remarkable meetings

I really just wanted coffee. I was tired and hadn't slept and far from home and about to start the long drive. I needed coffee and some change for the tolls on the way out. The only thing I really knew, the only thing I cared about, was that I got out of Illinois tonight. I would crash in some nowhere town in Wisconsin or something, sleep in the back of the car. Chicago had been somewhere between a great success and a complete disaster, but I needed to get out. There was construction for miles up north on I-90 and I really had no interest in falling asleep and driving into a concrete barrier.

The waitress was not interested in my existence. I was contemplating waiting until she was out of sight and just doing a runner when an old friend walked in--someone else with no business in Chicago, he should have been in New York or California or something doing great things with great people. He saw me and waved. I waved and gestured at a seat, so he joined me. He probably should have ignored me.

We both expressed surprise at seeing the other, both dodged the question about what we were doing here. He didn't comment on my appearance--the greasy hair, the rumpled clothes, the dark circles under my eyes. It could have just been that I'd been up for a long time. I don't know who I was hoping to convince, but it didn't work for me.

The waitress returned with more coffee for me and a menu for him. It tasted terrible but it was hot, gave me some life, at least. We told stories, none of them consequential, while we ate our dinner and drank our coffee, and then after too much coffee, shook hands awkwardly and parted ways. I think he was headed for New York. I drove north. I was going to drive through Wisconsin, but sleep finally caught up with me. I found a parking lot in West Salem and slept until someone knocked on my car window in the morning to make sure I was okay.

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