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Ten O’Clock

Ten o’clock p.m.—a few miles outside Mobile, Alabama, off the interstate, is a Waffle House. It’s the same as any Waffle House. A tiny building, AC set to sixty-below freezing, empty dining room, an off-duty deputy eating a patty melt.

My waitress, whose name-tag read, Keesha, fumbled with her notepad. “How do you want your hamburger, sir?”

I had to think about that. All my life, Waffle-House burgers have only come one way. I don’t recall ever having had a say in the matter.

“Regular,” I said.

“Eighth pounder or quarter?”

“Quarter.”

“Bun or Texas toast?”

“Bun.”

“Did you want cheese on that?”

“I did.”

“Onions?”

“As many as you can pile on without getting fired.”

When Keesha brought me coffee, no sooner had she set it down, than the mug toppled. Coffee spilled all over the booth. I leapt up with the fine-tuned reflexes of a walrus. No real harm was done, God love her.

Even so, the incident upset her. She apologized again and again, until her eyes turned red and wet. Then, without saying a word, she darted into the back room.

The cook delivered my food and said, “You’ll have to excuse her, she’s had a rough one. We’ve only had five customers all day. And last night her car broke down, AND, her boyfriend left her. She’s a wreck.”

I don’t blame her.

Then, Keesha shot out of the back office, her face in her hands. She clocked out, removed her apron, untucked her shirt, exited the building, and collapsed on the curb. God love her.

And in that moment, the large-framed deputy stood up. He followed Keesha outside and sat down beside her. The man put his gargantuan arm around her and rocked back and forth.

“God love her,” said the cook watching through the window.

Yeah.

Truth be told, I don’t blame her for crying. This world is flat-out mean sometimes. Selfish people get greedier, money gets tighter, your car’s clutch burns up, your boyfriend chooses a girl with tighter jeans, work is slow, you herniate a disc, your AC goes out, and one fool knocks a mug of coffee from your hands.

And just when things couldn’t get any worse; some redheaded idiot writes a damn story about you, and has the audacity to ask a bunch of total strangers to take a moment out of their busy days.

And say a little prayer for Keesha.

God love her.

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