Meeting Effie at the Diner

Ern contemplates it.

"Sure. I'll take that refill."

Already his second cup of coffee and Effie's no where to be found. She probably hasn't left the nursing home yet.

Ern keeps glancing at his phone, the only thing besides his coffee mug and a single sheet of moist napkin that's on the table. He considers texting that he has arrived but instead takes a swig. It would've made sense announcing his arrival at the actual time of the arrival, but now it would be a lie. The message instead could be "I'm waiting here." but this feels petty to Ern.

There's no blame on Effie. Over the years she's picked up just how late Ern can be. Not just running few-minutes-behind late but shamelessly still at home while pretending to be rounding the final corner type of late. Most people didn't tolerate that, and such folk were not Ern's friends. It's more than reasonable to be unwilling, or even unable, to burn an extra hour because the other party lacks respect for schedules. Thus over time the folk Ern has developed longstanding relationships with were filtered by their relationship to time. His most common friend were those unchained by it. Folk who had nowhere to be. No thing they needed to do. People who could sit around all day in a living room, casually smoking bowls, eating chips, going out for quick cigarettes, and easing themselves into the pending festivities of night by cracking a pregame beer open as soon as it felt evening-y enough. This type of friend never minded when Ern showed up an hour or even half a day later than agreed upon. In fact they rarely made such agreements, instead opting for longstanding, ambiguously half-hearted agreements that "we should chill."

Effie was the opposite. Schedule compressed, and yet still flexible enough to make room for just in time reservations. Ern described her as experiencing more life 7PM on Monday than he experienced in two weeks. The amount of things Effie did, places she went, and people she met puzzled him because he couldn't make sense of how one person could do so many things, so Ern would think until the two hung out. Then he'd be left with no doubt. She was the type who could do it. Because she didn't do things half heartedly. It was either a hell yes or no thanks for her.

Today Ern made sure to show up early. He didn't drown himself into a sleuth of his usual non-doing activities like he normally would. Instead of scrolling Twitter trying to feel something while at the same time texting friends, he looked through some old messages he and Effie had exchanged. He took a walk and thought about their relationship. And then when he had some extra time before their scheduled time he talked with his mom at home until it was time to leave.

Ern knew it would feel silly to his other friends over at
, it even felt silly to himself, but he was proud that all he was thinking about that day was Effie. Not just her but what her in his life meant to him. While driving to the diner the smoothness of the steering wheel against Ern's palms made him think of how it felt kind of good doing one thing at a time. There was no music playing. It was just him and the sound of the V4 motor. Gliding his hands across the smooth wheel he thought of how he was going to tell all this to Effie.

When the phone vibrated it was so obviously something you couldn't miss that Ern felt dumb for all the attention he had been giving it. 

Omw :)

Great. I'm already here! lol

When she arrived she had a gift. 

"It's a pin. From one of my residents."

"Are they from Germany?"

"No. But they gave it to me and I know you love Germany."

The two got caught up on how life had been. At first a blanket statement of how life in general had been going well followed by a more scoped sharing of some intermediate plans that had been brewing for the past few months. And then finally some local level details of how their week was going. 

Ern didn't have much to offer. In college it was easy to talk about intermediate and long term things. All he had to say was that he got good grades that semester and that he couldn't wait to graduate. But now with that rodeo over he was at a lost of things to share. When he thought about the things in his weekly and daily life it felt like even more of a dry well. 

"Ern why don't you ever talk about yourself? I feel like we're always talking about me."

"There is something that I wanted to tell you." 

Ern thought about how he felt in the car feeling the smoothness of the steering wheel. That thought now felt inaccessible... not that he forgot the feeling but couldn't figure how to share with Effie as she sat across the table sipping her tea. 

"Mmm. On the car ride over here."

He paused. For long enough that Effie eventually encouraged him to continue with empowering sounds. 

"Mmmhmmm. Mmmhmm."

"Well I just. You know what? Almost everytime I leave to go somewhere I always have to get something playing on Spotify. And today I just didn't. And it felt kind of good. I don't know why I always feel like I'm in a rush."

"That makes sense."

"Anyways what that made me think of was all the times I've been late to our hangouts. I'm sorry about that."

Effie laughed. "Oh, Ern. You're all good. I just got used to that being an Ern thing."

"I'll try not to be late anymore."

"Well I'll appreciate that." 

Two large plates are delivered by the waitress. "Southwestern Omelet. And a Farmer's Hash. Anything else I can get you? No. Okay then enjoy!"

Flash Fiction Practice