Here’s Dunkin’ Donuts where Joe and I used to hang out!
As you can see, the place is busy. I was always afraid that the workers there were talking about me in Portuguese. Once, a worker Joe and I referred to as “Honey” asked me, “Why you get so fat?” and I was so shocked that I told Joe I didn’t want to come here anymore. Eventually, we went back. I went in there once and told them Joe had died. They whispered among themselves. After that, I didn’t go in at all. I saw Honey at the bus stop the other day and pretended I didn’t recognize her.
Here’s an essay I wrote in 2002 about Honey:
Writing the Personal Essay
We were supposed to go to the ball game, but instead, we’re parked in a rain-soaked Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, in front of the dumpster with landscaped bushes on one side and the auto upholstery place on the other. Some of the regulars have set up lawn chairs under the eaves, while DD’s windows steam up and business slows. Joe hands me a five and says, “The usual for me. Get what you want. Be careful, the pavement’s slippery.” He puts on his favorite Pink Floyd tape, one I copied for him from my own collection that I’m getting sick of hearing. Whenever he listens to Pink Floyd, it means he’s depressed.
I nod to Joe, hop out and cross the parking lot to the entrance, waving to the fifty-ish retirees who’ve set up camp here. One of them gets up and holds the door for me. I notice his keys, hanging from his belt look, include an off-white rabbit’s foot. Inside, Luis mops the floor and Dalva says something to him in Portuguese while coffee grinds and drips forever.
“Uh, the usual for my boyfriend.” I try to smile. “And for me, a small coffee. Doesn’t have to be decaf this time.”
“What decaf? Creme? Acucar?” Fabiana smiles at me.
“No. Regular. You know. Normal. Black.”
The worker we call “Honey,” for lack of a real name (we’ve never asked her) says to me, “How’s you boyfriend? Say hi to him for me.”
“When you getting married?”
I choose to ignore this question. “How are you?” I ask Honey, as she pours iced decaf from a spigot into Joe’s quart-sized plastic cup, snaps on the lid, then turns to me.
“Oh, okay,” she replies. She empties a cafeteira hastily. “Going home soon. Leite? With milk, right?.”
Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” is playing in my head no matter how hard I try to get rid of it. “Maria have her baby yet?” I ask.
“Not yet, not yet. Wait.”
Outside, the rain crescendos, washing away cut grass and leaking motor oil, fractured hopes and half-forgotten dreams, while the sky empties its frustrations. I wave to the regulars again.
Back in the van, Joe has decided to put the heat on, but I ask him to shut it off because I’m having another hot flash. “I think they’ve canceled the game,” he says to me.
“Yeah. Rain’s pretty bad. Muddy field.”
“Naw, they put a tarp on it.”
“The whole field? How can they–”
Joe turns up the tape. And who knows which is which, and who is who….
A siren sounds nearby, and Joe and I turn to see where it’s headed. “Down near my place,” I say, guessing. “Someone fell and can’t get up.”
“Yeah, sure.” Joe pops the tape out and tunes in A.M. radio. Sporting News Flash — the Red Sox lose again last night…. Joe presses a few buttons and gets a music station. “Hey, Honey!” he calls out.
Honey slides toward her car, holding a magazine over her head to protect herself from the rain. She waves back, shouting, “Hi Honey!”
“Yeah, yeah.” She hops into her old Buick and starts the engine. It chugs for a second, then Honey pulls out of the parking lot and disappears into traffic.
A song by the late Harry Chapin comes on. Joe turns it down. “Too depressing,” he says.
“Where–where do you suppose she lives?” I ask.
“Dunno. Who, Honey? Round here, I guess.”
“Is she married?”
“Let’s go out to eat.”
“I’m not hungry.”
The regulars pick up their lawn chairs and head for their trucks. I notice a sizable tattoo on one guy’s arm. Another has a beard that hasn’t been trimmed for months. “Tomorrow,” the guys say to each other, crushing their cigarettes on the sidewalk.
I imagine, for a time, that I’m Honey, that I’m going home, maybe to wait for the criancas to come home from school. Or maybe she doesn’t have any. Maybe she comes home to an empty, run-down apartment near the Stop & Shop somewhere, sits at a chipped formica table, listening to news of home, on the radio portuguesa. Maybe she’s eating a few of the dozen rosquinhas she brought home, dreaming of a better life, a marido who loves her, a TV that works.
I needed one more fare…to make my night…ooh, ooh
Or maybe Honey is listening to an orquestra brasileira, taking the sound into her heart, letting it hop into her arms and breasts. Maybe the musica electrifies her entire body, and she moves her soul around in her small kitchen, the linoleum coming up in the corners, flies buzzing around a naked light bulb, while she dances, dances, dances.