By Allie Shyer
All kinds of people stop by diners.
Diners have laminated menus with greasy finger marks on them. Diners will serve you a Greek omelet at 2 AM. Diners will have a waitress with long red fingernails that go “clack clack” on the antiquated cash register. The smell of diners is fake maple syrup and must. This smell is not appetizing but it is trustworthy. Nothing bad can happen to you at a diner; or if something bad has already happened, a diner is a good place to go to recover from that event. This is a proven fact (within the context of my narrow experience.)
Diners will have vinyl booths, vinyl booths are a very good thing to be a teenager inside. If you are a teenager in an overstuffed vinyl booth at a diner, then chances are you are on a family road trip staring longingly out the window with one elbow crooked on the table next to a half eaten club sandwich. Diners will serve club sandwiches skewered by toothpicks that are garnished with festive tinsel. Diners will all use the same unappealingly watery coleslaw recipe but also deliver a pickle with a satisfying heft and crunch. It is important that a diner is dirty and clean simultaneously. A sticky immaculately washed kind of grime that comes from daily use. It covers the smooth oatmeal colored speckled mugs and the white paper placemats with scalloped edges. It covers the people in a diner too; chances are if you are sitting in a diner currently, it is covering you.
Every food at a diner will remind you of the first time you ever ate that food. This deep-rooted memory will fill you with hope upon taking your first bite, but will soon be replaced by a growing amorphous sense of dread as your meal continues. There is a particular kind of ennui that can only exist within diners, dare I say it is American ennui. It feels specifically mundane, almost charged in its ordinariness. My memories of diners are all amalgamated into one memory of one diner. It exists outside time because whenever I go to a diner I seem to be in that same memory again.
Diners are my home.
Diners are menacingly safe, they will stay put and follow you around. Diners orbit slowly around the human life cycle, their patrons age and die away while others have babies that then teethe on the one high chair at that same diner. Diners are a safe slow spot in my heart that is also very sad. It is the part that is perhaps the most muted, under the brighter and more articulated parts of my personality.