There is one empty stool at the counter and we need two. I contemplate if one of us should take claim while waiting for a second but I am too late – a 60-something man walks past the final food prep station and sits down on my stool. The waiter places a cup of coffee in front of him without words or receiving an order. He sits looking intently at or through the soda dispenser as he drinks his black coffee. The people to his left finish their breakfast but are in no hurry to leave as their plates are removed, coffee cups refilled, he turns to a different page of his Sunday paper and she checks her e-mails.
The 5′ 5″ man on my stool stands up and disappeared to the back, behind the 5′ 6″ wall, above which the cooks’ heads bob and totes of dirty dishes disappear. Within a few minutes he reappears with a plate of food, just as we are taking the two seats to his left. In the center of his plate is a sausage patty and egg sandwich, next to a couple of sausage links and toast. Two pickle spears lie parallel on either side of the plate. Around the edge of the plate are eight little mounds of butter, arranged as if numbers on a miss-manufactured clock face. I acknowledge him and he informs me that he delivers the produce and the owner lets him cook his own breakfast.
As I open a packet of artificial sweetener, he leans towards me, points his sandwich in the direction of my mug, and says,
You shouldn’t eat that stuff – it’ll kill ya.