Nothing sounds better after a night of pub crawling than a big ass breakfast. It had been an evening of celebration – my friend Blair was still alive after 26 years. More gentlemen had shown up for the gathering than ladies, which was always the case (and very much welcomed). Yours truly sauntered into McCoy’s where a mouthwatering dinner menu awaited. 2 tables had been set aside for the birthday girl, and I sat down on the quiet awkward people side. It included Tessa the Austrian babe, Ben the bitchin’ bass player, Nick the unpredictable Asian (only part Asian, mind you), and myself. The bewitching Blair was wandering back and forth between our table and the other one, which was filled with her outgoing, tattooed bookstore coworkers. Melissa the bored schoolteacher sat on the buttcrack of our two tables, acting as the bridge.
While I scarfed up my tortellini, Nick discussed his hateful mother and Ben daydreamed about metal concerts and other metal matters. Tessa studied her phone and chimed in from time to time about worldly things. There were plenty of uncomfortable silences. “Boy, that macaroni and cheese sure looks good,” I finally said to Melissa, attempting to stir up some conversation. It stopped after a brief discourse on bacon.
Most of the party left after dinner but a few of us went on to drink ourselves silly at various bars in Westport. Booze-filled conversation filled the evening – about work-related matters, aliens, movies, and music. Our last stop was Buzzard Beach, an old hole filled with grunge kids, hipsters, and an overall interesting medley of cool people. I spent a good portion of the evening conversing with a one-legged swordsman until I realized Blair and Tessa were nowhere to be seen. I checked my phone and alas, they had left to get breakfast. I went to join them but by the time I got to IHOP, my two friends had already left because the alcohol had caught up with Blair’s stomach. But I wanted some freaking breakfast, so I stopped at home, grabbed Ryan, and we walked across the street to Waffle House, a 24-hour greasy goodness joint.
The clock read 3:10 AM and we were the only customers, as a rotund elderly gentleman had just got up to leave. There was “Grumps” the cook, a young lady server wearing way too much glitter on her face, and a young guy server who seemed a little bit off. He came over with menus for us. We’ll call him “Mick” – so Mick had short brown hair, plenty of pimples, a goofy grin smeared on his face and an overall skinny body frame. He was probably in his early twenties.
“Yeah, how are you guys tonight?” He asked.
“Fine,” I answered.
“Good,” Ryan chimed in.
“How ‘bout some coffee?”
“Yes,” we said in unison. He nodded in approval and then smiled to himself like there was some inside joke. He bounced away…yes literally he was bobbing up and down on purpose like he had on invisible headphones , listening to a dance track. He came back with the coffee a minute later. “Cream?” We both nodded. “Know what you’d like to order yet?”
“Eh, I think I need more time,” I said. Mick took around 20 single creamers out of his pocket and began stacking them in a huge tower in front of us. He was very pleased with his creation. Ryan and I looked at each other out of the corners of our eyes. We knew the strangeness would only intensify from here. “How do you like this here cream tower?” he asked.
“It’s…a real work of art,” I replied.
Ryan agreed. “Cool,” he said.
“What’s good?” I asked. Mick began to describe in detail about some sort of toasted cheese sandwich with ham, bacon, sausage, egg, more cheese, and extra grease. I decided to get a lighter sandwich but Ryan ordered what was suggested. Mick put our orders in to Grumps who, with a frown, began cracking eggs and frying up bacon.
Mick bobbed back over to our table, again with the huge goofy grin. He stopped, smiled, and stared at us expectantly. After a few seconds of awkward silence, Ryan asked what was up. This guy was ready to talk. “Well I quit Waffle House a while back ‘cause I got a job somewhere else – a good job. But then I knocked up this Amish girl and now she has a restraining order against me. So I’m back at freaking Waffle House.”
This time I grinned. Ryan scratched his head. “Whoa…” he said.
“That’s really somethin’,” I added. “Sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah, well…” Mick shrugged, and smiled real wide. He then bounced a couple times in place and turned around, walking over to the other corner of the diner. He caught our eyes and said some things, like he was talking to us, but we couldn’t hear him. He smiled and looked at us as if we were supposed to answer across the diner. I pretended to understand and nodded at him to be polite. We sipped our coffee quietly as Grumps continued his crabby cooking and glitter girl fiddled with the cash register.
All of a sudden the front door burst open and a large, round white guy came in, followed by a teeny tiny black guy. “I’M FUCKIN’ STARVED, I want waffle house, bitch!!!!” the white guy yelled. “AND I GOTTA TAKE A PISS!” The little black guy smiled sweetly, trotting after him. You could hear them hollering in the bathroom. Mick shook his head and laughed. He came over to us with our food which was mediocre…but at least we had free entertainment while we dined.
The 2 guys came back out – they were a gay couple of course, and had been out at the Power & Light district, drinking up a storm. Loud white guy looked at us and boomed, “We ain’t those crazy carnival people that come in to Waffle House, we’re just fucking drunk!” Little black guy smiled shyly and buried his face in the menu. “Hey Mick! What’s up you little son-of-a-bitch?! Gimme some waffles ‘n pancakes, stat! What are you having?” he asked tiny black man.
“Um, I want the chocolate-chip –“
“NO, you’re having the strawberry-ass double waffle.” Tiny black guy nodded, accepting the order.
Ryan and I finished in a hurry before loud white guy turned his attention to us. We paid and made our exit without anyone fussing. The last thing I saw was glitter girl winking at me and the sad brown eyes of tiny black man as he peeped at us from behind his menu. I hoped that someday he would get the chocolate chip whatever it was that he wanted. I also hoped that Mick would eventually escape Waffle House prison but deep down inside, I knew it wouldn’t let him go. It would be Waffle House forever.