Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Monday I post a new column.
An odd little man sits in the empty restaurant, quietly buttering his toast. He has a face that wouldn’t be unusual on a fish – thin, yet puffy at the lips – but it looks slightly odd on a person. Centuries ago, when fairy tales of magic and spells were still believed, he might have been mistaken for a frog that was kissed by a princess but never fully became human.
The man’s clothing is perfect vintage 1950s wear, not ironic or exaggerated. The faded brown bowling shirt with the tiny collar, the conservative brown slacks, and the horn-rimmed glasses are not reproductions. His entire wardrobe took years of hard work to acquire, yet it’s so simple and authentic that it’s almost unnoticeable.
The waitress asks to refill the man’s coffee, and he smiles and politely thanks her. Despite his introverted nature, he’s always friendly. He doesn’t hate people, he just hates conversations.
Today is Thanksgiving, and the man has the restaurant nearly to himself. As he continues buttering, he hums quietly, enjoying the tranquility. He normally doesn’t like public places, preferring to stay away from other people, but tonight he’ll be left alone. No one will stare, wondering why he’s by himself. Drunk teenagers won’t hassle him. The waitress won’t forbid him from sitting at a booth by himself, or rush him out the door to cram in more customers. None of the dreadful people he works with will show up here on a holiday.
The restaurant has become an informal meeting of the area’s most fragile and creepy weirdos, and he likes that. No one will talk to anyone else, but they’ll all feel better knowing they aren’t the only ones like this. At times it’s hard not to feel a little too weird, as if there’s something wrong with him, but today he has reaffirmed that he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by other polite, quiet weirdos who keep to themselves.
Normal people are at home eating dinner with their families, but he isn’t normal, and doesn’t want to be. He prefers being weird. Most popular characters in movies are weirdos, and he thinks of himself as being a little bit like them.
But right now he’s not worrying about being weird, or whether he’s weird enough. He’s just enjoying the evening. The restaurant – the only one in town that’s open – has transformed from a loud, busy epicenter of hastily-cooked meals and bad service into a laid back nirvana of polite waitresses, carefully prepared food, and time that crawls so slowly that dusk may very well last forever.
This is, without a doubt, the man’s favorite day of the year.
He normally doesn’t leave the house, but Thanksgiving is a special day. It’s a time of year where everyone rewards themselves with a nice meal, even him. The rest of his evening will be spent back home with his hobbies, the same as other nights, but he’ll have a warm feeling tonight from being with his kind.
Though he’s a weirdo himself, he doesn’t care for weirdos who sport mohawks or make loud fashion choices that demand the attention of everyone nearby. He is a quiet, introverted weirdo. The other type of weirdos – the fake kind who merely seek attention – aren’t here eating dinner tonight. They might be out for drinks later in the evening, but that will be long after the man has left. That’s not his scene.
Weirdos like him aren’t interested in socializing or impressing others. They just like being left alone. They’re the fish-faced introverts who dress in the past, the obsessive compulsives who make strange little noises every so often, the comatose-looking computer programmers, the random spazzes. They’re the stamp collectors, the action figure painters, the obscure cinema fanatics, and the artists who have no intention of showing anyone their work. They are, in his opinion, the right kind of weirdos.
The man finishes his turkey and moves on to forming his mashed potatoes into the shape of Martin Short’s face. He doesn’t particularly care for Martin Short’s comedy, but he’s already started making this, and well, he can’t stop now. Gravy works well as hair. Cranberry sauce can be sliced into the shape of a shirt. Mashed peas are not ideal for pants, but will have to do. The crusts of the toast look convincing as the ground. In the corner of the plate, the remaining butter is shaped to look like the sun.
He smiles at his creation, as does the waitress when she spies it while walking past. After a few moments, the man covers it with his napkin and smashes it with his hand. As he said, he doesn’t particularly care for Martin Short.
The time has come to go home. The restaurant is empty, the bus he rides home will be empty, and his apartment will also be empty. And he smiles at the thought, because that’s just the way he likes it.