69. Inez Keyhoe, Diner Waitress

“You want toast with that?”

The guy with the freckles is one of her regulars. “He shows up two or three times a week. Always orders the same thing: two eggs over easy, sausages, toast, and coffee. Seems nice. Don’t know a thing about him. He’s gone by eight.” The older couple is another regular. And like the guy with freckles, they always order the same thing; they each get two short stacks of blueberry pancakes and coffee. They split an orange juice and use it to wash down their pills. Inez gives each of her regulars a big smile and always asks how they are. She always gets a perfunctory, “Fine.” And a “How are you?” No one really cares. Or pays much attention to Inez. Could any of them recognize her on the street? Probably not. And that’s just fine with Inez. She’s got a kid and an elderly mother to care for. Right after the diner stops serving breakfast, she’s off to her other job, a cashier at a pet store. By the time she’s home at the end of an eight-hour shift in the pet store, had something to eat, and spent time with her child and her mother, she’s had a long day. As Inez might tell you, if you were able to have a real conversation with her, it’s not a life filled with fun but she’s resigned to it. She is able to care for her little family, put food on the table, and pay the bills. She never really expected much more than that. Most of the girls she knew in school ended the same way. On weeknights. once the kid is in bed, the dishes and other chores are done, and her mother is dozing in a large easy chair with the TV flickering, Inez usually has a shower and then pretty much collapses in bed. But not tonight. A guy she served that morning showed a little more than the usual lack of interest in her. He ordered the Spanish omelet which almost no one ever does. And he said, “I’ve been watching you work. You are really good at your job. I have a business. You might be good at it. Give me a call if you’re interested.” His card had his name and a phone number. That was it. He ate his omelet, said thank you, and left a nice tip. Inez isn’t sure whether she will call but just that little exchange sent her mind reeling. All the things that she never let herself think about came swirling into her thoughts. Her mind went from one “what if” to another. Before she knew it, the alarm went off – time to get up and get over to the diner again to serve breakfast.

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