By Jeremy Styron
Vapors rose, stinging his palm as he grasped the lip of the coffee mug with his left hand and slowly spun it in fourth-turn increments. His right hand hovered over a notepad. She, with her small hands and sharp, blue eyes hung there in his mind, weightless, her straight, dark hair falling over a black trench coat. White flakes trickled down from the ether and rested in contrast on her shoulders.
“My dear Blair,” he scribbled in a type that would have been readable only to himself.
He shook his head, while the sound of ripped and crumpled paper crackled through Mama Green’s, a tiny, grease spot, family-owned diner on the corner of Main and Pine in that suburban desert of Glennville.
A fresh sheet soon revealed these words: “Red wine and sleeping pills help me get back to your arms.” He dried the steam from his hand and cupped his head there, remembering the rest of the Radiohead song that dragged him through many scattershot nights.
He choked his pen and continued: “Stop sending letters. Letters always get …”
“Can I top that off for you, sir?” interrupted a waitress as she was making the rounds with a full pot of the sobering, gut-warming goo. He glanced up at her name tag, giving him pause.
“Sure, thank you, Angel,” he said. “I’m ready for the check too, just whenever you get a second. No hurry.”
“Yes, sir. Right back.”
He continued, searching his memory for something … anything. He lifted his pen, turned the pad sideways, and in quick movements, pressed down on the yellow surface, his hand tremoring across the page. “All that’s sacred comes from youth,” he wrote perpendicularly to the computer-rendered, blue lines of the pad as memories returned of a girl dancing in front of him on a cold, snow-lit day.
Trevor took a sip of the sugarless, creamless drink. He always imagined it had been mixed by equal parts water, coffee grounds, and cigarette ash, for it tasted more like a product of Marlboro Country than of Brazil or Colombia. He scanned the restaurant from the upper tip of his round, wire frames. The wood-paneled walls led up to a water-damaged ceiling and down to a cold, white-tiled floor. Scents of breakfast hung in the air, as the lunchtime crowd numbered about 20, mostly hobbled seniors and construction workers seeking the breakfast they missed five hours ago. Four 50-something men were seated on benches at the bar, watching two cooks crank out meals as if on some Detroit assembly line.
“Tammy, you’re up!” Trevor heard from one of them, as he put the once full plate of pattied sausage, fried eggs, and hash browns to the side.
Despite the decayed environs, Trevor felt as if this was the warm center to which he could daily come. This was home. Not his wall-papered, carpeted, dirty-clothes strewn apartment on the north side of town, but in this place. It was here, at the center, where he could listen to songs that made him fall away from this seemingly mindless glob of planets, stars, and people without distraction. He didn’t need the help of an MP3 player; the songs in full would come roaring whenever he summoned them from the ever-present tape deck of his soul.
“Here’s your check, sir,” Angel told him.
As he grabbed his brown, corduroy jacket and scooted out of the booth, Ravel’s “Bolero” pushed through his cell phone speaker into the restaurant.
Pausing a few seconds to listen to the soaring march, Trevor finally answered. The voice on the other end said, “Hey, man. We need you to cover something. We’ve got a bus wreck on Sprucewood near the mall. Apparently, a class of middle schoolers were on their way back from a field trip to the courthouse, and a TrailBlazer pulled out in front of them. The driver of the SUV was intoxicated, according to the report.”
“Alright, I’ve got the camera in the car, so I’ll head over there,” Trevor replied.
“Sounds good,” answered Stephen Lambert, managing editor of The Glenville Post.
It was a chilling, overcast, and windless Monday afternoon.