Where am I? Where am I going? For many, these are existential questions but for me, I literally don’t know where I am or where I’m going. Other than being in an old ’57 Chevy convertible, with the roof down, cruising down route 66 and listening to Elvis.
It was quite warm and judging by the position of the sun in the sky, it was around noon. I was covered by a thin layer of dust and sweat and tried to remember where I drove from.
In the distance, I saw some heat haze, which created an oasis effect but there was also a metallic structure and the closer I got to it, the clearer it became. It was one of those old-fashioned diners, located next to a gas station so I though it would be a great opportunity to fill up and cool down both myself and my Chevy.
I decided to take care of my own business first and parked in front of the diner, beside a few other cars. Not far from where I parked, was a shiny old Pullman coach, so I guessed the occupants were having a break inside.
Before walking in, I dusted myself off and made sure my blue jeans and white T-shirt were presentable, then when I got inside, I could hear the same Elvis song that I was listening to in the car, playing on the radio. I could smell bacon, eggs and other assorted meat, frying on the griddle and felt the ceiling fans, cooling my warm body.
The place was very period correct and had 50s style booths, with red vinyl seats, black and white checkered linoleum on the floor. Even the milk shake machines and refrigerators, were of a retro design. The servers and the cook were also dressed appropriately and even had hose cute little hats that you see on the movies.
I thought to myself that this must be some sort of American 50s themed restaurant, so I went to get my phone to take some pictures, to post on Face Book and Instagram. Nope! Not in any of my pockets. I must have left them in the car.
I sat at a booth and looked around some more. I saw that the other customers were also dressed in 50’s style clothing, so I was happy that I was wearing my blue jeans and white T-shirt. I was just about to reach for the menu when a server came up to me and asked,
“What can I get you, darlin’?”
“Oh… Uhm… A hot dog and… a Coke, please.”
The servers name was Cindy, as per her name tag and she wore a little pink dress with white cuffs and collar, a white apron and hat, with ‘Big Al’s Diner’ written on it.
“Comin’ right up!”
The Elvis song ended and “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes started playing. I’ve always loved 50s music. Well… 50s everything, actually. Movies, TV shows and fashion… I don’t know why. Maybe it’s that innocence?
I often daydreamed about what it would be like to live in the 50s instead of my horrific present. My mother was killed a few years ago, by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting and I never new my dad. I had one brother who I was estranged from and I just recently broke up with my girlfriend. My job sucked and I was about to snap, flip my desk over and leave the place, which is why I was on this pilgrimage.
Wait a sec. I own a Honda… What am I doing driving that Chevy?! I looked out the window at the car I drove in with. It was two tone – candy apple red and white, with white walled tires, white convertible top and red and white striped interior.
I ‘knew’ the car. I had seen it for sale online and would often look up the advertisement and daydreamed of owning it. One hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars was a little too rich, for a furniture salesperson working on commission. So how was I driving it?
My head was a little foggy and I couldn’t remember what I had done yesterday. Did I have sunstroke? Was I dehydrated? Maybe I’d feel better after I ate something.
A few minutes later, Cindy arrived with my hotdog and Coke. It was cool that they had those classic Coca Cola bottles and it even a bottle top on it, so Cindy takes out a bottle opener and opened it for me.
“Here you go darlin’… Are you OK?”
She asked, with a concerned look on her face.
“I… uhm… not sure. I’m hoping a bite to eat, and a nice Coke will help clear my head.”
Cindy still had a concerned look on her face, then said,
“I’ll come and check on you in a few minutes.”
I said, then I turned my attention to lunch. It was the best hot-dog I had ever eaten! How was that possible? Even the sweet, sugary Coke, seemed magical at that moment and it immediately started making me feel better.
I started looking around again and noticed that the other diner customers were in their seventies or eighties and all having a good time. I was about to finish my hotdog, when an Elvis impersonator walked by, so I decided to be friendly and said,
“That’s a great outfit!”
“Thank you very much!”
I recognized it from one of his songs. The black jeans and matching black jean jacket, horizontally striped shirt, the white socks and black shoes. My mom loved 50s music and that was her favorite song, so I asked,
“Is your outfit based on the one worn in “Jail house rock”?”
The impersonator seemed impressed and said,
“That’s right! I released it not long ago.”
I thought for a moment and said,
“Oh yeah… I understand that you have to stay in character. I thought it was released in… 1957, right?”
“Yep! Last year.”
I looked back out at the coach then asked,
“Are you with that bus group?”
“Aha… I’m driving the bus.”
“Where are you headed?”
I heard one of the tour group say,
“We’re going to see the King!”
I said with a wink. I told ‘Elvis’ that it was nice talking to him and he re-joined his group. I sat back and just took everything in and thought that ‘this’ was my version of heaven. I started to feel better and better. In fact, I don’t remember how long it’s been since I felt so good!
What was I trying to work out earlier? Oh yeah… Yesterday. A few moments later, Cindy walked up to me and said,
“Well now… You are looking better, darlin’.”
“Thanks, Cindy. My mom used to call me ‘darlin’’. In fact, her name was Cindy as well. Funny that…”
Suddenly, I heard a crash out the window, so I turned around and saw it was dark, rainy and there was a car crashed against a telephone pole. A Honda. I turned back to ask Cindy if she saw what I saw and turned to see… my mom… in Cindy’s uniform.
“It’s OK, darlin'.’”
I looked back outside, and it was bright and sunny again but I found myself breathing harder and faster, as my adrenaline stared pumping through my body. I turned back to look at my mom but before I could say anything, I heard,
Then felt a shock of electricity in my chest. After a few moments, I felt weightless… I was still sitting in my seat, but it was like… because I wanted to, not because gravity was holding me down.
Elvis got to his feet and said,
“OK, folks… Next stop, Graceland.”
And with that, the diner customers started heading toward the tour bus. I turned back at my mom and she said,
It’s OK… It’s OK darlin’. We’re all going to Graceland to see the King.”
I felt like I was losing my mind and asked,
Mom laughed and then explained,
“No sweetheart, Elvis is taking us to ‘the’ King. The name above all other names.”
I thought about what she said and believed her because she was my mom and it ‘felt’ true. I didn’t feel like I was dreaming, and I didn’t feel like I was awake, either.
I put my hand to the side of my head and felt… hair grease, so I picked up the shiny paper napkins dispenser and saw my hair slicked back. My mom put her hand on mine and said,
“You had to look the part, right?”
I was no longer afraid. Instead I felt joy and peace, then my mom explained,
“You know darlin’, ‘Grace’ is divine favour… love… clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.”
“Oh… Graceland. But why are you here, mom?”
“I just wanted to make sure you got there. Once you’re there, I’m coming back for your brother. We better get going my beautiful boy.”
And with that, I got up and we both walked out of the diner and onto the bus. As the bus started moving, I looked back at the diner and asked my mom,
“Was that diner real?”
“Well… it’s different for everyone. For you and me, it was a 50s diner but for other people, it could be a train station or an airport. It’s whatever it needs to be to help the mind make the transition.”
I looked back outside again and saw that it was getting brighter and brighter, then…
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