Although it felt as though I’d known you for decades, we met for the first time at Finch’s Diner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was 1948, and although I knew you were coming – had seen it many times, in fact – the exact date was elusive, even to me.
I began frequenting Finch’s Diner every day in the hopes that you would walk through the door. I familiarized myself with the menu, learned the names of the staff, and placed the same order every day: one coffee, brimming with sugar.
The waitstaff teased me, calling me an “easy customer,” but the truth of the matter was that there wasn’t much for me in a diner. Although I tried my best to remain optimistic, I know I struck a sad figure as I waited. Eventually, one waitress – a kindly soul named Betty, who was so newly pregnant I wondered if she even knew – stopped charging me for my coffee.
I knew exactly what I would say when I saw you the first time.
“You’ve kept me waiting a lot time,” I would chirp. I decided on this after hours, days, weeks of contemplation. I never saw myself in my visions; I only saw you.
But this isn’t 1948. This isn’t We’ve Met Before. This is 1958, and I am no longer waiting
For the first time in a decade, we’re returning to Finch’s Diner just as we left: hand-in-hand, our eyes bright with possibility.
And although the diner is largely unchanged, we’re the ones that are different now – even if I do laughingly cling to a tradition or two for old time’s sake.
You have me strike artful poses at the table where we first sat. You’ve developed an eye for photography, even though you once thought you’d never be good for anything but killing. Although every day is still a struggle for you, you are slowly proving yourself wrong.
It’s difficult for me to feign seriousness for long. Smiling comes much more naturally to me, especially with you behind the camera.
The rapport we’ve developed over the last ten years almost makes me forget that I was ever waiting at all
“What do you see, Alice?” you ask every time my eyes stray toward the window. You regard my visions with a certain reverence now.
“Just you,” I reply, and you duck your head like a good Southern gentleman, as you did that first day.
The waitstaff doesn’t approach us this time. Your camera is likely what keeps them away, but it’s safer for them that way. The close proximity of humans is still a temptation for you, and on some level, maybe it always will be.
You continue to take photos even as we leave the diner. I don’t mind. Should we decide to do this sort of trip again, I already know that Finch’s Diner won’t be here for our 20th anniversary.
So we commemorate these moments while the building is still standing.
You capture everything about that day.
Even the tiniest, most minute details.
And although I try to convince you, you refuse to be in the photos yourself.
You would rather look back on these photos in 50 years and remember our time at Finch’s Diner as happy…
…And sometimes coy…
…And sometimes thoughtful…
…Rather than remember the time you spent trying to find yourself while I waited
But while it’s sometimes in your nature to dwell on those things, it isn’t in mine.
So I smile.
And dance. You still talk about this photo, laughing at how even when I’m attempting to pose for the camera, I still managed to end up in fifth position – almost subconsciously.
You make me feel beautiful, even as the wind whips through my hair and destroys the time that went into carefully setting it.
But eventually, it’s time to move on.
The longer we stay in one place, the more likely it is that someone will begin to suspect that we’re different.
So we say goodbye to Finch’s Diner that day.
And begin looking toward forever.
Photo credit: Geoff Fitzgerald Photography
Interior location: Bean and Baker Malt Shop
Exterior location: The George Street Diner
Make-up design by: Veteran Foxx
Hair design by: Faces by Vanessa
Bridal fascinator by: Fancy BOWtique Bridal Couture