The Theatre Row Diner
There is a comfortable anonymity here,
the flow of patrons out of Edward Hopper.
Inside, there is a timelessness,
no way to know if it is morning or night.
only the clothes, working clothes of the morning,
dresses of the theatergoers,
shirts, and ties for lunch, only these
hint at the hour.
Photos of Marilyn Monroe hang on the wall.
At the end of the aisle, a cooler of pies and cheesecake tempt.
The floor tiles are black and white.
Show tunes play on the stereo, just low enough
that you can almost recognize the music.
No one knows you here.
You will work for a day and then disappear,
but within an hour the waitress knows your name
and the Pakistani man at the next booth
has told you his story of heartbreak.
Two tables down, an ancient woman in furs
gazes into the ether.
“I came here as a girl.” she says.
Her voice is dramatic and strong.
“I met the dancers in the chorus
and thought they were so perfect I wanted to be one,
a thing unattainable in a house locked
by my Victorian parents.”
She sips her coffee and sighs.
“They trap me still.”
The waitress refills my cup and leans down.
“She’s a regular.” she tells me, as if we were friends.
“And each day the speech is the same.”
There is pity in the waitresses’ voice, and sadness,
as if she realizes she is looking in a mirror, thirty years hence.
I sip my coffee. It is black and strong.
You are five hours and a culture away from home, and yet
there is a familiarity here,
strangers finding community and loneliness with their coffee.
not the least of all, you.
About this poem.
I eat at diners a lot. At home and when I travel. This is part of the why.
The diner mentioned here exists. The vignettes happened. Sit long enough in a place and you see things. You hear things. It’s like you disappear.
Nighthawks is an iconic painting of a diner at night by Edward Hopper.
The Theatre Row diner is in New York City.