Sixteen-year-old Wisconsin Farms waitress me wouldn’t have believed that I’d never see Rita again, but when I left the barn, now a Kwik Trip, that was the case. I knew her slouchy leather purse like I knew my own mom’s. I knew her lunch: fish sandwich with Thousand, a cigarette, sometimes simultaneously; I was in awe of her. Eye to eye we’d conspire, her bad breath whispering how we’d handle the day. She got me drinking coffee: mixed with cocoa, the Poor Man’s mocha. We’d fill sugars side-by-side, roll our eyes behind the boss’s back when she swung through the door to the kitchen.
What would you like? From sunrise, to, on a double shift, sunset, catching a small glint through the windows of the barn-shaped truck stop restaurant at the intersection of Highways 41 and 44. Country music all day and who I was somewhere between there and the miles I’d drive home to my parents’ kitchen table and our pets. Eggs over medium. Biscuits and gravy. Cherry cheesecake. Rita one night, upon a fresh load of silverware being dropped in front of us after we’d carefully rolled what we thought was the last, stuffing all the forks in her apron to take home.
We’re done. Let’s go.