To read this story, you’ll have to put on music.
You’ll have to put on a best of the ‘60s and ‘70s rotation. Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” and that Pink Floyd song that’s just the woman wailing.
It has to be punctuated with the hisses and pops of patties sizzling on the grill, of the whir of an industrial coffee pot, of the gabbings and chatters of a room full of diners and of the mild moans of a waitress who had been on shift for 32 hours, she said.
The smell hitting your nose right now should be hot Lipton’s tea with a metal container of extra hot water on the side, “Because that’s just a sip” the other waitress said.
The taste in your mouth should be saliva in anticipation of impending chicken noodle soup.
To read this story, it should be late at night on a Sunday after a thunderstorm. The now-cooled air has allowed a few braver, damper souls out of the air-conditioned prisons the weekend’s heatwave locked them in.
They now can wander darkened streets along Welles Park, heads ducked toward glowing screens, occasionally flicking a finger to read the next status or nab an elusive Pokémon.
To read this story you should dip into an all-night diner across from the park, one where the 32-hour waitress is let just refill the water while the one who brought you extra hot water runs the grill, takes the orders and checks the clock for the third scheduled waitress.
She’s too busy for weird blogger questions about the message on the bottom of the menu, “In loving memory of our founder Mr. A.D.”
“The owner’s father, I guess,” she said, turning her head to check to see if her 32-hour friend leaning on the counter is OK.
The third waitress later comes, apologizing about missed calls. They’re glad to see her.
They’re all plump older white women. They all smile and are kind, even the 32-hour worker.
The story’s better when surrounded by the chatters of diners, two young male fashionistos, the type of 20-somes with perfect hair and the ultimate of trend. They laugh and joke and the plump woman with the soup asks if they’re the ones who usually sit in the corner.
“We’re here all the time,” one said, pleased to be spotted as a regular.
Over in the corner, an old man with skin turned brown-red from a life working in the sun shuffles back and forth outside for smokes and in for sitting and coffee. He wears shorts and a dingy hoodie. His legs are caked with something white and chalky, a medicinal poultice or just a day working with cement.
You can read this story without the poultice man or fashionistos. You can read this story without the 32-hour waitress and the gabs from the tables I didn’t even mention.
You can, are able to, are allowed to read this story without the steam of steeping tea in your nose, the anticipation of soup on your tongue or the tones of Jimi Hendrix whispering and pulsing from some unseen speaker.
But why would you want to?