Waffle House is quiet this time of evening. The sun has set. I’m on my way back home from Montgomery.
There are eighteen-wheelers in the abandoned parking lot next door. Most of the world is winding down for the night.
My waitress has a weathered face. At first glance, I’d guess she’s old. But she’s not old. Just weathered.
She asks what I want. I order three eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, toast.
“White or wheat?” she asks.
She reads my order to the cook. I never get tired of hearing them do that.
A kid is mopping the floor. He’s tall, skinny, tattoos on his neck. He looks like he just graduated.
“You mean he KICKED you OUT?” the kid asks the waitress.
“No,” she says. “I left."
"And I ain't going back to him. I’ll sleep in my car if I have to.”
The kid leans on his mop. He has a young face.
He says, “You could stay with me and my brother. I can sleep on
She smiles. Her teeth are stained, she has lines on her face, but she is handsome.
“That’s real sweet, E.J.,” she says. “But I can’t.”
“Well, you CAN'T sleep in your car.”
“I'll be fine.”
“C’mon,” he says. “We got Netflix and everything.”
My food’s ready. She hands me my plate and asks if I need anything. And because I’ve eaten enough Waffle House food to own stock in the corporation, I know exactly what I need.
“Ranch, please,” I say.
The kid goes on, “My stepdad used to cheat on my mom, too. She SHOULDA left him, but every time we’d leave,…