Sunset. Sitting in a high desert diner with my parents. Our blue Ford with the fins visible from our booth, gleam of warm neon coming on. Dad gives me a coin, helps me feed it into the jukebox controller at the table, shows me how to punch the buttons. I do so with difficulty. Magically, “Leavin’ on Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul, and Mary comes on, the room swimming in sweet melancholy. I don’t understand the song, but I feel its sadness. Then I look across the room and see a serviceman in uniform. He’s frozen, a tightness in his jaw, his fork and knife poised above his steak. He doesn’t move the entire time the song plays, then, when it’s over, he wipes his mouth and walks outside. The door slowly closes on its own. I look back to our table. My mom’s gazing out the window, her hand on her chin. My dad’s looking to the side, at the floor. No one’s eating.
I don’t know what’s going on. As it was, I’d punched the wrong buttons. I wanted to hear “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honeybunch)” by the Four Tops.