Black hair peppered with gray, eyes still wide open. Accent clipped, like former military. Mouth full of bagel. Moustache similarly peppered, the gray almost a muted black in and of itself. It hasn’t been around long. He chews with his mouth closed firmly, even though his older friend is talking out the side of his mouth to him about car dealerships, like he knows what he’s saying. When this man speaks, he sounds knowledgeable, though, quite unlike his friend who eyed me when I came in. Like he never saw a black person in here before. They are regulars. This much is apparent. While I am not. He is stooped over when he stands, belying his age and/or years of hard labor and improper posture. He also sports a paunch, somewhat pronounced, but hard to determine when he is seated. He is mildly embarrassed to be seen with his friend, who is quite gregarious, but he would never let that cat out of the bag.
This place is homey. Been around since 1988, but I wonder how it still exists. Door propped open by a brick, probably left over from the building project across the street. The smell is nearly unbearable and yet good at the same time. Almost like Hershey Park, except no chocolate, just bagels. And I never realized how that smell can permeate a space before. It is reminiscent of old head shops, and I almost expect to see smoke rising from the back, that pale gray smoke thick and heavy. I am sitting in a booth, if I can call it that, with chairs that evoke picnic table chairs, with straight backs and wooden slats. In the center of the space are tables, rounded and stunted, each one surrounded by four quaint chairs that don’t look up to the task of holding up heavy folk. But that’s okay. The walls are cracking, and I would think they too were quaint if I didn’t worry about asbestos so much. The clock on the wall to my left is stuck on 12:14 and I know that can’t be right. Well, maybe twice a day, but not now.
No trays here, just these threadbare baskets, lined with wax paper. Kitschy even, a definitive staple of the place. It has tan fibers, I notice, but it is a dime a dozen. They probably got it from the oriental trading catalog, along with 499 of its brethren, for a very good deal. I know. I’ve ordered from them before. But this one was probably from the renewal order when the first bunch got worn out from excessive love. It resembles an offering plate I saw once in a church in Alabama. Maybe they ordered theirs from the oriental trading company too. It sits on the table, forlorn, once I have taken its companion, the bagel, and consumed it. I would feel sorry for the basket, but it will get reused pretty soon. When I am gone from this place, but this place still goes on. That’s the cycle of life.