Only the lonely (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)
Know the way I feel tonight (ooh yay, yay, yay, yeah)
Only the lonely (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)
Know this feeling ain’t right (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)
–Roy Orbison “Only The Lonely”
The waitress at the Steak and BBQ joint had the eyes of a girl scout. They were fill with enough innocence to make a biker gang in Fresno call for a mass confession at the local church. She had the body of a Pilates instructor and wore a shade of nail polish that didn’t have a name or FDA approval yet. She walked like she was born on the red carpet.
Yeah, those girl scout eyes… It didn’t take a Nobel Prize winner, or a schlep like me to guess what merit badges she had earned during her nineteen years of outdoor activities. She kept fiddling with the apron strings that were tied in a perfect bow just above her perfect…backside. I think she was due to get off her shift in about seventy-five seconds. I looked around for a waiting boyfriend. Pretty young women like her always had a big, unshaven Palooka waiting for them. I didn’t see anyone, tattooed or otherwise, spinning a set of Chevy Pick-Up keys around a thick finger.
So, she was leaving alone. I glanced at the two cars in the employee parking area. Her wheels must be the ’63 Mustang convertible. The yellow bug light in the lot made her car look like it needed a paint job.
I was pretty good with a spray can…as good as they get.
“What are you staring at?” said my wife. “Are you going to get your food or not?”
I snapped out of my 8:00 pm daydream. I was standing in front of the salad bar. There was a small pile of white lettuce in my bowl. I took a spoonful of chick peas, shredded “cheese” and eight cherry tomatoes. I grabbed a stale roll and headed for our table. I wasn’t very hungry.
It had been that kind of day on the road. My wife and I seemed to be searching for excuses to argue. Maybe she thought I was playing Dwight Yokum too loud. If it wasn’t that, it was which flavor of gas to put into our tank or whose turn it was to go into the unisex restroom first to wipe the toilet seat dry.
Some men can’t do anything right when they use a public bathroom. I’d like to say I always lifted the seat, but I stopped doing that about fourteen years ago. What difference did it make? What difference did anything make?
Some road trip. We didn’t even have a final destination. We just needed to get away from the cold weather. We were heading for a beach…any beach, as long there was enough sand to put an orange blanket on and enough room to work out a leg cramp and take a nap. That’s right, any beach and plenty of warm weather. She wanted to show off her new polyester Wal-Mart bikini. Me? I had a red Speedo I pick up for 50 cents at a Salvation Army store just outside of Port Arthur, Texas in 1988. My gut had grown since then, so I was at a serious risk of being seen as a naked bather by a devout Baptist cop.
Another summons was something I really didn’t need.
I finished my salad and went to get a small bowl of peach Melba. I was careful to scrape the meringue off the top simply because it didn’t have the color of any meringue that I had ever seen.
“Watch the sweet crap,” said my wife. “I’m not giving you another dollar for a new swim suit, hear me?”
I was feeling the need to hit the boy’s room to see a man about a horse, when the words of my dear mother echoed in my memory bank.
“Son,” she said, “if you ever get a date, don’t excuse yourself to go to the bathroom ’cause the girl will leave you. Most woman hate losers.”
I often wondered why my mum would tell me that. I’ve had plenty of dates when I was younger and I went to the bathroom on a regular basis, as needed. My date was always waiting for me at the bar. She never left me…until I gave her the $75.00. I dunno. Maybe there’s a connection somewhere.
So, I dumped my tray into the can and walked back to the loo.
Even though it was always in the back of my head that such a thing could happen, it didn’t stop me from turning a vulgar shade of pale when I saw the table empty upon my return.
She’s in the ‘ladies’, I said to myself. That’s when I saw the waitress looking a bit funny at me and whispering something to the teenage dishwasher. I walked to the window. Our car was gone.
She did it. She left me. She left me stranded in Dillon, South Carolina. I looked at my watch and pretended I was waiting for her to make a quick drug store run to stock up on her magenta lip gloss.
I took a seat by the window. I was the only customer. A light in the “special events” room went off. A kitchen light went off. A minute later, the waitress, you remember, the girl scout, came up and said that it was closing time.
I stood out on a cement parking barrier. I looked up and down the highway for signs of our car. Four cars went by. Three of them were police cruisers and the fourth was an empty taxi. I felt weak in the bowel area. Neon lights were blinking off. Even the PowerBall sign went dark, but not before I saw the prize was $100,000,000 bucks. I fingered the cash in my pocket. I pulled out three twenty-dollar bills.
A light rain began to fall. I looked beyond the closed Taco Bell and spotted a VACANCY sign on a motel. It was the Hi-Ho Motel. I had seen it earlier when we were driving around looking for a gourmet meal. I quickly crossed the empty highway and approached the office. They advertised rooms for the week, day and even the hour.
I hoped they changed the sheets sometime in the last month or so.
I paid the desk manager the $16.00 for the room. I’m sure I picked up on his Calcutta accent. I clutched the key to Room 4 tightly in my sweaty palm.
A few minutes later, I was stretched out on a lumpy single bed inhaling mildew spores and after running up and down the dial, I tuned the black and white TV to a rerun of Bewitched. I pulled my jacket over my chest and several business cards fell out. I spread them on the sheet. I would need the services of one of these concerns before the end of tomorrow came…that I knew.
I slipped into a light slumber. An hour later, I woke with a start. The space beside me was empty. She was really gone. This wasn’t a bad dream. But, whatever it was gave me a powerful thirst. I locked the room and walked along the highway, passing strip malls and used car lots. Then I saw the light of heaven in front of me: BUD LITE. That wasn’t what I needed, but it was a start. I went in just as I heard a train whistle blow from somewhere behind the cement dealer.
As I slid onto a stool, the bartender came over. I blinked three times in disbelief. It was the waitress from the BBQ place!
“Hey there Mr. Blue,” she said. “High and dry, I see. What happened? Did she recognize a chiropractor from high school?”
“You’re a riot, Lucy,” I said. I waited two beats. “Besides you, what the special here tonight?”
“That would be my new invention. I just finished Mixology School last week.”
“What would that be,” I inquired, with breathy anticipation.
“It’s called Mindy’s Merit Badge. That’s me. I’m Mindy.”
“So very nice to meet you, Mindy,” I said. “Wanna go camping?”
[Please note: This post is 99% fiction. The only real thing that happened was eating at a salad bar. Don’t panic and don’t worry about us. We’re fine. Mariam did not leave me stranded in Dillon, SC. I’ve always been a fan of noir, hard-boiled writing styles ( i.e., Dashiell Hammett) so I though I’d have some fun trying my hand at it. Dillon is a fine place. If you did happen to buy into the reality of my story…and you want to send cash (small unmarked bills) to help me catch a Greyhound back to NYC, I can provide a mailing address. Meanwhile, watch for the really crazy Halloween blog in a day or so. Thank you, loyal readers…but please click “follow” on my blog page or “like” on the FB page. I need the numbers like a stand-up comic needs laughs. If you don’t click on something, I’m going to bring out “Fluffy” and lay a guilt trip on you!]