He said: “We’re early.”
“Traffic wasn’t bad,” she said, shifting her purse from one shoulder to the other. It was heavy, full of everything she might need and some things she would never need. “We made good time.”
“I didn’t notice the traffic.”
“Of course you didn’t notice. You were asleep.”
“I was tired.”
“Lucky we got a meter with time on it.” She smiled at him.
“Yeah, right. Lucky. That’s what we are. Lucky.” He began to walk towards the intersection.
They paused on the corner, waiting to cross. The light changed, the robotic white man lit up. They crossed the street along with an assortment of others. An hunched over old woman in a bright pink shawl and straw hat frayed around the edges, a tall man in a gray suit, carrying a leather brief case, teen girls with bare shoulders, wearing flip-flops that slapped against their feet. Down the street she saw a large crane, its long neck like a great metal giraffe stretching up above the street lights. Orange cones stood as street barriers along with police cars, lights flashing.
She nudged his arm; he pulled away.
“Look down there. They’re getting ready to film the Black Knight.”
The band of his watch was loose; he slid it on his wrist to see the time.
She frowned at him. “You didn’t even look.”
“Let’s go see the movie. When it comes out. Watch for people we know in the extras.” She watched his face, waiting for his reaction.
He didn’t respond about the movie. He only said again: “We’re early.”
“I know. Maybe we could get some breakfast. We have time.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“All right then. Maybe just coffee?” She motioned to a woman nearby. Excuse me,” she said.
The woman was craning her neck, looking down the street towards the filming.
“Excuse me,” she said, again, louder. “Can you tell me a good place for breakfast or coffee? Some place nearby?”
The woman smiled broadly. “Pamela’s. Right down there on the other side of Forbes. Just a block down. You know the Pres-i-dent ate there.” She pointed; her fingernails were long, pointy and painted a brilliant red. “Cross back over the intersection and make a left. Then cross over at Atwood.”
“Thanks. Sounds like just the place.”
“So we’re crossing another intersection?”
“Yes. At least one.”
Pamela’s was low and squat, dwarfed by sprawling hospitals, ancient churches, and the Cathedral of Learning towering in the background. Inside, people were clustered by the door, waiting to be seated. The building was small, narrow and long like a railroad dining car that had jumped its track and was stuck there in Oakland.
Small tables ran along each side. Waiters turned sideways to pass each other in the center aisle. Back to back, butt to butt they passed, carrying plates of pancakes and eggs or trays of dirty dishes. A
hand-lettered piece of paper taped to the cash register read: Sorry, no debit or credit cards. $$ Cash only $$.”
The menu was a tri-folded piece of blue paper. The one she opened had a blood-red smear of ketchup along the edge. He laid his menu down, unopened.
“Anything to drink?” the waitress asked. She smiled at them. There was a gap between her front teeth.
“Coffee, no cream and water, please.”
“And for you, sir?
She walked away. Banana Walnut Hotcakes was printed in large letters across the back of her tee shirt, the words stacked one on top of the other like so many hotcakes.
The coffee was hot and pungent with the smell of newly roasted coffee beans. Steam swirled up in a light mist. She sat the coffee aside to let it cool.
“Ready to order?” The waitress took a pencil from behind her ear and an order pad from her back pocket.
“I’ll have the spinach feta omelet. It sounds healthy. Don’t you think it sounds healthy?”
The waitress nodded. “And for you?” She looked at the husband.
“Nothing? Do you want two plates so you can share?”
“No. I want nothing.”
They sat in silence waiting for the omelet. Around them, people were talking, laughing, eating.
When the waitress brought the omelet, so large the edges draped over the side of the plate, the woman asked her: “Is it true the President ate here?”
“Wish it was. I’da loved waiting on him. He ate at the other Pamela’s. Down in the Strip.” She laid the bill face down between them. “You know, don’t you, that he flew the owners, Pam and Gail to the White House for some special breakfast or something. Just imagine. Wish he had eaten here. More coffee?”
The woman shook her head. The waitress moved to the next table.
“Imagine,” the woman said. “The President might have eaten here. If he hadn’t gone to the Strip. Might have sat at this very table.”
“It’s not important enough to talk about. Might have is not important. So stop talking.”
She couldn’t finish her omelet. It was either too big or she was no longer hungry.
“How far away is the office?” he asked.
“Couple of blocks. The Falk building, corner of Fifth and Lothrop.”
“That’s uphill from here?” He looked at his watch again, sliding it again to see the face.
“It’s Pittsburgh. Everything is either uphill or downhill. You know that.”
He looked away as she picked up the bill.
She took her wallet out of her purse and checked to make sure her little green notebook and a pen were in the side pouch.
“Look,” she said, holding up the notebook. “I’m going to take notes.”
“You think I won’t remember what he says?”
“I thought it would be a good idea. You know. To take notes.”
They walked in silence uphill.