“A man and his wife meet for lunch in a diner on August 5th, 1970, in New York City. She’s pregnant and plans to spill the beans over lunch.”
Cathy sits at the Formica topped table in the dark road house cafe on South Santa Fe, the one next to the the railroad tracks. Nothing fancy about it. Working class joint. Stucco and neon, “Lucios.” Her hands circle the sweating, brown, plastic glass filled with iced tea. The lemon slice — split down the middle — perches on the edge. She absently watches the animated Coors sign over the bar and then she checks her watch, a birthday present from her mother. A simple bracelet of chrome holds the blue face; chrome blobs mark noon and six. With her index finger, she traces the maroon and pale blue boomerangs that make the pattern on the table top. “Boomerangs or rubber bands,” she wonders, “what are they supposed to be?”
A working man, Mexican, in his mid-forties comes in, arm and arm with his wife. It is Friday night. They head for the juke-box. Cathy hears the coins clink through the system; she hears it fire up, the record drops. “Tequila.” The couple shuffles a friendly two-step on the little wooden dance floor.
The door opens again, and the 5 o’clock summer light blasts through the cafe. Cathy turns to the door, squints against the sun. Just a guy. She doesn’t see that it’s Steve until he sits down across from her.
“Did you order?”
“No, not yet.”
“What are you going to have? Do you need a menu?”
“No, actually, I haven’t been feeling that good lately. Stomach kind of upset.”
The jukebox drops another record. “Superstition.” The Mexican man goes to the bar, “Dos cervezas,” he says. “Modelo.”
“Your stomach’s upset?”
“A little. Actually, I went to the…”
“We need to talk, Cathy. I mean really. It’s kind of serious.”
“What? Something wrong? Did I do something?”
“No, no. It’s not you. It’s me.”
“Steve, is this THE talk? I mean are we having THE talk, because if we are, just tell me.” Tears rise to her eyes.
“Oh honey, no, no. Don’t misunderstand. I love you.” Steve reaches for her hand. “It’s just that I want to quit my job. I hate it. Today was really the last straw.”
“You WHAT???? NOW????” Cathy’s voice amps up two registers; everyone looks at their table.
“Shhh. Jesus! Everyone’s staring. Stop. I’m not saying I’m going to quit. I’m just saying I’m THINKING about quitting.”
She curls her feet under her chair; an invisible retreat.
“What? But honey WHAT? You have a good job at that law firm downtown, right? I need to finish my education. I don’t want to spend my whole life loading rebar. I have a degree in chemistry for the love of god.”
“Are you ready to order?”
“Yeah. I’ll have two green chili burritos with a side of refried beans. What do you want, honey?”
“I don’t know. Just a quesadilla. My stomach…”
“Quesadilla for the lady.”
Another record drops. The middle-aged Mexican couple stands up to dance, arms around each others neck, “Besame, Besame Mucho.”
“What? I thought you were liberated and all that shit, right? So fucking liberate me!”
“Here you go. The plates are hot! Muy caliente! Would you like more iced tea?”
“Yeah, thank you.”
“Yeah, fine. Thanks. Cathy, now, what?”
“It’s kind of, kind of…”
“You said you’d work on your communication skills in your Transactional Analysis classes, but you’re not getting very far. What are you trying to say? You’re driving me crazy!”
“You DO you want a divorce don’t you, Steve. That’s what you’re saying. Just say it!”
“No. I don’t want a divorce. I want to go back to school, that’s all. I can’t stand this fucking loading rebar from fucking 7 in the morning until 7 at night. Where’s it getting me? Getting us?”
“Where do you want us to ‘get’ exactly?”
“I don’t know. I just know there’s more to life than this. Sure, it pays well and the benefits are good, but hell!”
Cathy’s face turns pale. She pushes her chair back suddenly and stands up.
“What are you doing? Where are you going?”
“I’m going to the ladies room, OK?” She reaches for her purse.
“You’re not running out on me.”
“What do you need your purse for?”
“I want to…”
He reaches across the table and pushes her hand down on the purse. “Baby, I…”
“Let go.” He drops her hand. She hurriedly reaches for her purse knocking the side-order of frijoles refritos to the floor.
Another record slides into place. The Mexican couple looks at each other, shrugs and sits down.