The bright chatter from nearby tables, the clanking of pans, and the sometimes crash of a plate swirled around me as I sank into a red-faux upholstered seat in the retro fifties diner.
The red and chrome jukebox in the corner playing, “Shar-reee, Shar-ar-ar-ree ba-aa-by. Sherry, baby” evoked my memories of sitting in this same seat and listening to this same song. I settled into the booth, my elbows on the table, as I breathed in the smells of sizzling bacon, eggs, and ham.
If I closed my eyes I would be home with my mother swaying in front of the stove to this very song. Her eyes bright and her lips curled into a smile as she flipped golden-brown pancakes onto a chipped china plate.
I’d hand it over to my greedy man, who would stuff cold butter between the pancakes and slather the tops with thick maple syrup. He would hum as he ate them.
One sniff and I was home.
A waitress swayed down aisle, tapping her feet to the beat of the music on the linoleum floor. A distinct chink and the music changed. The noise level surged and I drowned in it. I almost stood up and bolted from my seat, forgetting why I came here. There were too much noise and too many memories here for me.
The waitress in a ruffled apron was too young to read my panic. Her lip might have curled a bit at my torn jeans, too-large flannel shirt, and unbrushed dishwater hair.
“What are you ordering?” Her pen was posed over the order pad. The menu was next to my elbow. “Or should I come back?” Her voice was neutral as if she’d asked this question a hundred times that day.
“Give me a few,” I said after taking a deep breath. I hadn’t noticed until now that my hands were clamped onto the table and I was so, so cold. My knuckles went from white to light pink as I carefully relaxed my hands.
The waitress swayed to the next table. She asked the same questions of the small family sitting behind me.
My greedy man. I placed my phone on the metal table in front of me so that I looked busy. Then I closed my eyes and extended my awareness outward. The build-up of the energy of so many lives in this diner surged through me.
The images in my mind swirled and eddied until I could focus on one memory. It was of my greedy man when he pulled me into his arms and held me tightly at my mother’s funeral. I cried that day.
I sank into his memory once more, and smelled the fresh bread scent that seemed to come from him and only him. I needed no comfort food when he was here.
The noise, the smells, and the people faded from my awareness. I heard the deep rolling sounds of his voice, “Betty. Betty.”
I scrunched my eyes as tightly as I could. On the backs of my eyelids I saw his deep dark eyes, the same eyes that could see into my very essence. His brown silvered hair was longer than he used to wear it. I could smell him.
I opened my eyes hoping against hope that he would be sitting in front of me. Just one more time. The pain was as fresh as the day he left me, three years ago.
“Why?” I said aloud. My eyes were red and dry. The empty upholstered seat in front of me gave no answers.
He was gone. He would never come back.
He could never come back.