A creative writing assignment that was based of a photo of two men on a street corner.
“Ready to order?”
“Just water, thanks.”
She smiled and laid a laminated menu in front of me. I watched the waitress’ perky blond ponytail disappear through the green double doors. Looking around, I could see that the diner had really aged since I’d been there. The booth seats contained multiple cracks, and the white paint on the walls had turned more of a beige-y tan color. When was the last time I was here? Six, seven years ago? My eyes drifted to the dusty jukebox in the corner behind my booth. My mother’s laughter and the sound of clinking quarters filled my ears.
The ring of the front door opening brought me back to reality. Nope, it wasn’t him. Just an old couple and their grandchildren. Fiddling the salt and pepper shaker, I thought about how I would feel seeing him again. I wasn’t nervous, but anxious. When the door chimed again, I saw him.
He looked around for a bit, then spotted me and walked over to the corner booth. I gave him a small smile, and he acknowledged my presence with a grunt. Removing his brown leather jacket, he studied the menu. Once again, the waitress walked over to our table, pulled out a yellow notepad, and looked at my father.
“Something to drink, sir?”
“Yeah, black coffee and the bacon breakfast sandwich.”
He turned to me.
“You’re not going to order anything to eat?
I shook my head.
“Nah, I’m going to a brunch with Elisa after this.”
“Yeah, my girlfriend. She goes to Juilliard too. Violinist.”
“How long have you been seeing her?”
He looked at me in surprise.
“How come you didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t think you were interested.”
I swirled my straw in the glass of ice water. We sat there for a couple minutes in silence as Ponytail brought the food. I watched him as he took a sip of his coffee and pursed his lips. I couldn’t stand the silence anymore.
“He’s good. You should call your brother more.”
“I’ve just been so busy with school.”
I reached into the back pocket of my jeans and pulled out a crumpled ticket.
“The Juilliard Orchestra is playing tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall. I have an extra ticket.”
He picked up the ticket, his face expressionless. I kept on trying.
“I got the cello solo. We’ve been rehearsing for this concert for three months.”
My voice came out firmly as I looked straight in his stormy grey eyes.
He shook his head and said, “Why are you doing this?”
“What do you mean?”
“You belong in Brooklyn with your brother-this music thing is ridiculous, and you know it. I wanted my two sons to run the family business together! You know Jonah could use your help in the shop, yet you chose to run off to Manhattan to –to do what? Rebel against me? Grow up, Joseph.”
“I am not doing this because of you.”
It felt like déjà vu. Once again, we were sitting in the kitchen on the day that I got my acceptance letter from Juilliard the spring of my senior year. I still remember him slamming his hands on the table and yelling at me-waving the letter in front of my face. I would not go through the same thing again.
Angrily, I grabbed my jacket and slid out of the booth. Storming angrily out of the diner, I walked at a brisk pace down the Manhattan sidewalk.
I kept on walking. Then, I felt a hand grabbing my arm, turning me around. My father stood in front of me. His ears and nose were bright red from the nipping November air. He pointed at my chest.
“Joseph-you cannot be this selfish! You’re not gonna get anywhere with this music crap.”
“Dad! I do not want to fix cars for the rest of my life! I do not want to stay in that dingy little town house and watch life pass me! I respect Jonah and what he chose to do, but we’re different people! Juilliard was the best thing that ever happened to me, and for once in my life, I actually feel like I belong somewhere!”
“It’s what your mother would’ve wanted.”
That was the last straw. My blood felt like it was boiling. My hands were in fists, and my whole body was shaking. Suddenly, I was afraid of my own anger and what it could drive me to do.
“Don’t talk to me about Mom! She was the only person who supported me through this. She was the one who scraped up enough money to buy me my cello! She was the only one who came to my concerts! You were always at the shop, leaving her to take care of everything!”
He looked like I had just slapped him in the face. People were stopping and staring at us now. He sighed, and I saw his gaunt cheekbones and wrinkles along the corners of his mouth. Three years had really aged him, but he was still the same stubborn man I knew for 22 years. I lowered my voice.
“Look, I don’t even care anymore. Come, or don’t come. It doesn’t even matter. Tell Jonah I said hi.”
I turned away from him and walked down the weary grey pavement without looking back, leaving my father, the ticket, and his expectations far behind me.