Americana

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Sean Dietrich

By SEAN DIETRICH

They are holding hands. I like it when young couples hold hands. I don’t see many kids do this very often anymore.

They are sitting on the same side of the booth. I like it when they do that, too.

This is why I loved the bench seats in old cars and trucks. God bless the bench seat. It’s extinct now. But before automobiles lost these long seats, young men and women would sit close when driving. They would love up against each other.

If ever my mother spotted a truck window in traffic with two heads leaning close, she would remark, “Aw, look. That girl’s holding him up so he can drive. Ain’t that sweet?”

It sure is. For a boy, there is nothing sweeter than the feeling of driving a truck with a pretty head resting on your shoulder.

The couple in the booth is somewhat of a rarity. They are not holding cellphones, they aren’t texting. They are saying things in soft voices. And it’s great.

I came here this morning for breakfast, I brought a newspaper with me. But I can’t seem to read it. Not when I am people-watching in a classic American scene.

I flick open the newsprint. I watch the couple from the corner of my vision.

They talk to each other. She is your typical teenager—happy and rosy-cheeked. He is your basic high-school boy. Skinny, a little awkward, a touch of Norman Rockwell to him.

The waitress refills my coffee. I am grateful for hot joe this morning. I didn’t sleep well last night. The folks in the hotel room above me were having a jump rope competition that ran until the wee hours.

“Anything good in that paper?” the waitress asks, nodding to the front page.

“Not today.”

“Yeah, I can’t read the news anymore, it’s too depressing, makes me sad.”

She’s right. The newspaper is just one disaster after another placed into sentence form, with pie charts to explain it. Even the weather reports look bleak.

She goes on, “My grandfather used to say, ‘No news is good news.’”

My waitress has a smile that tells me she knows what she’s talking about. You can tell a lot about someone by how they smile.

“I got enough problems to deal with,” she goes on. “I don’t need more problems to read about.”

“What kinda problems you got?” I ask.

She laughs. “Mostly, my crazy family, you know how families are, they’re freakin’ nuts, know what I mean?”

My uncle once spent five days in his attic during the boiling Atlanta summer, assassinating invasive squirrels with a high-powered military rifle. Yes, I know.

The young couple is now leaning into each other. Foreheads pressed together. I like it when young people do that.

Would that all people could love so sincerely.

It’s too bad that I can’t see them better. I don’t want to be too nosy. I can see that they aren’t eating, they aren’t touching their coffees, either. They are only inhaling the morning together.

Two old men come through the door. The bell dings. They are hobbling on old legs. They could almost be twins. I wouldn’t be surprised if they still have bumper stickers that read, “I like Ike.”

They get a table in the corner. They order two hot mugs. They hardly speak to each other.

They are old men from Everytown, USA. They are here because of routine. Words aren’t important. The waitress refills their mugs and one old man flirts with her.

Just because he’s old doesn’t mean he’s doesn’t remember how to be charming.

She is good with him. She flirts back. I can see the years leave their faces. Something tells me she isn’t doing this for a tip, but because these are regulars. I’d put money on it. You can tell a lot about people by the way they flirt.

The young couple stands to leave. They pay their bill at the register. The young man buys Juicy Fruit chewing gum. I didn’t know they still sold Juicy Fruit.

He leaves cash on the table. They walk toward a white truck in the parking lot that looks like a vehicle half the country grew up in. They are still holding hands.

“More coffee?” says the waitress, looking at me.

But I’m too busy watching young love in a Ford, outside the window. And I am thinking that this world isn’t as bad as the news claims.

The waitress sees what I am looking at. She grins at the couple.

“Would you look at that?” she says. “She’s holding him up so he can drive. Ain’t that sweet?”

It sure is.

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