choices

I sit down, trying to gather some local color. I brighten up the place (smoky blue sky).

Tulsa was taking orders from a white couple nearer the front door. I could tell there was some tension — a bit, but noticeable, at least to me. Peggy and Wanda played with their cell phones at the table nearest me, not engaged in conversation at the moment. I tried to glance at what they were looking at, Peggy at least, who had her back to me. Some site about jobs — they were looking for jobs in this town. They were tense. No: just more focused. The other white couple in the room: well, they were all just kind of normal.

I decided to manufacture a friend for Wanda and Peggy and have him sit at their table with them. Let’s go with Chet. Chet was dressed to the hilt for the holiday season, anticipating December 1st like it was his birthday or something. Wanda had known Chet since college. Peggy was Chet’s girlfriend for the moment, at least until he dumped her for Phyllis. But that was in the future — no more going forward into the future which is also the past. We are *here*. Chet walks up. Ah, another core — not me. I can stay seated; I can still listen in.

Wanda giggled in Peggy’s direction after he sat down. “Isn’t he so cute with his mask and all.” Of course I’m wearing a mask, thought Chet. There’s an f-ing pandemic going on. He had the urge to leave. He wasn’t being respected, like he was some kind of Christmas dupe instead of their friend. He decided then and there: he was going to start dating that girl Phyllis he’s had his eyes on as soon as possible, as soon as he gets out of here. He’ll give it 30 minutes. Peggy didn’t say anything back to Wanda’s little remark. She kept playing on her phone. She wished she’d brought a mask herself now. She didn’t want to get sick just before the holidays (!). Chet was thinking about the holidays, in contrast — all along. I’m going to celebrate it like it’s f-ing Halloween, Christmas and Easter rolled into one (!), he decided on Thanksgiving Day, watching Uncle Bert come down with it afterwards. Then Aunt Jermima. Then Cousin Lute. And with a new baby’s sex to be decided — they weren’t up for it! Uncle Bert never got back up. He was 82 and more susceptible than the rest, having married beyond his age. He went to the emergency room; said his cat bit him. Infection spread; virus weakened the immune system. Gone in 2 days. There was a wake but Chet didn’t go. Instead he went upstairs in his house and decided to wear Christmas garb for, I don’t know, until Arbor Day maybe. Yeah, he got the tree out as his mother demanded, but he got a lot more out of that closet. I can’t really say he snapped, because about a 1/3rd of our great country is bonkers now and at least he wears a mask in public places. Tulsa was uncomfortable with the white couple she was serving because they also weren’t wearing masks in a public place and it put pressure on the owner to say, “don’t wear masks,” while serving them; “makes them uncomfortable and put-off,” he decided. He’s gone over to the dark side, Tulsa thought. She has about 30 minutes on her shift. Won’t be coming back, she punctuates the post.

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