Could this be the place? She slowly pushed open the decayed door. The bell rang, a noise she had heard many times before, but this time it sounded different. It`s familiar chime now somehow distant and discordant. The sound which had once signalled the presence of excitement now seemed to echo the loneliness of the once vivacious place. It had been fifty years since she last visited, and since then many changes had taken place. The candy coloured building had faded to grey and the once overflowing car park was now vacant. It was hard to imagine this was the same place.
The door slammed behind her, the few people inside briefly looked up from their coffees. Despite the large windows which enclosed the building, the air was bleak and murky. Rays of light shone through, only highlighting the dust in the air. She made her way over to a booth, the red chairs punctured and torn open, spilling their rotting coffee stained insides. The windows were speckled with dead flies and the table was scattered with rotting crumbs.
“Can I get you anything?” the waitress drawled. Her uniform stained and her pumps beaten and faded.
“Just a Coffee please.”
“Sure. I`ll be right back.” The way she said it, suggested that a sense of urgency was not her thing.
She looked around the room in the feint hope of seeing a familiar face. The only people in there were truckers, taking a rest stop in this remote town. She guessed they were the only thing that kept this place alive. It just wasn’t what it used to be.
Amidst the silence the click of the jukebox and a song lurched into life. That song. A song she had not heard for almost half a century. A song she had last heard in 1953. She remembered. How the whole town would gather here on a Friday. The myriad of cars, a whole spectrum of colours. The outside painted sunshine yellow, and the sky-blue door, not a single blemish.
She recalled pushing open the door, how the music would drift outside. And the place would be alive. She remembered looking out of the spotless windows into the vast desert; this town was the only sign of life for miles. The floor was spotless - a pink and yellow harlequin pattern. The waitresses wore long coloured skirts and roller-skates and smiles that never wavered. She would gather with all her friends, sit at the booths on the shiny red leather seats. She was young.
Those were the best times of her life; she smiled as she remembered how she and her friends would laugh for hours and hours, listening to the latest music on the jukebox, ordering too much fast food and drinking the creamy milkshakes, which were once a specialty. Her skin was smooth, she was full of energy, she had great friends and she never ever felt lonely…
“Oh. Yes, Thank You” She was abruptly snapped out of her nostalgic reverie and into the mundane reality. She made her way to the bathroom and searched for herself in the mirror. Her reflection was no longer the young woman she remembered, her skin was old, dull and creased, her body frail and weak and her eyes had lost the sparkle they had all those years ago.
Back at her booth, she began to drink her coffee. Bland, tasteless. She remembered how those milkshakes tasted all those years ago, creamy, velvety with lashings of whipped cream, topped with a sweet cherry. Served in a large glass, yet there never seemed to be enough and they were gone in seconds. And the flavours, there were so many flavours; vanilla, toffee, chocolate, strawberry, mint, cookie...
And then there was Paul, the owner, never without a smile. Everybody loved Paul. A small man, slightly chubby with greying hair and wrinkles around his eyes when he smiled. He truly loved this place, she couldn’t think of a moment he hadn’t been in here. His enthusiasm was infectious and his gregarious personality spread throughout the room. Paul was the life of this place.
Then there were her friends, she could picture them now, laughing in that booth over there, the one in the corner, next to the window. Their table. The five of them were inseparable at the time; they would meet here every Friday. Small town celebrities, the envy of every adolescent in this bleak town. The talk of the town, everyone wanted to be in their group, not that anyone was ever allowed. They had formed a strong friendship during their first week of high school, no one ever left the group and no one ever entered. Most nights they would drive into the desert, drink and stay up all night. She reminisced how they would sit at their table, plotting and scheming how someday they would leave this one horse town behind. They dreamed of the day they would pack their bags and head for a big city. Every single one of them believed they were a big fish in a small pond, and they probably were. They eventually went their own ways and left this small town life behind. They were the best friends she ever had. Now she couldn’t remember the last time she had seen them.
The town wasn’t what it used to be either; it was never the most vibrant of places but now the place was gloomy, grey and bankrupt. Shops were boarded up, windows smashed, signs fallen; now incomplete and trash scattered throughout the town. Fifty years ago, she would have done anything to leave this town, now; she would do anything to go back. She reminisced the time when the sun would shine, the grass was green and the streets were filled with the chatter of the town`s people. The sun still shone, but now, the streets were silent, the grass was yellow and the buildings were grey. She didn’t know this at the time but the years she had spent here had been the best of her life, she knew it would never get better than those carefree years she had spent in this small town all those years ago.
“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.”