Kind Gestures by S. Webster
Margaret – 3 pm
Margaret is at the diner thinking about what vegetables are in the refrigerator at home so she can make a soup like Els, but with some parsley added for heaven’s sake. El never planted herbs. She once told Margaret there was no point planting something you couldn’t eat by the forkful. Margaret wondered if tending plants for their potential volume on the fork was just more evidence of the difference between those who belonged here and those who hoped they did.
“Can I fill that up for you, Margaret?” Kitty asks.
“That would be nice, thanks,” she says.
Margaret pulls out the book she brought along as a shield and pretends to read while she sips her coffee and eavesdrops on those willing to share almost anything with anybody. It is something Margaret has begun doing when she is in town and does not want to talk to anyone. She simply misses the sound of someone else’s voice and comes to the diner to listen. Listen to the conversations between people who could simply be lonely and want someone to listen and care even for a little while about what they have to say.
Margaret listens for the things that John would have brought back from town to tell her. It seemed like more was happening back then and today she thinks how much nothing is in those conversations and wonders whether it is worth her time and two dollars to sit there and wait for that nothing to turn into something. But you never know. She has nothing better to do and orders one of those obscenely large oatmeal cookies to go with her second refill of coffee.
She does remember to turn a page now and then, just like she remembers to change books each time she comes into the diner to listen. A book that is old and worn works best. That way no one can glance at the title and start a conversation about the book – a conversation that invariably ends up with them talking about all the books they’ve read. She thinks that this bit of information is supposed to lead her to the conclusion that they are smart, very smart. When and if that happens Margaret hopes they will come to a conclusion of their own – that they are too smart to be wasting time at her table and move on.