Story & Artwork by Mark Johnson
He sat at his dark pleather booth as a chill blew through the diner, barely touching his food. He was sunken down, looking out the window and scrolling through a conversation of texts on his phone. From looking at him, you could tell there was something wrong. Something was missing it wasn’t like him not to touch the food. He loved cheeseburgers. Yet there he sat like the loneliest man in the world, wondering where it had all gone wrong.
It started from the moment he got up, feeling the change in the season running late for work and banging his foot on the end of his bed, cursing the day and forgetting his blazer. He proceeded only to get caught up in traffic and be even later. As the day progressed at lunch, looking for a pick me up, he got a hot espresso only to spill it on himself to which he still wore the stain which fervently would not wash out before a group meeting where it was him giving a brief update on the accounts he was working. He gave the talk looking like a bum without that blazer on hand.
Later on, that day, as if the day for him couldn’t have gotten any worse, Shelly, a woman he had taken on a few dates a stone cold fox self absorbed to the max from the same office, cornered him to let him know she was going back to Melvin and give it another try. As cold as the day was it only got colder, he wasn’t surprised it happened; he knew not to mess with her; she didn’t know what she wanted. Yet he asked her out in the back of his mind thinking if they got focused, he’d have something to flaunt in Melvin’s face. Now Melvin was the guy everyone loathed. The guy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, tall, good-looking, with no real sense of the world unless it revolved around him. So good ridden to that let her be Melvin’s problem they were a perfectly self absorbed match.
As the day wound down on another work week, and it was reaching the end of the day. Everyone was talking about their plans for the weekend. He was looking for some way to get himself out of this funk. He started scrolling through his contacts, looking for friends to hang out with and have a beer, “You loser” he thought to himself, when he came upon a text conversation that stopped him cold.
Sinking into the depths of his neurosis he needed something to lift his spirits and decided to treat himself to a meal, and it had to be something special. His favorite meal was a Cheeseburger and steak cut fries. He went to the best place in town with that in mind. This little joint that stacked the cheese on the patty as it finished grilling and the cheese would melt to perfection and become super gooey and in the places where the cheese would melt down the sides onto the grill, it would be a crunchy masterpiece.
His mouth watered as he thought about it on the way over. Only to drive up into the parking lot on the cool night to find the place closed for renovations. That was practically the final straw. A slap in the face. “Can this day fuckin’ end already!” he exclaimed. A transient man shopping in a dumpster nearby popped his head out and yelled at him to keep the racket down. Defeated even in the ability to cheer himself up and have to vent his frustrations, he got back in his car and drove around to partly clear his mind and look for another cheeseburger he could dine on.
Forever being drawn back to a set of back and forth text messages from a contact named Charity the Redhead. Finally, he decided on a standard diner that advertised a “fantastic” cheeseburger. He pulled into their parking lot and went inside. He’d expect it to be busier than it was, but it was practically empty. Weary from his catastrophe of a day, he decided to stay. He just wanted some reprieve a cheeseburger, steak fries, and a beer.
A waitress giving off strong mom vibes with a gruff voice met him. She showed him to a booth with a great view of the main street. She offered him a menu to which he refused commenting; he wanted the “fantastic” cheeseburger and make it a double that he saw advertised in the window. She seemed to know what he was talking about and then asked him what he wanted to drink? “Can I get a beer?” She nodded and gave a shortlist of what they had available. He made his selection slowly, and she left to place his order. A brief moment later, she came back with a bottle of some brand, but not what he asked for. “Sorry, we were out of everything else. Will this do?” she questioned him. Understanding this as the day he was living, he settled with the selection. He popped the top and took the first chilled sip, and disappointment could read all over his face.
In the process of a long day that had tested his mental capacity, he took a minute trying to to relax. He sat at the table, eyes closed, and began to breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. He was trying to meditate and clear out all the negative mojo accumulated from a day so off the mark nothing was going right. A thought his meditating mind focused on was hoping that cheeseburger would or could be up to the standards he was used to as it would help even out the heck of a day he was already having.
