It is 7 a.m. in Hudson, New York.
The tin can diner is shrugging off dawn’s shroud
Of relentless fog that plows down from the Catskills
Daily, like the sleepy commuters seeking
Coffee to go for the long haul
South down the Taconic into the canyons of Manhattan,
Where the green of Columbia County turns to a cold angry grey.
The blinking red and yellow neon “Open” sign
Struggles to cut through the haze in a valiant attempt
To welcome traveler and local alike.
Ten-year-old pickup trucks redolent of manure park at sharp angles
Next to this year’s Escalades bearing tags that suggest leased vehicles.
I seat myself at a table and wait for the “Want coffee, Honey?” waitress
With the Ethel Merman voice
And the blood orange lipstick.
I glance over at the counter and he is there, as he usually is,
In the early morning hours.
Buffalo plaid shirt
Throwaway work boots with clumps of mud and hay protruding from
Underneath the soles, where his feet
Barely scrape the footrest.
A frail, elderly man with unwashed grey hair sipping chamomile tea
Solo, at the counter;
I wonder if he sees himself as a hero,
Or as an old man, alone.
He senses the pierce of my stare, and he turns around, nods.
I raise up my coffee cup in a toast of sorts, and we both resume our solitary meal.
I wonder, for a moment, what it must be like to be him,
And then I realize,
I already know.
– Sarah Ito