“Realizing” by Sadie Fletcher

The diner never changes.

Ms. Curry always tells you the early bird gets the worm. That's what she tells you at six oh four in the morning every day- four minutes after you've flipped the sign on the door so it reads, "Open". Four minutes gives her enough time to walk from her small apartment above the flower shop two stores down. Four minutes after opening time, she's always there, on the same exact wooden stool facing the small kitchen in which you work. The only woman over the age of fifty that orders orange juice with a bendy straw every day. At six thirty-two, after she's ran her cup of juice dry, after she pats your cheek gently and tells you to keep up the hard work, and after she's tucked a crisp dollar bill into the pocket of your apron, she finally leaves.

Every day.

Then comes Mr. Calderon, who doesn't say much at all. At seven o'clock sharp, he takes his seat in the booth at the back corner, his big fancy shoes clomping as he walks across the black and white tiled floor, and talks through his sleek silver phone in a hushed tone. Every day he gulps down two mugs of plain black coffee, and you have to wonder how it doesn't burn his throat. And just like that, he's up and gone, no more than ten minutes since he came in.

Every day.

Noon is about the time when Mrs. Gray and her mother come in for lunch. The old lady who sits at the small table by the window is even older than Ms. Curry, with frail little bones, a big metal oxygen tank, and a tuft of white hair on top of her wrinkled head. Mrs. Gray had once told you that she spent all her time caring for her mother, since her father passed away more that twenty years ago. They both order a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk. They take their time, but it always ends up taking them longer to get to and from their seat than it does to actually eat their food.

Every day.

The local high school gets out at two thirty, so that's when the school girls come. They all come in, wearing high ponytails and chewing pink bubble gum. You can't help but admire them and their beautiful laughs and contagious smiles. You don't even get mad when they don't buy anything, and leave after flirting with the garbage boy.

Every day.

And once the sun has melted over the horizon and there is no light to illuminate the lavender sky except for the rusty old street lamp on the corner of the block, Ms. Byrd comes in. If you were to ask a passing stranger, they wouldn’t be able to describe her. With her mousy brown hair and dark circles under her eyes, she’s far from beautiful. And every night, when you bring her a cold cup of ice water, you have to notice her bloodshot eyes and the tear stains on her cheeks. You have to wonder what she lost.

Every day.

And even when your shift is over, and you’re walking home, you see that not much changes here, either. The same old man, begging for money in front of the old hardware shop. The same two boys, tossing the worn out baseball around on the abandoned baseball field, squinting to see it in the darkness. You see the same family, sitting around the table and giving thanks in front of their food. The same woman stumbling out of the nightclub, barely able to hold onto her phone.

Every day.

And every day you ought to wonder where you fit in in all of this madness. Are you the kind, like Ms. Curry and her crisp dollar bill? Are you the mysterious, like Mr. Calderon and his whispered conversations? Are you the loving, like Mrs. Gray is with her frail old mother? Are you the child, the one who does not yet fit into the big world of ours, as those school girls are? Are you the beggar, the player, the family... The crazy?

It’s important to realize that no person can be labeled with just one word. You know that every person has a back-story, no matter how well they disguise it. In the end, everyone is kind, mysterious, loving, naïve, helpless, fun, thankful. We’re even a little crazy. What you see in a person is never who they actually are, and the person who recognizes this is the person who has really figured it out.

© Sadie Fletcher, Falcon Buffs Middle School, Littleton, CO


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