The Family

by Anders Carlson-Wee

In perfect synchrony with the family
rising from the booth and laughing
their way toward the door, I ditch
my coffee on the counter and slide in
where they’ve been. I wolf the father’s
Reuben and move to the daughter’s
grilled cheese. I make quick work
of melted milkshakes, no looking up
to see if I’m seen. And although
I’m counting each second it takes to pound
the leftover plates, at the end of it
I wipe my lips with a cloth napkin
and linger, letting myself imagine
a wife and kids gone on a trip
to the bathroom, hot water running
as she scrubs Mrs. Butterworth’s
from their fingers, fixes their hair.
The waitress comes for dishes, too involved
in her own life to notice I don’t have
the right clothes, the right face.
Yes, I say. We’re finished.

Published on May 11, 2022