I take all my books to Five Guys on King Street at least once a week. I have three small textbooks that masquerade as little black novels and five bright primary-colored folders. Usually, I’m the first person to order anything- I walk slow from Maybank in order to give them time to open the doors.
This is my break.
This is my free time.
I’m a tiny person- I order a little cheeseburger with hotsauce on it and then I sit at a table with two chairs. The books slowly become covered in peanut shells. Occasionally, I get ahead on homework. Ususally, I play catch up.
Time after time, I’ve checked the time on my phone only to sudenly realize how busy the restaurant has become- to catch the quick glance of a vacationing Southern mother as she hands her baby a fry. By this time, I will only have five minutes left before I need to go to my class so it starts getting harder and harder to concentrate.
I’m a student. I work well from behind a pile of peanut shells in a family burger joint. Don’t judge me. I need new shoes, my face is breaking out, and I inherited my mother’s bad posture. No need to stare or even look at the girl in the back with the books.
I look back to my books and imagine Alfred Tarski fresh from Warsaw in the back of an American Diner working on the logistical concept of truth. Where the hell did Rothbard write all of his stuff? Woolfe would advocate silence- a room of one’s own. Berryman might suggest a bar instead. But I’m way too awkward at bars.
What is it about this corporate monster restaurant that keeps me here during my one hour break at least once and sometimes three times a week? Well, I can’t afford the fries or a drink. It’s certainly not a quiet place. It’s no library of intellectual thought. There’s something else going on- something I really can’t describe.
So, I’ll end the encounter by beginning to pack all my books up. And I’ll glance over again to see the baby staring at me as it airplanes the fry towards its open mouth and misses, smiles, and then tries again.
Lovely sketch, both of place and character. My favorite paragraph is definitely the one where you imagine “Tarski fresh from Warsaw in the back of an American Diner working on the logistical concept of truth.” Great details there, great sense of continuity. You’re in good company!