A train car that was recycled into a diner. The town itself was like Sleepy Hollow; tired people nursing cold cups of Starbucks coffee while trudging around in winter boots, fighting to make their way through mounds of sludge left over from the winter snows. Miller’s Diner was like a world for the awake, as much as people loved to overlook it. The outside appearance of the rusting train car turned eatery was enough to make you want to run home and throw yourself at your mattress, but inside was a different story.
When he first walked into the diner late on a winter night to take shelter from a snowstorm, the small, narrow car had been empty. A young woman with copper hair was behind the faux marble counter, preparing a pot of coffee in a French Press, the steam curling over her oval face as she poured the dark brown liquid in a small, white mug.
“It’s really going out there isn’t it?” She directed the question at him, as he was the only other person who appeared to be in the building. He nodded, shuffling his feet on the worn red carpet that had almost lost its color, morphing into a dirty burgundy from all the shoes that used to walk on it before the place turned into a ghost town.
He chose a booth in the far corner, next to the window. The leather of the seat was cracking, the foam inside spilling out. Day glow lighting wrapped around the upper storage compartment, where people once used to place their suitcases and whatever else they were taking with them on the train to wherever they were going. They shined back at him in the grime covered window, blinding him and making his eyes automatically tired.
But he was wide awake.
“What can I get you?” He turned back to the woman, who was not holding a pen or pad because she didn’t need one.
“Coffee,” was his automatic response, as he was always exhausted anywhere he went. But tonight didn’t seem like the night that he would need the bitter, energy filling drink that he so often craved.
Almost reading his thoughts, the woman leaned over, and said, “I don’t think you need one, honey.”
He gulped, looking past her and tracing the silver lining of the edge of the bar. The dirty glass fridge in the far right corner held different types of cakes, and he licked his lips.
“Just a water’s fine.”
She nodded, retreating back to behind the counter. He resorted back to looking out the window, watching the large snowflakes pelt against the window. The roads were covered, the plows having not reached the streets yet. The apartments lining the sidewalks were dark, and the streetlights no longer lit up at night, because the city never bothered to replace the bulbs.
The glass was placed gently on the table by a manicured hand, and when taken away by his hand left a culaccino. He traced the circle of condensation with his eyes, the faux granite tabletop of the booth hypnotizing him. He took a sip from the glass without using a straw, as she didn’t give him one, and stripped the building down with his eyes. The random antiques and contraptions that he couldn’t even name sitting on the storage shelf caught his attention, and he wondered what it was like when they were used. Wooden carvings of animals, fruit. Old clocks, stopwatches, an old typewriter that he can picture falling right through the wood. An old dial phone. Hand blown vases and jars filled with fake flowers.
Paintings of old landscapes, copies of originals that were painted from the first people to set foot on American soil, were littering the walls where there weren’t windows, and a chalkboard that had the days specials written in yellow was sitting right next to the bathroom doors.
“Can I have a cup of New York Clam Chowder, ma’am?”
The woman disappeared into the swing door leading into the kitchen. He turned back to the window for the third time.