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FEATURED STORY / SPRING 2014 ISSUE
It was late and the Arizona diner was a ghost town. The leather of the bar stools and booth seats were torn and bled yellowed stuffing every time they accommodated the weight of a local citizen. An ancient waitress read from a worn paperback behind the counter. Two young men sat in the booth farthest from the door; one sipped a cup of coffee, the other ate a hamburger.
“I don’t even know anymore... Cynthia’s been pushing for counseling, but...”
Angèl sighed. His younthful face was lined with fatigue and anxiousness, and his shoulders drooped. He stared off into the space surrounding Damien’s hamburger as he stirred his lukewarm coffee with a dirty spoon. Damien picked up his hamburger, finished it in a one large bite, leaned back into the booth seat, and belched.
“Sounds like you need a vacation, amigo. I heard New England is nice this time of year. Vamos, Angèl.”
“Like I have the money, Damien. Stop mocking me.”
Damien laughed a scratchy, ‘60s-comedy-record laugh. But today, Angèl would not have it. Angèl glared at his friend. Damien had a knack for being irritating when tough times fell on their lives.
“Qué es te pasa, Damien? You’ve been struggling to get by for years. Your family went back to México. How can you be so... relaxed? Don’t you want something more out of life?”
Damien considered his friend’s words, and replied softly. “As a matter of fact, I do want something more.” He motioned for the waitress to bring him another hamburger. “Extra ketchup, por favor,” he called after her. Angèl shook his head and threw himself back into the booth seat. He decided against ordering another coffee when he saw his hands shaking.
Damien gave him a hard look. “I suppose my family is happy back home. That is what matters to me.” Angèl looked up, and saw Damien slowly breathe out his youth and shed his smiling façade.
The truth looked back at Angèl, wearing a stolen smile.
“Damien, I didn’t mean to...”
“Nah, hombre, don’t worry about it. You worry about too many things; I should not be one of those things,” he said, chuckling. The waitress brought over a fresh hamburger and set a bottle of ketchup beside the plate. She smiled and nodded at Damien and Angèl, and returned to the counter in the diner.
“Here,” Damien said. “You need to taste this; they are the best hamburgers I have ever had.”
Angèl smiled up at his weather-beaten comrade and accepted the hamburger. He took a bite. It was delicious.