the three regulars
by The Dreamer
before i knew it, i had become a regular in this small, unassuming fast food outlet wedged between two other bigger brands, spared of the constant flow of crowds that made it look like the parted red sea if one looked from a birds-eye view.
i come so frequently and stay for so long, sniffing under my oversized coats and with bags so large under my eyes that they could refill my cups of milk tea, that one can assume me to be a parasite. tucked in my small corner against the brick wall and cosily roasted under the warm yellow glow of the restaurant, i plow through my assignments piece by piece. sometimes i run to the nearest toilet, literally running, because i’m so scared my items will get stolen in my brief period of absence, but so far it hasn’t happened. the insane amounts of caffeine pumping through my veins and the little adrenaline rushes from running are what get me through the day.
and sometimes, other things. like people-watching. there are two other regulars, in their respective territories, just like how i have claimed mine.
one with too many words, and one with a haunting lack of them.
the former has a quick tongue and a sharp voice, lashing out incoherently at the ghosts around her. sometimes i catch little snippets of her one-sided conversations with my limited knowledge of dialects, and the ones are harsh, like the way she gesticulates wildly, limbs flung in the air. customers are scared of her, and they go to great lengths to avoid her. when she gets too loud she gets unwelcome stares, and their gazes linger even as after they leave like the ghosts she tries to scare away, hovering over her with a powerful presence that serves to only amplify her voice and agitate her further. enclosed in a sphere of her own, she assumes the role of authoritarian dictators but without an audience. as her wails of agony bleed through the hum of the music plugged in my ears, i often ponder if this older lady’s heart was once too open, so open that eventually everything was robbed of her. is her voice so loud because she is empty, screams echoing and intensified in her hollowness? or was her mind too narrow, so narrow that nothing could enter, abut reality forced its way through? perhaps, it was both opposite factors clashing against each other, the pressure of hot and cold, expanding and contracting and expanding and contracting until finally it broke something inside of her. it broke her.
the latter is silent, her eyes distant and black like abysses. feet blackened with the weathering of days and slippers so worn that they barely hold together. she hobbles her way in, looking ready to crumble under the heavy weight of her bloated tummy and all the secrets and burdens she keeps inside of her. every day, she wears the same tunic and loose pants and that plaid scarf haphazardly wrapped around her head. customers scrunch their nose and turn away, going to great lengths to avoid her stench. i can see the way she curls into herself, the way she opens her mouth then closes it like a fish gasping for air, the way she uses the restaurant napkins to wipe her soiled skin. she sips at her free cup of hot water carefully, blinking at the empty seat in front of her, looking like she’s waiting despondently for a blind date that’s never going to arrive, waiting for someone to start a conversation so the accumulation of words inside of her can finally be free. but they remain imprisoned forever.
then there’s me. too much time spent in my booth conjuring stories for strangers and stories for myself, so many stories that enters my system through the straw constantly dangled between my teeth. i sometimes imagine bumping into my platonic crushes (often the forbidden ones) and imagine how different they would look, fringe down and clad in casual polos and jeans instead of expensive attires. and our eyes would meet. light up in surprise which slowly turns into delight. and they would slide into the empty chair in front of me, and we would talk. i would detail the conversations we would have, but that would take up too much words, and i have assignments to rush-
-so, this is it. for now.
(sometimes these mid-day hallucinations are so real that my heart rate increases, something that i can never really blame the caffeine for, and i fear if i am more similar than different from the two other regulars beside me)