(Last week: Chartan and Brazil came down from a mountain trail, hungry—they stop at a diner where they meet Gina, a waitress.)
Chartan stood in the parking lot sandwiched between a beat-up Ford pickup and the Chevy. He’d told Brazil he’d left something in the car but, in truth, he needed to be away from the confines of a small table and a man with problems that outweighed his own.
With his head down, he became lost in thought: Freedom is such a fleeting thing. In a few minutes Brazil will come looking for me and my time will be over. I will have to respond, give a reason why I’m here. I want to be away from it all– Elisa, Brazil and this coffee shop. I want to responsible for only myself. This notion of helping Elisa was foolhardy as was this trip. I need to be alone to regain control. Or, does any of this matter?
He looked up at the worried face of Brazil.
“Are you okay?”
“No,” said Chartan.
“Well, neither am I.”
“Hey, boys—your food’s on the table.”
It was Gina. Chartan thought she had the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen.
Without any more words, the two men followed Gina back into the coffee shop. Chartan stared at her shape—she was making it easy to forget his turmoil. For the next few seconds he entertained the fantasy of living with Gina in a log cabin surrounded by giant pine trees. They would do simple things. His demons would fade away in their shared bliss.
He sat down and clutched the dried syrup on the edge of the table.
“Here, wash your hands—I’ll clean that,” said Gina, handing Chartan a wet cloth.
Yes, it wouldn’t get any more complex than this.
After Gina left the table, Brazil smiled. “You’re a goner, Chartan—she’s got you.”
“I think so. But, hey, you just said you weren’t okay. What’s up?”
“I look at you and I see a life that’s passed by me. I guess I’m feeling sorry for myself—I’m not young anymore.”
“I’m not that young, but I am confused,” replied Chartan.
“Aren’t you boys gonna eat?” asked Gina with a pot of coffee.
“We were getting deep,” said Brazil.
“Can you sit with us? asked Chartan.
“For a few,” said Gina, taking the empty chair.
She stayed long enough to agree to meet Chartan in the parking lot after her shift was over in an hour.
The hour passed quickly. Brazil said he’d look around town for half-an-hour while Chartan talked to Gina.
When Gina came out of the restaurant, she almost shouted at Chartan. “What are you running from?”
He stared into her eyes as if he had psychic powers.
Gina stopped a foot from him. “My question is one you have to answer truthfully before I can be truthful with you.”
“I’ll admit that I am unsure of who I am. But I am not scared. I am not running.”
“You’re getting angry.”
He looked down at her and she looked up at him.
“Okay, Gina. I’ll strip my ego bare. Until last week I taught life restoration classes at an adult education center. I like to help people who’ve given up on life. But I’ve struggled with my abilities to provide insights to others. I also drive a limo. I live in a tiny apartment in Sacramento. And I don’t have much money. And I’m not running from any of this.”
They kissed but not for long—a guy in the beat up pick-up honked his horn.
(Continued next Sunday)