ted said as he slid himself over to stand.


"You're not in any shape to give that poor girl anything but grief, just leave it be," Stew said, taking him by the sleeve and leading him towards the door.

"But..." Scott protested, but it was a lifeless dissent.

"We all got our habits we gotta break, man," Greg said as he followed, exhaustion in his voice.  "Just let it go."


  1. Oooh. Some tough love for Scott, huh? Poor guy. :)

  2. I love your voice and dialogue...wonderful :)


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