Lonely Hearts Club Valentine
You’d think that after coming here for years he would be on at least a nodding acquaintance with some of the regulars; but no, no one pays him any mind and I doubt if he’s about to become anybody’s buddy any time soon.
He comes in quietly around 6:15 or so and takes a seat in her station. You would think for a guy his size that you’d notice him more; but no, it’s almost like he materializes at the table. He quietly orders his dinner, never asking for anything special, usually drinks ice tea, eats slowly, pays with cash and leaves. There’s no evidence how he gets to or from our little restaurant haunt and his manners and tips are always… gentlemanly. No one at The Top Hat Diner knows his name or where he lives. He’s just some guy that comes in and doesn’t bother anyone; that’s good enough for everybody. When the staff refer to him at all it’s just to get his order and get him taken care of, they call him “Sergeant Pepper”
She works part time and sees him on her days there. She treats him with the respect deserving of a customer who knows what he wants, causes no waves and is respectful of her and the duties that she has to perform. He doesn’t waste her time with idle conversation and isn’t glued to the stupid television watching dumb sports like the rest of the guys who frequent the place or hang out at the bar; whoopin’ and hollerin’ when some fool catches a ball or knocks somebody down. Not at all like her husband (ex-husband now) does; did.
And, so he’s overweight, wears glasses and his hair is thin. So he has a silly mustache and doesn’t smile much; who is she to judge? He’s nice enough in his own way and who would she be to talk anyway; she’s no homecoming queen herself, right?
Sure, she tries to cover up her gray hair and wear smart saucy dresses like the other waitresses but, if truth be told, she’s past the knowing how. It took her a while before she understood what the other waitresses were talking about when they said to ‘let the girls out’ for bigger tips from men customers. Then Lucille, the server that had been there the longest, showed her how if you show just a wee bit of cleavage that men will give you more money. At first she was taken aback, but soon saw the truth about it when the other girls told her how much money they made by doing that. Not that she needed a lot of money; after all, she had gotten the house after the divorce and her two almost grown boys had gone to live with their father. She had taken her mother in and they lived quietly in the suburbs and had few expenses; however, she would like to feel attractive to somebody sometime, maybe even a little sexy. But, she had been out of that kind of circulation for so long, she kinda didn’t know how to… or even how to know if or when she was. She thinks she kinda knows how he feels. Alone.
Actually, Sergeant Pepper’s name is Gene and he lives just up the street from the diner and is, in fact, alone. He lives in the garage apartment of the house that his parents left him when they passed and he rents out the main house to cover just about all the bills that he is likely to incur. He works at the library in the reference department and pretty much keeps to himself. His apartment has all he needs for his solitary existence, bedroom, bath, kitchenette, and a sitting area for his reading. He takes most of his meals out and has an old one eyed tom cat named Mr. Whiskers. He learned at an early age that he was not good looking, strong, agile or charming. He was, he thought, from birth, clumsy, fat and unattractive to any but his mother. He was not invited to parties or outings and was not good at any sport. He lacked the ability to be glib or quick witted and couldn’t tell a joke to save his life. At an early age he resigned himself to go through life unaccompanied (except for Mr. Whiskers) and to die alone. He figured that if he didn’t expect much from life that he would never be disappointed. He liked the waitress that served him sometimes and was glad that she didn’t wear low blouses like some of the others; it embarrassed him when he looked up to request dinner and found himself staring into a woman’s cleavage. He had gathered that her name was Loretta.
The Top Hat, as well as other places is closed on holidays; and so, here we have Gene and Loretta who will, unless something out of their ordinary existence and relationship happens, spend the holidays alone except with their ordinary companions; and older parent and a one eyed cat named Mr. Whiskers. Nothing special will happen to these two seemingly ordinary people unless something out of the ordinary occurs to disrupt their ordinary lives.
It’s as if they’re shadow dwellers; the last people that you would think of inviting over or out; however Gene and Loretta have a lot to say, if someone would take the time to listen. Perhaps one day they’ll start by talking to eachother. They might go out for a walk, maybe they’ll like the same movies, the same flavor of ice cream, the smell of the fresh cut grass after the rain. Maybe, if you wish it for them, they’ll spend the holidays with eachother.