I am half-awake and in need of resurrection. Head crushing, by no means crucified, from scant sleep, I head to one of my Sunday breakfast haunts, seeing flocks of families acknowledging an altogether different notion of rebirth. Mine is more prosaic and can be executed the other 364 days of the year. One of the problems with being without religion is that there are no cues. There is no atheist church, but one finds community in other ways.
There are many nonoverlapping sights that catch my attention: The new waitress who presumably fits the bill of “two years’ experience” that was registered on the help wanted sign, now gone. I don’t know if she fudged her years, but I suspect she has. She is pleasant enough, but she is inexpert at replenishing coffee. I still tip her well. Her jeans slip down her waist, forming a sharp hyperbolic ellipse that reveals the beginnings of a paunch and the top portion of an oval tattoo close to vulva. Hyperbolic curve revealing hidden hyperbolic curve clipped by the denim demarcating line. With its wholesome-debauched dichotomy, it reminds me of the Beriln Wall. But this exhibitionism is commonplace in my neighborhood and it doesn’t faze me.
I can certainly empathize with the confused and bushy-haired young man who is being vetted by his girlfriend’s parents. He didn’t get the memo that it was Easter either. His blue bandanna holds back unruly shocks of brown hair which disappear behind his blue sweatshirt. The other three people at his table are dressed like the families, which is to say suited, and they have signaled this disparity by shifting their posteriors to the left of the booth, all bunched in solidarity against this man’s sartorial indiscretion. Shirtsleeves or dressing down simply aren’t options here and I wonder if someone is going to arrest me for wearing yesterday’s denim shirt or failing to shave or not remembering the miracle of the nailed man on the cross. I’m certainly not cross towards any of these believers.
The table that draws my attention, and I am curious and observant because I failed to bring a book, is a father with two children. The father is moribund, suffusing strawberry jam in a sad and solitary way. His son and daughter are happy, frequently leaving the table to run circles around an aquarium just across the tiles. Papa does not share their zeal, but he has spiffed up his son, who is also besuited and well-groomed. Papa is dressed in a crisp blue blazer and a burgundy shirt and a smart tie blending in like Cézanne. He is in his mid-forties, the remains of his hair closely cropped. The balding is now at an end for him. I wonder if I will look like him in a decade or so when my hair eventually goes. I am wondering if he has the kids because his ex-wife forgot to pick them up. I am wondering if he was burned by someone or whether he is just hungry or disguising his sadness by appearing here with his brood. Perhaps the diner permits him to escape or saves him the labor of cooking eggs, potatos and bacon in that proud male manner that I have employed for women who wake up with me on a Sunday morning. Perhaps he needs a woman to swing his skillet. His children do not notice his loneliness. The waitress may not have two years’ experience, but she is expert enough to pick up on social cues and leaves the man to find a quiet paternal bonding with his children.
The divorce can’t be recent. (Or is he a widower?) The children are too happy. And I really hope this man will display some kind of joy. Maybe he might smile, as I did, over the waitress’s oval tattoo. Or perhaps he considers himself too old for this puerile preening or he doesn’t want anyone to see his giddy dregs.
But it turns out that I am very wrong. For as the man walks in the distance to settle up, I see the slight upward curve of a smile. And I see him engage in minor flirtation with the waitress, channeling some young part that I had thought dead. I wonder if he has read my mind. As the pleasant din of early Marley delights the diners, the man begins dancing a twinkly two-step, one that he hasn’t employed since his days in the dance clubs. And I see now why the kids love him.
Twenty minutes after this man has disappeared, I pay my check. I be-bop as well, with decidedly more swings of the arms, in deference to this man’s giddy human spirit, wondering if anyone is watching me and hoping that my clumsy but pleasantly executed moves will inspire them to dance a demented jig for a day that is, as far as I’m concerned, too restrictive of the beatific human spirit.
© 2007, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.