The Message by Rich Paschall
Roy walked into the restaurant just after noon, about the same time as almost every other Saturday for the past ten years. He picked up a newspaper from a rack near the door and came inside. The sign in front of the register said “Please wait to be seated.”
“Oh, you can sit anywhere, hon,” the blonde haired waitress advised. She was on duty most Saturdays but Roy did not know her name and she did not know his. Their faces were familiar to one another but they never introduced themselves.
The restaurant was equally the same size to each side of the register. Roy took the first booth to the right, as was his usual custom. He set his cell phone down on the table and grabbed for a menu. A bus boy appeared with a glass of water, set it down and hurried away. Roy turned over the coffee cup on the table, as if to invite it to be filled. Then he perused the menu which he knew well.
As he waited for the waitress to arrive his phone buzzed the alert that he had received a message. Roy did not look down. A moment later it buzzed again, but Roy continued to ignore the phone. He knew who was sending him something on Messenger, and he would read it near the end of the day, as usual.
The waitress came to booth 1, filled Roy’s coffee cup, and then set the pot on the table. “What’ll it be, hon?” she inquired in a tired voice. At that she grabbed an order pad from her apron and a pencil from her blonde teased hair.
Roy looked up and thought that her hair style must have been in fashion 30 or more years earlier. He guessed bright blue eye lids were in vogue then too.
“I’ll have scrambled eggs and sausage with hash browns and toast,” Roy announced. It was his usual Saturday fare at the Golden Prize Restaurant.
“Links or patties?” the seasoned waitress asked.
“Uh…links.” Roy thought he must have had sausage patties last time, so a change was in order. In truth, little ever changed in Roy’s life, except for one recent event, of course.
His concentration on pork sausage choices was interrupted by another buzzing on the phone. He glanced down to have his suspicions confirmed. He knew what the message would say. He would read it later.
Soon the bus boy arrived with a coffee pot in hand, but Roy’s cup was full and the young man scurried away. Roy sipped his coffee, read through the sports section of the paper, and did not look at his phone.
Across the room he spied a couple with three young children. The youngest was just a toddler who could not sit still. Roy stared at the group and wondered how a family of 5 could afford to eat at the “family restaurant” at those prices. “I could buy a week’s groceries for what that meal will cost,” Roy thought. It was a bit of an exaggeration, but not far off the mark.
“Here ya go, hon,” the waitress announced as she artfully slid the coffee cup over to set down the large plate of eggs, sausage and hash browns and the small plate of toast. “Anything else, dear?”
“Nope,” Roy said automatically. There was something else, but it was not on the menu at the Golden Prize. In fact it could not be bought anywhere so Roy tried to keep it off his mind. His phone sitting in plain view was a reminder of his situation, however.
When the meal was finished, the waitress arrived with coffee pot in hand. “More coffee, hon?”
“Just a little,” Roy stated. The waitress filled his cup, put the check face down on the table and walked away. Roy sat motionless for a while, took a sip of coffee and then grabbed the check. He calculated 15 percent of the total in his head, so he would leave the appropriate tip in cash. Then grabbed his phone off the table and headed to the register.
The blonde waitress was leaning on the counter as if she was waiting for Roy to arrive. He handed her the check and his credit card. She handed back the receipt to sign and Roy was soon on his way home.
When he got home, Roy plugged in his phone to be charged and successfully ignored it the rest of the day. When the clock had passed 9pm, Roy picked up the phone to find the battery at 100 percent. He sat at the kitchen table, opened Messenger and began to read. It was basically the same message he had received every day that month.
“Baby, I am sorry I had to go. Things were not good for me and I needed to go away. I want for us to be friends, but I just could not stay any longer. I need more freedom. I hope you will understand and forgive me. Please bb.”
Roy read the short message a few times. He did not understand, so how could he? Each night he read the message received that day, thought it over carefully, but he just did not understand. If he could not understand, how could he forgive?
Roy sent no responses for over a month. Then the messages stopped coming.