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Sean of the South
Becca and I walked inside Waffle House. The air was surgically cold. It smelled like cured pork. I have had a lifelong love affair with Waffle House. If you have to ask why, you might be from Iowa.
We selected a corner booth. Becca is 11. She is also blind. The waitress asked what we wanted to drink.
“Sweet tea,” said Becca.
“I’ll have the same.”
Becca and I talked about everything and nothing. Of life. Of love. Of boogers. You never know what an 11-year-old is going to talk about.
She had just gotten out of school. She was energetic and gabby. I learned about her friends, Paisley, and Brinley, and Nora, and Bryce, and so forth.
Also, I learned that, The Powers That Be do indeed manufacture fidget spinners that one can wear on one’s wrist. Spinners which not only spin, but also light up.
Becca had three such spinners in her purse.
Yes. A purse. Becca has recently started carrying a purse. She wears it across her torso. She looks very grown-up. It’s a large purse. Floral print. Like the kind your mom used to carry.
My mother’s purse contained half the contents of the known solar system. She carried everything in there.
If you told Mama you were hungry, for example, she would give you something from her purse. A Kit Kat, or a sleeve of saltines, or a ketchup packet.
No matter what Mama gave you, it usually tasted like expired makeup and purse dirt. But you ate it, by dog, because there were starving people in China.
So anyway, Becca is probably my best friend. I don’t know how this happened. I didn’t know grown-ups could become best friends with children. But there you are.
I have discovered that I prefer Becca’s company. I made a promise to myself early on, that I would never speak to her like she was a child.
So I speak to her like I would any other adult. Candid. Honest. Frank. She talks to me the same way.
Somehow, our ages don’t matter. Somehow, we understand each other. I love her the way I would love my own flesh and blood.
I ordered three eggs, sunnyside. An order of toast. Hash browns. We laughed throughout the meal.
When we finished, I went to pay at the register. One customer noticed Becca’s white cane. He sprang up from his seat and went to open the door for her. But he was premature. I hadn’t even paid yet.
“Thank you,” Becca said. “But Uncle Sean still has to pay.”
The man stayed put. Once you make a move to open the door for a lady, it’s rude to abandon ship.
There was a brief standoff between himself and Becca.
“Becca,” I said, “sing him a song while we wait.”
“What song?” she asked.
“‘Amazing Grace,’” said I.
She began to sing. When she got to the lyrics: “…was blind but now I see,” I could hear customers in Waffle House sniffing their nostrils.
A lady in the corner was bowing her head, wiping her eyes, blowing her nose loudly. Another man was pinching the bridge of his nose. Hat off.
“There went my mascara,” said the waitress.
You and me both, sister.