Denny’s and Keys

I went to Late Nite Denny’s alone for the second time in my life. The first time I went, it was because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had just come from a visit to the hospital, where my dad was a frequent resident. I couldn’t bring myself to go home yet, and I thought that going to Denny’s would bring some sense of comfort and normalcy to a world that was steadily crumbling into utter chaos. Plus they’re open 24 hours so I could just sit there and stare into space for as long as I wanted. I ended up being right; there’s something very mundane about eating diner food, and there’s something empowering about eating it alone. It was an experience that, even at the time, I felt would be significant.

This time I went for similar reasons. I had just come from work and I didn’t know what to do with myself. The world has only devolved into greater chaos, with few comforts and nothing resembling normal. I was hungry and contemplating risking it all for Taco Bell, but then I recalled that first trip of aimless repose. I thought I could use another one.

I was seated at the same table as the last time. And just like the last time, there was an old man alone at a table adjacent to me. The first time he was doing a crossword puzzle; this time he was on his phone. Both times I wondered about his life, his story, and what the things might be that brought him to Denny’s. I hope they are good things.

I set my keys on the table and looked at all of my keychains. In an interesting juxtaposition to the familiarity of my current restaurant situation, I saw them as a physical representation of just how much everything has changed. In the years between my solo Denny’s trips, I travelled to Nashville, and the United Kingdom, and met the person I plan to marry. I made house keys for a home that I’d never get to move into. I collected a gym membership, a Speedway rewards card, and AAA (which I’ve only ever used to help a gentleman who got locked out of his car). Each item on my key ring represents one of these stories and more, a series of backgrounds and events that didn’t exist the last time I sat at that table.

I guess no matter how many times I end up in the same spot at a Denny’s Alone Club meeting, I will always have new keychains. And that, at least, is something.

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