The rain at first came in fits and starts, a few small droplets plunking against the plate glass window. As she was in no particular hurry to leave, Lucy sat in the booth and watched them; she liked how they stretched out long as soon as they hit the glass, but then ran out of juice the same instant. The waitress had just topped off her coffee for the third time and now Lucy cupped both her hands around the mug. The heavy stoneware was so pleasantly thick, so full of dings: the term is patina, she said aloud to the atmosphere in front of her. The stories one coffee mug could tell, she imagined, of mustachioed men and lipsticked ladies, people with perfect teeth and toothless wonders, enlightened folk and ignorant ones—this single, silent mug had seen all of them. And now it warmed the hands of one young woman, between chapters and simply trying to figure out what came next. Lucy queued up a Talking Heads song in her own head: We’re on the road to nowhere…There’s a city in my mind, come along and take that ride, chirped David Byrne in his unmistakable tenor.
Now the treetops across the highway were bending and twisting in the wind the way they do when a storm front arrives, and soon the rain came down in torrents, pounding against the diner’s windows; a pair of patrons came exploding through the door holding newspapers over their heads, relieved to be inside. Lucy watched puddles gather in the parking lot, and before long the water began to rip down the shoulder on either side of the road, a pair of pop-up canals barreling over cracked asphalt pavement, transforming it almost to a thing of beauty, but for the litter strewn about. Why was flowing water so mesmerizing and restorative to the soul, she wondered.
“Can I git ya anything else, darlin?” Here was the waitress again, placing Lucy’s check face-down on the table. Lucy remembered she’d left her car windows cracked.
“Dammit!” The kind woman was some taken aback, but then realized Lucy’s dilemma.
“You need-ya a towel? I got a dry towel—here, darlin’ take this ‘un.” She thrust a clean, dry bar mop into Lucy’s hand. “Go on out and take care a that; then you come on back and we’ll settle up.”
As contemplative as Lucy had been, she found herself agitated right out of her reverie by a situation that served only to remind her she was not in control: she detested feeling out of control. Snapping the bar mop out of the woman’s hand, Lucy bolted outside into the wind and rain, which pelted her hard in the face and made her shiver.