The Art of Owning a Diner

The highlight of my week so far has been climbing a five foot tall rock! Perched upon this structure, I could gaze upon my kingdom of cracked concrete and shattered glass, the leftover floor from a diner that disappeared years ago.

These days, diner owners are wonderful people facing a difficult predicament. If their business flourishes, then no one will notice the rocks in front of their restaurants. But if their diner gets razed off the face of the Earth, so that only the floor is left over and you can’t tell the difference between the kitchen and the bathroom tile, someone will notice the rock and eventually climb it.

What am I supposed to do if I am a diner owner who loves rocks?

If I buy a big rock with all my savings, my business might fail, and then I will have to leave my rock behind forever. I will be happy that the rock still exists and that Harv spawn pay homage by coating it with skin cells. But I will also be sad, because the state is evicting me and alien-plants tower over my rock.

Yet even if I focus on the diner, I may never be able to afford my dream-rock. How large is my dream-rock? How many dream-rocks do I need? Will the existence of my dream-rock justify all the rockless nights I spent at the diner? I must keep track of time very carefully, maybe by marking the days on my calendar with permanent marker. I don’t want to spend my entire life as a disappointed diner owner.

If I tend to my diner without forgetting my rock, I will always look at my friends who did otherwise and wonder how it would feel to take a risk. There are people who survive the initial rock purchase, and others who are affluent from their diner days. Do I still love rocks when I see this? Some days I cannot tell if I am taking care of the diner and the rock, or just neglecting both.

When I was starting high school, I did not love many rocks. I saw my peers tending to their rock gardens, and felt sad that I only had a few in mine. (Now I know that you can tend to a rock without ever loving it — in fact, many people do.) I retreated to my diner and told myself that cooking was not so bad.

But junior year, I found an opal. It made me crazy. I loved the gem dearly, and when I saw myself reflected on the surface, I loved myself too. My happiness trickled into the food that I made. The diner flourished. As the year progressed, I felt the desire to polish my opal, so it might sparkle more and last longer.

I flew out to Cambridge to visit the most popular jeweller I knew. I told him about how much I loved the opal, and how the diner food tasted better because I was happy. He smiled.

“Your opal is beautiful. I am proud of you.”
“Will you help me?”
“I’d love to. But statistically speaking, no.”
“I’m not a statistic.”
(I totally am, but there are some things you just have to believe to stay afloat.)
“And what about your diner?”
“Would I ever let my diner be unsuccessful, when I love my opals so much?”

I spent the first three months of senior year speaking to the jeweller like this. I put all my energy into words, and wove stories about my love and ambition. Yet the more I talked about my opals, the less I tended to them. I should not have done this. People who really love opals spend time taking care of them instead of talking about them.

When I returned to my room each night, I told myself I was working hard. That I was too tired for my diner, my opals, my world. Now, it is summer, and I still feel tired. My opals are in a drawer that I rarely open, and I have shut down the diner for a bit. My parents try not to push me, yet they ask me why I am visiting the jeweller if I have nothing for him to polish.

I have no answer.

Yet as August draws near and freshman year at Harvard becomes a real prospect, I am filled with fearful hope. Maybe my classmate’s diners are international chains, and maybe their rocks are not hidden away in a drawer. But we will speak the same language, one of owning diners and feeling crazy and loving rocks. I know I can find my opals once more.

After all, not all who wander are lost.

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