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An Ode to Edward Hopper

By ANITA RACHELLEPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Second Place in 24/7 Diner Challenge
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942

Sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and pastrami on rye at 2 a.m.: Jo’s needs were minimal but there was only one place where she could find the right kind of tanginess to tantalize her taste buds at this late hour.

Normally an attainable distance from her apartment during daylight, the ten-block schlep south now seemed irresponsible and beyond her grasp, just like Edward was unavailable and an ocean away. She quickly scolded herself at the thought of him and reached across the bathroom countertop for her hairbrush, catching a brief glimpse of a burgundy dress. Oh, that was her reflection, clad to the nines, an evening of schmoozing and pretending to be engaged in topics she had no real care about, now behind her. Two twinkles of light poking out from underneath a fire-red bob stopped her in her tracks. Hairbrush abandoned, she held her hands up to each side of her face, tucked the fiery strands behind both ears, and leaned forward against the countertop, squinting her eyes in an effort to identify the shine emitting from her very own earlobes.

Moments flooded back: last year’s birthday, a gift, an acknowledgement of care, or at least that was how she had interpreted the gesture. They were no Tiffany’s, not that she needed that level of posh. She was quite sure he had recruited their friends Maeve and Theodore for expert guidance on the purchase, seeking reassurance that the earrings were casual enough to not give away any deeper feelings, yet wearable and in Jo’s style. Their reflection revealed their identity: small studs, fake diamonds, nothing special, and despite their visible presence in a mirror and in-person, they were likely to be easily missed in a photo or painting. That is, if she ever found herself the subject of one of her friends’ creations. Yet this was New York and her artistic circle after all. Or, had been. She leaned in closer and let her eyes glaze over the shimmer. Though seemingly cheap and insignificant in quality, the little orbs of light were her only token of a time lost, or rather, an era almost lived.

Meanwhile, next door, Larry had finally settled into bed after running through his wins and losses of the day which turned into reflections of the week, month, year, and last decade. Where had time gone? He turned on his bedside lamp and peered down at his stomach full of pastrami made possible by a triple order of his 11 p.m. nightly usual. He always ordered for two. After all, his body demanded to be fed heartily, but lately (he couldn’t remember when it started), the double order snack had embarrassingly turned into a triple.

Raising his head to peer down at his toes, he tried to recall a time when his protruding belly was not in the way or his most recognizable feature, at least from the front. However, he was not a man of wide stature in the traditional sense. For example, seated at his favorite countertop a few hours ago, with his back facing the door, any guests entering would be none the wiser of Larry’s Winne the Pooh-like attribute. Still lost in thought, calculating the approximate year he last looked his prime from all angles, Larry’s trip down memory lane turned into visions of giant walking pastrami sandwiches replacing all of the city’s inhabitants, with the exception of one resident. A lone Larry now stood awe-struck in the middle of the street, eyes agape at the pastrami people exiting the door of their origin, the epicurean wonderland diner that stood on the corner of Ludlow and E. Houston Street, where Jimmy was on hour 3 of a long night’s shift.

“Hey Jimmy, can I get anotha?”

If one more patron, especially the same person, asked for a pastrami on rye, he might call it quits. Didn’t they know he was a one man show? The rushing back to the kitchen; sour stench that emitted out of the jar of sauerkraut; slathering of dressing, meat, cheese; clapping of the two slices of bread back together again; then the presentation of his creation in front of hungry hippos…it was a job that did not fulfill his creative needs. Of course, he never let his annoyances show. He was happy to have attention diverted away from more serious worries, and sure beat fighting with the boys on the frontlines where he had recently been discharged just after a month serving overseas. Cause: Deuteranopia, an inability to differentiate green from blue, which proved worrisome as he sometimes confused land from sea, and vice versa. What he lacked in color vision and inner tranquility, he made up for with cheery exterior. That was the actor in him. If he couldn’t be on stage or in the movies, he would challenge himself on a daily basis to come across as the nice kid, never to let any anger show.

With a large grin, Jimmy enthusiastically belt, “You bet, Larry! I’m on it!” before disappearing into the kitchen to make the man another pastrami.

Edward was also on it: on his way back from Paris, onto something, and rushing with adrenaline at the thought of bringing into action the idea that had been germinating for years, an admission of sorts. He had it all laid out. He’d sneak up real quiet as she sat solo, enjoying her favorite late night treat, a post-pastrami coffee at the corner of Ludlow and E. Houston. Gently taking a seat in the empty stool beside her, he’d gently ask, “Hey Jo, can I finally take you out proper?” Jimmy, the waiter and Larry, the fellow Pastrami regular, would serve as the only other nighthawks and witnesses to this reunion, or so they all thought.

Jo leaned in over the countertop, getting lost again in the twinkly light of a reflection, memory, and recognition that shined bright.

"Edward, is that you?"


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