"What can I get you?" he asked. Pen in hand, pad on the counter, smiling and looking at the customer. "You're not Stopsky's," said the woman. "You'll never be Stopsky's." She marched out the door, leaving him only her scorn echoing in his ears.
"Don't worry about her," said the older woman next in line. "She just missed the place that was here before.
"I get that," he said. "It's no problem." As he took her order, and the orders following, he thought about the woman. What had this place been to her? Was it a home away from home? An escape, a refuge that had been closed, gutted, and made alien to her?
The line had gone, and he saw her outside, watching. How would he feel in her place? He imagined his childhood home turned into an accountant's office, looking the same outside but not. She came inside.
He greeted her.
"I'm angry," she said. "But it's not your fault. I'm sorry."
"Okay." He grimaced at his feeble response to open pain. He wanted to help, but all he said was, "Do you want anything?"
"Maybe tomorrow." Maybe she really would return tomorrow. Maybe then he could help.