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DINER PHENOMENON

“Like I always say, when life gives you lemons, you make jokes about jews”. Marius’ jokes were never funny, but George-o laughed anyways. He always laughed. Well, almost always. Sometimes he didn’t laugh, if he was eating a piece of pie or his eyes were following the waitress or he happened to be thinking about what it might be like to sip tea on top of a mountain in Guatemala, but today none of those things were happening and he laughed.

The sun strode in on the table through the window, doing a little-dancing-man routine on the bits of sugar and pie crumbs on the table, tangoing with the steam from Marius’ cappuccino. George-o eyed the moving light with unusual interest. What was it about light that it could travel through windows, around waves of steam? It was beautiful, to appear out of thin air, a naturally occurring phenomenon.

The door to the diner swung open hard. First-timers always swing the door open hard, surprised by how little force is needed to open it. Then they apologize to nobody in particular and spend a few minutes wringing their hands and looking embarrassed. Well, almost always; the fellow who entered, George-o saw, was neither surprised nor embarrassed-looking.

In fact, come to think of it, it was hard to say what he looked like; his face was nondescript. Human yes, a man yes, dark hair yes – or was it medium-dark? – but beyond that you couldn’t really notice the details. Most people would not have noticed this; most people just need the suggestion of a man to decide that they’ve seen a man, and that the conversation about yarn they’re having is most demanding of their mind’s eye. But George-o happened to be thinking about phenomena, and he noticed that this man’s face was exactly such a thing.

The man with the nondescript face took even strides towards the counter, which suggested to the untrained eye a look of calm determination or purpose on his face, though this look did not appear in detail. His even strides gave the unsettling appearance of floating towards the counter. Or maybe he was floating towards the counter and just appeared to be taking strides. Funny how a subject’s having legs tricks the observer’s mind into presuming they’re using them to move.

By this point the man had reached the counter and was talking to the waitress, his back turned to George-o. Glancing at Marius’ face and confirming that yes, faces do have distinctly shaped noses and obviously coloured eyes, George-o turned his attention back to the man. This man intrigued George-o the way light dancing the tango with steam from a cappuccino intrigued him, and he found himself needing to satisfy this curiosity.

Standing up, he crossed the short gap between his table and the diner counter and stood behind the nondescript man. “Excuse me” he said, feeling his heart beat quickly. Nothing. He looked around. Nobody seemed to be paying attention. Steeling his nerve, George-o stepped around to the man’s left, readying his eyes for observation of detail. He froze, his jaw hanging slack at what he saw; or rather what he didn’t see.

What he didn’t see was anything at all. The man’s face was empty.

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