He took a look at the order of cooks on the line, wondering if he could decipher from their expressions how this cheeseburger was going to turn out. He continued to wait only to revert back to flipping through the text conversation that had been taking up brain space since leaving the office. As he looked up from his phone for a moment, he saw his waitress walking in his direction. She had a smile on her face and what looked like a cheeseburger and steak fries on a serving tray.
She placed the plate on the table in front of him. Visually appetizing, with a mouth watering aroma, but he wouldn’t say anything till he got a bite. He took a bite, and it wasn’t as bad as the beer, but it was in no way tremendous or the touch he needed to get out of this funk. He sat back, picking at the food on his plate till eventually, he decided it was time to call it a day. You can’t win them all, he thought. In a defeated manner he paid his check and walked out of the empty diner and into the brisk evening air. Looking up to the sky it looked like rain.
He got in his car and just drove around his town, watching couples on a date in the cool breezy night having fun. He drove as if he was searching for something when he pulled into an open lot just to sightsee. He watched the holiday lights, the cars driving by, and the people out on a Friday night. He thought to himself, life wasn’t treating him well that day. Looking at the coffee stain on his shirt, he sat on the bumper and hood of his Honda Civic wishing he had his blazer now to beat the chill and just watched the world go by.
If he were honest, the day would be ok if he just had someone to share the mess of a day living through it, and they’d let him know he was ok grounding him. He looked at his phone. The text conversation he had been going through all day with Charity, the redhead’s contact name, stayed in his conscious. A bone chilling breeze past through him. The look on his face now telling more of the story behind the texts. He had ghosted her. He eventually found the nerve in the moment to make the call. The phone rang a few times till there was a pickup on the other end. “Hello,” a sweet voice answered. “Hey Charity, this is Alex,” he replied, in a reserved manner.
“Oh, hey Alex, how have you been?”
“What are you up to?”
“I was just about to ask you; it’s just been a long day.”
In all honesty, she had come on all too strong, but he did know she had a thing for him, and when he gave her the opportunity, she was there at 2:15 am. She again brought up that she was highly into him, although she had to know the hour meant only one thing. So they got to it. It was a dangerous move on his part, knowing her core feelings this fueled his curiosity, yet his intense need for companionship even at that time pushed out any common sense.
He had never been the object of someone else’s desire as they fumbled around awkwardly in the twilight. He felt in some way obliged to make this moment magical something she’d never forget. Setting his Bluetooth device to his own playlist for getting it on they proceeded. Yet he could tell she knew he wasn’t into it as she was asking him if everything was ok every few moments. Soon frustrated with himself and the situation he put himself into, he found something that made her feel all tingly inside and hit that note till she climaxed spanking his bed like she owned it.
They then spent the next hour in near silence at either end of his bed till she could secure an Uber ride home. The next day the crazy began as she was already texting him messages of how she missed him and how “last night” was so amazing. These were the reasons he ghosted her, only to contemplate why each and every time he viewed her messages if it was the right thing. So now without any explanation why she never heard back from him in over three months, he was headed over to see her.
From what he could tell, she seemed “ok” with the setup, although he felt he was firmly in the driver’s seat. Now it seemed things were going his way for once in the whole day. On the drive over, he recounted moments from their previous engagement that tickled his fancy “a nice set of tits” he thought and he looked to create something real this time around, now more familiar with her anatomy.
Pulling up into her neighborhood did give him pause, but here he was, looking to turn a frown upside down. The night was young, and cooler than any night before making him again wish he had his blazer. He knocked on the door and sheepishly awaited her arrival. She opened the door coyly and let him in. The look in her eyes was of a self assuredness proving her ability to be valuable to him believing that he’d eventually get back around to her. And once she closed the door, they both aimed was to please, knowing second chances don’t come around as often as one may think. And at that moment the sky’s opened up and it began to rain.