She was an utter dichotomy sitting there at the diner counter in her sundress, polka-dot, peep-toe, wedge sandals, a turquoise ribbon shining against her dark hair, the abundant curls of which had been hastily caught up into a makeshift chignon at the base of her neck, due to the unexpected heat in the restaurant. Wasn’t this why air conditioners were invented? Surrounded by Coca-Cola memorabilia and looked down upon like the moon by a giant portrait of Elvis, framed by vinyl records, she bounced her toe slightly to the beat of “Earth Angel”. She looked like a picture out of “Grease”, sipping on a milkshake while playing with her iPhone. The smell of sizzling meat and deep-fried whatever filled the diner as servers rushed back and forth behind the counter before her, making milkshakes and getting ice cream cones. In the background behind her was inconsequential chatter as she typed away with her thumb, putting down her milkshake so she could use her more dexterous index finger. She was writing it down so she would remember, though none of them ever would.
None of them would ever remember the strange man (whom she was still sure had a smorgasbord of mental issues) with the bright blue box that was bigger on the inside, ancient and inexplicably new at the same time. He said he’d borrowed it, sort of. He’d shown it to her, offered her “adventures throughout time and space. I love a good spot of adventure, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t like adventure.”
And she didn’t She didn’t like the unknown, with all its variables and dangers and long, long ways from home. Life had enough adventure as it was. She was getting ready to start graduate school soon, leaving the school where she had been for four years, the friends she had made, the professors she admired, the campus that had become home. She was already scared enough of that; she didn’t need the whole of time and space to compound that fear.
He seemed intrigued. No one had ever told him no before, at least not that he could recently remember. So he sat down next to her on the steps just inside the door and they…talked. For a long, long time they talked. Correction: she talked. She told him about her life, her parents, her home, about her. Why, she never knew. Why did she open up the book that was her life to this strange stranger? But she did. She told him it all, punctuated by laughs and tears, anger and joy.
And he listened. Unlike when he had first come to her, he hardly said a word. He leaned his elbow upon his knee, his cheek propped upon his fist, and he listened. When she finally circled around to that day, he gave her a small smile.
“You’re right,” he said, “You have adventure enough here. Your entire life is an adventure, don’t you see? I suppose…I suppose I never really thought of it that way. I always thought I was offering adventure, never that I was interfering with one.” His smile is sheepish then. “Sorry about that.”
She smiled and laid a small hand on his arm, telling him that it was all right. She hadn’t thought of her life as an adventure either.
“Well! I will take my blue box and leave you to your adventure.” He bounced up from his seat, all his former energy returning.
“You’re part of it now, you know,” she told him as she rose herself, pausing on the steps, “You’re part of my adventure, even though I won’t go with you on yours.”
The strange man smiled and, coming back down the steps, reached out and gathered her to him in a hug.
She couldn’t quite describe what he smelled like. A hint of smoke, strawberry jam, silk spiced with incense…she just couldn’t place it. Finally, she gave up and hugged him back.
When he pushed her back, the strange man smiled and then turned her around and began shoving her out towards the doors. “Have a good life, look both ways before crossing the street, don’t take any plug nickels (whatever that means), and…” He paused as she was almost out the door.
“And enjoy your adventure.” He smiled was broad and bright as he stuck his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth on his feet.
“I will,” she assured him before stepping out the door. When she turned around, the borrowed and blue box was gone, as was the strange man inside.
No. None of them in the diner would ever remember. But she would. She would always remember. With a smile, she finished up and turned towards the diner doors and the adventure that awaited her beyond them.