This Burger King was just at the base of a heavy interstate exchange. Skirted with buzzing buttresses of concrete and asphalt, and flanked by a myriad of hotel chains; this joint screamed of irregular clientele and lazy staff. We didn't care. Five hours of grinding freeway traffic, construction zones, and fearless drivers had made us rather hangry. A pit stop refill was needed, and BK was the closest place.
The floor was sticky, and the counter tops even more so. There was a black sharpied "disinfectant" bucket filled with three-day old sludge, plopped by the napkin dispenser. I wondered which new employee had never cared to move it. My guess was all of them. Had I not been so highway frazzled, I may have chosen a different place to dine. Oh well.
We chose our filthy seats, unwrapped our questionable burgers, and dunked our saturated finger foods in stuff labeled "ketchup". We slurped at our plastic straws without caring about which landfill they would inevitably forever lay. Then, she walked in.
She was a lone, middle-aged stranger from the random realms of public domain, and wore deep sadness on her face. I watched her gather a beverage from the filmy dispensers, walk into the kid's playroom, and settle at a table that appeared all too familiar to herself.
I gnawed on my chunky chicken sandwich and viewed her hands stroke circles on the table top. At first, I thought she was attempting to clean the surface, but a far-off look in her eyes sang a different story. She was reflecting, remembering something, or someone.
My daughters poked fun at each other while I stared at our stranger, and pictured a history only a mother would notice. The play area sat empty, except for her. She never drank from her cup, while she laid heavy eyes on a small, vacant seat. How long had she been visiting? Weeks? I'd guessed years, at that point. It was an old Burger King, no question.
We dumped our discarded bits and pieces in the hardly emptied receptacle and mosied back to our car. Outside the window, I saw her run thin fingers through her tired hair, and I hugged my girls as they climbed into their travelling seats.
"Well, kids, how were your Whoppers?"
Molly Roland is a writer by nature, and she enjoys stepping over the invisible lines society loves to draw.