I couldn’t resist. It had been too long without seeing him. Too many nights of pacing, wondering. And so there I was again, sitting in our booth, waiting, hoping.
Tempted by the twinkling neon as it beckoned and blinked, Always Open…Always Open…
The Starlight Deluxe…because it had been the only thing open that first night when we’d both been looking and longing, leaving the theater alone together at the same time, bumping into one another, “Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse me.” Dancing around one another trying to get around one another on the sidewalk. Walking in the same direction, laughing at that. Something then, exchanged in a look, recognized, known. “Do you want to get a cup of coffee? Tea? A milkshake? Pie?”
Laughing, anything other than a drink because a drink said something else, too much for just yet but, yes…
I never go to the movies this late at night alone, only, I’d really wanted to see that film and it was the last night.
“So, you like monster movies too?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call Renkatta Orishi’s films just monster movies. They’re classic horror with a distinctive neo-noir vibe.”
“Yeah, highly stylized. And the action sequences are so precise, so technically perfect.”
“The Grey Alabaster Sartainians was my favorite. I was so excited to see that one because what were Sartainians? They kept it such a secret. What were they going to turn out to be and then you think…”
“…Aliens, or ghosts, or subterraneans. That one was a great love story though.” He said.
“A romance.” I said.
We touched hands reaching for the ketchup at the same time, french fries, deluxe burgers.
It was ridiculous.
It was three a.m. before we knew it. It was six a.m. after that, in a room…not far.
It was an agonizing week of waiting to see if he would show up at the double feature, even though he’d called me at work in between like he said that he would. You never know, do you? I learned that. To take it as it happens and if it’s good, hope that it never ends. But you don’t know if they’ll call or call again or keep showing up, or if it will stay good. I used to wonder if that was why people got married, to end the wondering. If it was good for long enough then people would put all of their stuff in the same place together and at least you could be relatively certain that they’d come back for something, a favorite shirt, the ticket stubs they’d kept hidden away in an envelope from every concert they’d ever been too, something. I’m not being serious about that part, about love only being coming back for material possessions. But I’ve wondered if some of it isn’t to end the wondering, to have that settled, and I guess I never realized how much that I don’t like uncertainty. Or perhaps how afraid I was of being hurt again. Though if you have that figured out, who you want to keep going back to, well then you’ve found your person, and people do come back for things, the intangible pieces of themselves that they share and invest.
He was there, again and again.
So was I.
And now…I was there again, sitting in our booth, watching the rain, having let go of the life that I’d known before him, and seemingly detached from any particular future because how could I plan?
He had asked me to keep something for him. By then I trusted him and had stopped wondering whether or not he would show up, or call. Two weeks later I was screaming and crying and laughing at myself at the same time. I’d fallen for it. I’d believed it all and let myself fall in love and, “Would you keep this package for me? You can’t ever open it. You have to promise me.”
I promised. When I didn’t hear from him I kept my promise because I didn’t want to be like him. I still didn’t want to be like him after a month, or after two, or now after five months without one word from him.
Now it was midnight at the Starlight Deluxe and I couldn’t think about anything other than him. I was pretty sure that I was being followed, a plain clothes detective, I think. I laughed at that too. Then I began to drift along with it, my days and nights slipping away from me like the water sliding down the window, because that was easier than giving up on the hope that he had really loved me. That he really still did. Or that I’d see him at least once more, if only because he had to come back for that package.
The Starlight Deluxe is a fictional diner, invented by me, that is the feature setting in several pieces of my fiction. It’s always midnight at the Starlight Deluxe…