They sat in a booth in a fifties diner after a long drive from Sacramento. It was a locally owned joint with charming black and white checkered linoleum floors and red leather bar stools and framed photographs of the Rat Pack and James Dean on the walls.
“How do you like the food?” the cook asked.
She stared at her hamburger. “It’s not what I thought I ordered,” she said, feeling ashamed.
The cook checked her tab and confirmed she had ordered the hamburger with barbecue sauce and onion rings. “I can make you another one,” the cook said.
“I only need a half,” she said, pointing to her half eaten burger.
“I’ll make you another one,” the cook insisted.
When the cook returned to the kitchen, she sat up straighter. “Mikey would be proud of me,” she said. “I stood up for myself when I usually don’t say anything.”
Her boyfriend frowned. “What’s going on with you and Mikey?”
She sat back, as if pressed against a wall. Her eyes widened with fear and confusion. “He’s coaching me on how to be more confident,” she said.
Her boyfriend stared at her, his frown deepening.
She continued. “He could tell I was unhappy. He had a heart-to-heart with me. He said I was worth being someone’s wife and that if that’s not what you wanted it was okay but that I needed to leave you because I’m not getting any younger.”
His face darkened.
“He was just trying to build up my confidence.”
He glanced away.
“I shouldn’t have told you,” she said.
He turned back to her, his eyes flashing. “No, I asked you to tell me,” he said.
“But you’re angry.”
“I’m not angry.”
The cook returned with her hamburger. She took a bite and smiled. “It’s perfect,” she said. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” the cook said.
It felt good to be heard. It felt even better to have received exactly what she had asked for, even if it was only a hamburger.