The Kind of Diner – Samantha Steiner

Image: Ricky Singh

The kind of diner where the benches are turquoise vinyl, where the tables are edged in steel and there’s a tin full of half-used crayons by the register. Maybe there’s a jukebox. Maybe the jukebox actually works. Maybe it swallows your nickel.

The kind of bagel shop where half the walls are exposed brick and the other half are glass, where all the furniture was bought at an estate sale. Orders are handwritten on a notepad with a ballpoint pen and strung on the laundry line that spans the counter. There is no bathroom. Even the employees have to duck into the office building across the street on their lunch breaks.

The kind of bakery where the ceiling tiles can be poked out of place with a broom handle, where the chairs and tables are white wire. Help yourself to a pair of tongs, a serving tray. A cashier will give you more napkins than you could possibly need, and you will surprise yourself when you use them all.

The kind of cafe where there’s a corkboard. Someone needs a babysitter. Someone teaches guitar. Someone is selling a used croquet set. Each flyer ends in a fringe of phone numbers. You reach for that fringe and your wallet tumbles from your pocket. Someone picks it up and hands it back to you.

The kind of New York where you still live, though you don’t eat out much anymore.

Samantha Steiner is a Fulbright Scholar and two-time Best of the Net nominee. Her 2019 essay “To the Current Tenant” appears in the print anthology Coffin Bell 2.2, and other works are published or forthcoming in The Emerson Review, Apple Valley Review, and The Citron Review. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Steiner_Reads.

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