Photo Source: Meredith Kleiber
“Cold one today, ain’t it, Dolly!”
Buddy came in at the same time with the same greeting every day, except in the summer, when he changed it to “Hot one today, ain’t it, Dolly!” He always got the same table, back to the wall, facing the door, and settled in, paper spread out in front of him like the morning. Dolly always teased Buddy to take off his coat and stay a while, but Buddy always kept it on, even during the hottest summer days. “Don’t want to catch cold!” he would laugh and wink as he settled into the booth.
Dolly always had a hot cup and a paper ready. She mostly let him be, coming over just often enough to pour a top-off and ask, “So what do you know today?” But she always came over to Buddy’s table during her fifteen-minute break, and they exchanged small talk. Or sometimes they just sat there. Buddy wasn’t much for talking. Even still, he loved having a pretty lady to sit with.
It was the same routine daily, predictable as the clock on the wall. They never saw each other outside the coffee shop, and never on weekends. But they knew each other, just the same.
Dolly knew that Buddy was out of work, that he got lost in the numbers after twenty years when they brought the big machines in on the line. He was too ashamed to tell his wife, but Dolly knew that.
And Buddy knew every time Dolly’s husband went off and hit her or stepped off on her. He didn’t like that, not one bit. But her secret was as shameful as his, so there wasn’t anything they could do.
They both hurt, but for fifteen minutes now and then, they both hurt together and a little less.
They probably both noticed the sadness just below the surface. Maybe that’s what drew Buddy into the coffee shop in the first place, and what let him feel he could linger there a little bit. And maybe that’s why Dolly felt like she could talk a little extra to Buddy, even though he never said much. They were both married, mostly happily. But they hadn’t found their kindred spirits, or didn’t realize that they hadn’t. Maybe that’s what it was…
It wasn’t much, what they had. Just an hour or so daily at a coffee shop, customer and waitress. But for Buddy and Dolly, it was the best part of their days of silent hurt. And that was more than enough to let a little light through and carry a little bit of hope into the next day.