It is one o’clock at Ritter’s Diner on the first Friday night in September and one of the cooks, a man in his fifties, is sitting at the counter, facing the doors, sipping water.
“It’s coming,” he says.
The place is mostly empty. There is an older guy at the counter reading a newspaper while a younger waitress describes her course load for the fall and some groups of two or three doting the booths. It is hot and humid enough outside to fog the windows.
“It’s coming,” the cook says. “It always comes.”
An older waitress sipping from a Big Gulp passes the cook and he tells her that the reason she doesn’t feel well so often is because she drinks too much caffeine. She needs to drink water, he says. She shrugs. He asks how much caffeine she drinks every day. She holds up the giant cup with a smile, and says, “I’ve had three full ones of these already this shift.”
The cook shakes his head and swivels back to the doors.
“It’s been slow so far, but it’s coming,” he tells her. She heads into the kitchen.
The doors open and a group of loud twentysomethings enter. The cook watches them cross the entire length of the diner and join a group already in the backroom. They are theatre people and they’ve just finished a performance. They’ve come to celebrate.
The cook looks down at his feet. “Once the bars close…” he says.
Sometime around half past, the doors open again and two young women in short dresses enter. They’re locked at the elbows and laughing. The cook pats the counter once. “There it is,” he says. Then he gets up and pushes through the swinging doors into the kitchen.