I see her every day. Well, almost every day. What a bitch. I understand working in the public sector isn't the easiest or most pleasant job, but you'd think she could at least fake it for a paycheck. She's an efficient waitress but her people skills could use some work. Her smile is bitter and facetious. Her posture and stride tell that she'd rather be somewhere else and I'm sure her tips reflect this. She hates life, she hates everyone around her. She especially hates me.
But she is the most important person in my life right now. Of course, she doesn't know this.
"Hey! The toilet is for customers only. I've told you this a million times. Are you deaf or just stupid?"
I smile at her, tip my hat, and walk right back out into the cold. I'll come back in a half-hour, or whenever I manage to panhandle enough money for a cup of coffee or a pastry.
"You again. I'll call the cops. I've done it before."
I'm aware of this. They're always professional about their work when they come to escort me back outside. I see the guilt in their faces when they walk me across the street and leave me standing before walking back to their cruiser. I smile and nod and zip up my grimy sweater before stepping out the door.
I don't go to the cafe today. I'm sad today and I don't want my sour mood to rub off on her. Instead I stand outside, looking through the window. I see her pass by occasionally, waiting on customers. More than once she looks over at the corner table I'm usually holding down this time of day. I pull my hood up and glance at the clock on the sign at the bank next door. She gets off work in two hours. I'll sit nearby and watch as a stranger in a rusted-out Caprice Classic picks her up on the curb. A boyfriend maybe, or a friend. She never looks happy to see him. They never exchange words when she gets in the car. Regardless, they're together, but they're a million miles apart. They'll never be as close as she and I.
I sit in the corner with a bowl of stale corn chips the cook sneaked to me. I'm starving, but I don't eat. I just watch her. She huffs and taps her foot while an elderly man struggles to read the menu. She argues with a co-worker, but I can't hear what is said. Her face is frozen in a scowl. She hates her life, this much is clear. She knows damn well I sleep in the alley behind the cafe, and still she thinks she has it worse than me. That's fine. What she doesn't know is that my primary reason for living is to see her. Her fire and vigour, however steeped in misanthropy they may be, give me strength. Feeling hatred and venom for one's fellow man is still feeling something, in a world where shutting down and going through the motions is such a tempting option. I smile briefly as she shoots me a look. I leave the cafe.
She's in a good mood today. She doesn't even notice when I slip into the restroom, or if she does she doesn't put up a stink like usual. I suck down water straight from the tap and debate how I'm going to pull off what I need to get done today. There's a napkin and a stubby old pencil swiped from the counter in my pocket. I scrawl on the napkin, holding it taut against the stained and graffiti-laden wall as I write. When I finish I step back out into the stagnant air of the cafe. The smell of sweat, smoke, and coffee greet me. I sit at the table I'd previously occupied, tuck the napkin under the coffee cup, and leave.
There is no easy way to say I'm sorry. I left because I couldn't cope. I know this is no excuse. And I know it's no consolation now, but I blame myself for everything. I'm sure it means nothing coming from me, especially as I am now, but hang in there. I won't lie and say it gets better, but at the very least, if you have a chance to make a difference, take it. Don't make the same mistakes I did. I love you.
She's wiping down a table when I duck outside. Her eyes are focused on something out the window less than four feet away, but she's a million miles away. I stand on the corner and look back at her through the window. A city bus is approaching, driving way too fast for the slick conditions of the street. I step into the street and stop when I hear the sound of air brakes rasping and tires struggling for grip on icy pavement. The cold flat steel of the bumper is bearing down on me when I look over. She looks up, and for the first time her eyes meet mine.
Based on the song 'The Waitress' by Atmosphere