It was nine o’clock at night at the fast food joint; Jeremy’s head pointed down at the hamburger on his tray while his father watched—they hadn’t spoken to one another in years. The moments alternated between silence and eating; occasionally, Jeremy’s father would ask his son a question about school or girls to which Jeremy would answer promptly, then everything would return to silence.
Jeremy wasn’t mad at his father for leaving or for the things he’d done. He looked up and saw a desperation within his face. “So, what’s it like living on your own?” Jeremy nodded. “Good.” “Yeah,” his father said, “I think it’s a good experience to have.” A moment, then Jeremy returned to the burger, barely a chunk left.
The both of them wished that they could make their meeting mean something more, but Jeremy had nothing to say to his father and his father had nothing to say to his son. Jeremy didn’t mention how he was in a bad place because he didn’t want to burden his father with such things, not now.
However, minutes later, they were both pulled by an image that entered their peripherals—an overweight man in a gray wife-beater shuffling toward the condiment trays. His fat head turned and looked down at the trays; Jeremy and his father both watched. The fat man observed the empty tray for an entire minute then scratched his chin. “No more mustard,” he muttered to himself before making the trudge back to his booth. Jeremy turned and noticed his father still watching the fat man.
It wasn’t until the grotesque sat down at his booth when his father’s eyes quickly fixed themselves back to Jeremy. Suddenly, he leaned over. “Did you see that?” Jeremy laughed at this. His father shook his head. “God. You know, I read somewhere that airplanes need extra fuel now because everyone’s gotten so fucking fat.” “Really?” “Yeah!” They looked over at the pathetic fat man stuffing fries into his burger and then taking a bite. “So that’s why flying is so expensive.” Jeremy and his father laughed together at this and then nodded. A few minutes later they walked outside. In the parking lot Jeremy’s father squeezed Jeremy’s shoulder and told him how proud he was, then he was gone. And so was Jeremy.