This Must Be the Place
He set the coffee cup down on the table in front of me with a clink, sloshing brown liquid over the rim into the saucer beneath. I caught a glimpse of blue ink snaking up the inside of his wrist as he pulled his hand away to rest back on his bluejean-clad hip.
I fought to ignore the sound of my two children squabbling over what kind of waffle to order. Instead of intervening, like I usually would, I turned away, and my eyes were drawn up to his face to see if he was frowning at me, judging me for the ill table manners of my spawn.
But I only found the calm half-smile of a twenty-something young man who was clearly not a morning person, yet making the best of his early shift at the diner on Magazine Street. I studied his red-rimmed eyes and dark-brown stubble. Together with his lightly mussed bed-head and semi-wrinkled cotton shirt, these indicators of a late night adventure kicked my imagination into overdrive.
As I sipped my coffee, my mind wandered off to all the places he could have been until the wee hours. An obnoxious bar in the French Quarter drinking Hurricanes? I doubt it. A smoky dive in the Warehouse District playing cards? Maybe. Or possibly, he was in a local rock band, playing late into the night, until they ran out of songs or there were no more girls.
I’ll go with that one.
He was handsome, in a scruffy way, and I imagine that if I’d encountered him twenty years ago, I likely would have been intrigued.
Talking Heads blared in the background, and he tapped his black Converse sneaker not impatiently as he waited for us to place our breakfast order.
His eyes moved around the table and finally settled on mine. I quickly spat out my order, feeling self-conscious and out-of-date. Not wanting to keep him waiting, I barked at the rest of my unruly bunch to hurry up and decide.
I wasn’t sure if he was irritated or just felt sorry for me to be tied down to a place in life such as this. Loading the crew up on breakfast before hitting the interstate in our SUV to return home. We were, no doubt, more than his transient, single, fancy-free self could comprehend.
I know, I wanted to say. I used to be like you once. I swear.
Sometimes I don’t know who I am anymore.
As he rounded the corner back to the kitchen to put in our order, he hummed and sang along softly to the music, with almost a bounce in his step.
Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb, burn with a weak heart
So I guess I must be having fun
He looked up from the cash register , smiled and gave me a wink that promised he believed I was doing the best I could.