If I’d owned a diner when you were in your twenties, I’d have hired you. And on the nights when I couldn’t sleep (as so often happened in my own twenties) I’d have come in and had a cup of coffee and we’d have Talked. But I didn’t own a diner then (and I don’t own a diner now) and I wasn’t in my twenties then, I was just a kid. But I bet if I’d come into your diner on your shift then, you’d have smiled when I ordered a grilled cheese sam’wich, and you’d have winked and thrown on an extra slice of cheese and said here ya go, kid — grilled with love, and I’d have said “gee, thanks mistah — you’re the tops!” And you’d have laughed and shaken your head in a ‘get this kid’ kinda gesture. And then maybe you’d have rolled up the sleeves of your greasy cook’s whites and shown me all the various tattoos you have on your arms and told me the stories behind each one. And I’d have listened in rapt fascination, chawing the thick, gooey mass of processed cheese slowly with my kid teeth. And I’d have said “gosh” and “gee” and “wow” to each tattoo and its accompanying story. And then you’d have said hey kid, as you looked around furtively and pulled from beneath your apron a dented tin flask of cheap whiskey. Hey kid, you’d have said, your red-rimmed eyes reflecting the fly-filled corrugated plastic of the recessed florescent overheads, I’m gonna have a drink now, okay? Don’t tell no one, huh? You want one too? And I’d have gotten scared and left my sam’wich half-eaten and run outside looking for a policeman, and then the memory would have been spoiled forever for both of us — so it’s a good thing it never happened.