Nobody really sees me. I’m just the boy cleaning up spilled French fries and wiping spilled ketchup and nugget dipping sauce off the tables. There is a high level of invisibility with that job.
But I see them. It is like watching snapshots of other worlds coming in. You see them for an instance and then they are gone, millions of tiny worlds moving past each other on the street or waiting in line. I don’t think they usually see each other, but I don’t know. I watch and I wonder and I remember so I can write them down when I go home in my People Journal.
Three boys come in, all wearing Nike sneakers. Two pairs are clean as if they are new. One has a white swoosh on white, another a black swoosh on white. The third pair is splattered by mud. I wonder if it’s coincidence, or if they bonded over a love of Nike. Maybe they are on a team where they have to wear them. Could you join their group if you wore New Balance or Skechers?
An old man and woman come in. They come in every week for breakfast and always get hotcakes and coffee. The man is wearing a T-shirt that says “It sucks to get old”. Did he buy that for himself or did someone else buy it for him? He must have a good sense of humor.
Two young women come in paramedic uniforms. They look like they should be my age, still in high school. I wonder how long they’ve been on the job and what they have seen. If I ever got hurt I wondering if it would be them that came to help me. Maybe I would be walking down some icy steps and slip and the next thing I knew, I would be looking up at one of them shining a light in my eyes.
One of them smiles at me as they leave with their food. I never know what to do when people do that. Are they smiling because they think I need encouragement or just because they would have smiled at anyone? I don’t know how to react, so I just go back to wiping the table. I hope she doesn’t think I’m rude.
Two women come in with little girls who are like dolls, small and thin with curly blond hair falling down their backs. One of the girls has a medal around her neck, and she keeps fingering it. I wonder what she won the medal for. I wonder if the other girl was in the same competition and if she is jealous. One of the mothers has a mask with pink ribbons all over it for breast cancer awareness. There is another daughter with them too, probably in middle school. She is wearing a shirt for the Utah State Police. Is her father a police officer? Maybe she got it on a tour of a police station. Maybe she wants to be a police officer.
My shift is over and I clock out and walk home. I keep running the people over in my head, keeping them fresh for my People Journal. It’s always hard to believe that with every glimpse of another person and every brief encounter, two complete universes brush together, mine and theirs. I always wonder where all those people are now and what they’re doing.
I wonder if they ever think about me.