What Are We Doing at This Diner Before Work on a Random Wednesday Morning?
“What exactly are we doing here?” I ask the group, but nobody specific. I guess maybe I’m also asking myself — though I will say I eagerly accepted the invitation, even if it went against the morning ritual I hold so dear, which is basically to stay in bed for as long as I can before I have to shower and make a beeline of a commute to the job that takes up more of my waking hours than I care to quantify. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as things so often do. I’m not one to get a leisurely start to the day, because that would mean going to sleep earlier than I can and waking up earlier than I probably should, even though I’m usually up by six or so, tossing and turning in some sort of vague panic and trying to convince myself that staying in bed is still somewhat restful and beneficial.
“Well, that sounds awfully existential,” says Megan, my friend who works all the way downtown, as she butters some toast that I’m pretty sure has already been buttered. “Are you getting deep into your own thoughts again?”
“Sometimes we don’t like when that happens,” says Mike as he refills his coffee from the carafe the waitress has brought out, I guess because she sensed that’d be an easier move than coming around every five minutes to top off our cups. And I get it. We probably all look like we need copious amounts of caffeine. Especially Mike, who is unabashedly disheveled to the point that it’s pretty much clear he has not seen his home between the previous night and this diner meetup of friends who have gathered in the early-ish morning hours even though we all have jobs to get to, or at least pertinent things to do with our time that are not kicking off the day shooting the shit at a local diner that we have all frequented together or separately at different times in our lives.
“No, I don’t mean, like in general,” I say.
“For once,” says Mike. “I thought you were about to be on your Kierkegaard shit again, and it’s way too early for that.”
“It’s always too early for that,” Jared chimes in, taking his eyes from his cell phone for a split second before going back to scrolling and tapping.
“Thanks, Jared. Always great when you’re fully present like this. What I mean is, whose idea was this and why did we agree to it?”
“We need a little more tradition in this group, a little ritual,” says Megan. “Something to keep us together.”
“I thought that’s what the group chat was for,” says Jared.
“And I believe that’s where this idea all started, this Wednesday morning breakfast club or whatever the fuck we want to call ourselves if this thing sticks,” says Mike. “I don’t know a good name. I’m not the creative one here.”
“Well, I think you’re the one that initially proposed the whole thing,” I say.
“I was drunk,” says Mike. “And maybe a little lonely. Sue me.”
“You kept going on and on about how we don’t see one another often enough and we should make some time for that.”
“I regret that my idea was to do it at 8 in the morning at a diner that doesn’t serve booze, but does for some reason have lobster on the menu. Who orders lobster at a place like this? I want to meet whoever has the stones to pursue that kind of maneuver.”
“Me too, to be honest,” says Megan. “But here we are. This is a trial run. Maybe it has some staying power. It’s nice to be able to talk to you all.”
“Agreed,” I say, “But it doesn’t seem like we’re just leisurely enjoying ourselves.” I nod to Jared, who’s still typing away, and just when I think he hasn’t even registered what I have to say he fires back that I know damn well his launch is in three days, regulatory is behind schedule and his calendar is booked “to the gills.”
“I can’t rely on the trains at this point, so I’m going to have to take a taxi to the office that’s gonna cost more than our entire check, unless someone takes a leap and goes after the lobster,” he says.
“Does that mean you’re paying?” says Mike.
“Only if y’all Venmo me,” says Jared. “And, like, for real this time. I will hunt you down.”
“This isn’t how this was supposed to go,” says Megan. “We were supposed to come here, enjoy ourselves, catch up and ease our way into the day.” As she’s mid-sentence, her phone buzzes on the table and she picks it up, whispers, “Son of a bitch.”
“I guess it just goes to show that leisure time is at a minimum these days,” I say.
“Which is sad,” Jared says.
“Yep,” Megan says.
“How much will someone give me to try the lobster?” Mike says.
“I think that’s only part of the dinner menu,” I say.
“Well, I’m not coming back after 4PM, and it never hurts to ask,” he says.
“I’m not paying you shit,” says Megan.
“And the coffee’s not even that good,” says Jared. “So as your friend, I’d advise against going the lobster route.”
“I can’t wait to have you represent me in my first divorce,” says Mike.
“Anyway, I really have to go soon. Like, should be gone already,” says Jared. He looks around to try and find our waitress, ostensibly to motion for the check.
“I’ve gotta bounce too,” says Mike.
“Same,” I say.
“Fine,” says Megan. “I guess we all just have to accept that our lives don’t work like a sitcom and we can’t have a nice breakfast together.”
“Not during the week, anyway,” I say. “Just not all that feasible.”
“I feel like there’s something wrong with that,” says Megan.
“There most certainly is,” I say.
“Want to talk about it over brunch?” she asks. “Maybe this Saturday?”
“We’ll have to see, I guess,” says Jared.
“Yeah,” Mike says. “Let’s circle back in the group chat. But for the record, you guys are really stomping on my intermittent fasting regimen.”
Someday, we will regret not making more time to get together, I think — and will look back and feel bad that we let so much get in the way.
To be honest, I regret it already.