Sad People Sit Here
She was a pretty girl, all in red, except for her jeans which were still blue, and so I said, “I think you’re the kind of girl I could marry.” She didn’t say anything, but turned and looked out the window, so I figured she hadn’t heard me and I said it louder, “I THINK YOU’RE REALLY THE KIND OF GIRL I COULD MARRY.”
She looked at me then and said, “That’s not the sort of thing you should say to someone you just met.” Which was true, that we had just met, and were actually still meeting as I had just picked her up and we were perhaps only a block or two away from her friend’s house, which is what she told me it was when I dropped her back off and asked, “Is this your house?”
But she was wrong in saying that it’s not the kind thing you say to someone you just met, because that is exactly the kind thing my grandfather said to my grandmother when they had just met. And later he would say it to me as I sat on the floor, and him in the chair, and grandmother on the couch, reading the T.V. Guide. And grandfather would say, “She was the prettiest girl, all dressed in pink, and it was our first date, and I just knew then that she was the one.” And grandmother would smile, still flipping the pages, And I would smile, and they would smile, and then I would smile and say it to her, a pretty girl all dressed in red.
And she looked at me and said, “Will you please drive me back?” Because of a headache. She said it was a bad headache and she gets them sometimes.
And I stood to watch her go into the house, her friend’s house, pretty red coat against a grey wood house, the night falling and the rain falling; and got back in my car.
And drove for a while.
And I’m not sure where I thought I should go, but it was Friday, and I was hungry, so I stopped at a diner. A small diner, with a red stripe painted horizontal around its side and nine cars parked in rows. So I thought I might as well go in, as I was hungry and it was Friday, and I wished the girl in red could have been there with me because I think she would have liked it and I think people would have looked at her and then looked at me and then looked at us and that would have been nice. But maybe if it is nice, I could tell her about it and she would want to come next week when her head wasn’t hurting so much.
There was a sign on the door, hanging crooked from a wire, and it said, “Sad people only” in large black letters. I paused for a second, as I wasn’t particularly sad, but then I thought that I was particularly hungry, and so I went in. There were nine people sitting at nine different tables, all facing the windows, which were all facing out, and a waitress was standing at the counter in a checkered apron, pouring sugar into a shaker.
I had a seat at a table by myself and the waitress brought me over a cup of hot chocolate with heavy cream on top and sat it down in front of me saying, “There, that will make you feel better.” I smiled at her and hoped she knew that waffles also made me feel better, but decided to wait and see how I liked the chocolate first.
A woman in the corner started talking. It was possible that she had already been talking, but I noticed it now as she was saying, “I wish I had gone to California with him when he left. He asked me to come with him and I told him that I wasn’t ready to commit, and then he left.” I could tell that this woman was sad by her hair. It was dyed auburn but with grey roots forming through the top in a sharp, distinct line. Everyone else sat at their tables and cried, “That is really sad.”
A man started speaking. He said, “I haven’t done what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to be something important, but I’m not. And now I think I never will be.” We all nodded and sipped our hot chocolates, because that also was sad.
A young girl, in the back corner, dressed all in blue spoke now, “I have been studying and studying and I can’t seem to pass my GRE’s.” The room got really quiet. She fidgeted uncomfortably and the waitress came over and took her hot chocolate away. She got up, hiding herself with her purse like a girl who is uncomfortable with space, and left.
I sipped my hot chocolate and let the foam sit on my lip, glad, like everyone else that she had left.
A man talked next. He had a thick brown beard and grey hairs starting to form at his ears. He was crying softly, which made us all more comfortable, and said that his wife had died, thirteen years ago, but it was still like it was yesterday, and he’s losing his house, and he can’t work and he doesn’t know what he’ll do.
And we all whispered, “That’s so sad,” And I ordered some waffles, because the chocolate was good, and waited at my booth for the next person to talk.
And I started to see that they were waiting for me. So I took one more drink and turned to them and I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything, just opened my mouth, and then closed it, and then opened it again and said, “I won’t be back here next week, because I’ll probably have a date.”
And the room nodded and sighed. And the waitress came and refilled my cup.
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Portland Fiction Project
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