No One Goes Home Again

“Oh woe is me,” said Scruffy Man, sitting at the diner counter. The Scruffy Man in oversized overalls, bushy eyebrows and a stained white t-shirt missing one of its sleeves. His red hair swirled on his head like a whirlpool, making it impossible for even the most attentive eye and fashion-plate mind to understand how on earth the hair had arrived at its visually dysfunctional resting place.

“I am the garden fool,” Scruffy Man went on. “All the planting for naught. Seeds unsown, dreams all famished.” Here he belched and scratched his groin with his left hand. Then, in a whisper, “Famished.”

No one knew what to say. This was not the first time Scruffy Man had let loose with phrases linked to a reality that only he and he alone understood.

“You know, son,” said Scruffy Man to the elderly man sitting to his right at the counter, a man easily 30 or more years his senior, “at night I remove my head and place it on the night stand. Never have bad dreams that way.”

The elderly man lifted his coffee mug in a toast, “Not a bad idea come think of it.”

Scruffy Man, in a whisper that only allowed everyone in the diner to hear, said, “Can’t get that woman out of my head.”

“Even when it’s on the night stand?”

“I know she’s in there.”

Outside the sun slipped behind a cloud, the light in the diner dipped into dusk, the diner lights suddenly stark, surreal.

Scruffy Man looked out the window, “I know she’s in there.”

The Older Man looked down at his forearms resting on the counter. A tattoo of a parrot was on his left arm and a tattoo of an empty cage was on his right. He’d gotten both 10 years earlier on his sixty-seventh birthday because it was then, after the death of his beloved wife Dora, he realized, finally, he would never go home again. No one goes home again.