Maybe you had to have been there,

at the Royal Diner, in Bridgewater, New Jersey

with laughing family,

frozen to the bone after watching ice hockey.

It was a clean diner, run by a Greek family,

clean as in immaculate,

a far cry from the hockey arena and arcade,

laser tag and party palace,

the sweat of small children and teens

overpowering the cheap pizza for sale.

Our waiter had the best accent,

coupled with a slight sense of humour

and impeccable hospitality.

He took pride in his job,

handing extra napkins and water,

with a flourish and a wedge of lemon,

unasked for but appreciated.

Maybe you had to have been there,

to feel the laughter, mirrored

in the odd decor.

I watched a waitress, wearing

LOVEMORE sweat pants and a tired ponytail,

her two young daughters playing with dolls

who danced and gossiped across the counter,

their backstage a stack of large cookies

individually wrapped, each as big as a face,

but with chocolate chips.

She slowly scratched off silver dust,

as if millions of dollars were at stake.

I don't know your life,

but I have never even bought a ticket.

I found myself hoping she would win

something, her back bent,

her slight build, yet strong arms with

muscles evident underneath tattoos,

signals of a fighter.

Maybe you had to have been there,

or my concern was because I had been.