The diner is noisy. It is peak breakfast time. We’re sitting in a corner booth, in semi-privacy. This is good because my compadre is in rough shape and we need to talk.
I send him to the bathroom to clean up his bloody face. As he stands up, I toss him a T-shirt I picked up at one of the tourist shops.
“Put this on.”
He looks at me with contempt.
“And here,” I say, lobbing him a stick of deodorant, “Go get your shit together. We’ve got a big day ahead.”
He leaves and I jiggle my coffee cup in the air, signalling the waitress that it’s time for a refill. In a moment, she refills the coffee and asks, “Are you boys ready to order?”
I order two of the diner’s “Big Breakfasts”.
“Yum, yum,” I think, “Pigmeat, chicken ovum, taters, grease n’ salt.”
My counterpart returns as the waitress heads to the kitchen.
“Ah, you had the good sense not to run,” I say, “Very good.”
“Fuck you, you, goddamn hallucination. I’ll wake up from this drug trip and you’ll be gone. So enjoy your coffee, you piece of shit!”
This feistiness is out of character for him and it makes me laugh. Loudly. The laughter draws some attention from the restaurant patrons, but they quickly go back to minding their own business.
I lean in. In a lower voice, “This is the real deal buddy. This is The Quantum Gravity project meets Tom Clancy meets Stephen Seagul meets Fight Club. Knowhaddimsayin?”
He bridges his thumb and index finger across his face and squeezes his temples as if applying pressure on his brain will make me go away.
He appears to have gathered his thoughts and is about to speak when the waitress shows up with the food.
“Two big breakfasts. Enjoy.”
She refills the coffee one more time and is on her way.
“Relax,” I tell my counterpart sitting across from me, “You’re gonna feel a lot better after you eat.”
For once, he seems to agree with me. We eat without speaking, hearing only the cutlery on ceramic and the din of the diner.