They come in one at a time.
They are well dressed, usually larger gentlemen, portly, all black. Their suits are colorful, Sunday best, just come from church. Vivid purples and blues, sherbet orange, pastel green. Matching hats, everything perfectly pressed.
They have the stance of addicts, milling about with clenched fists and occasional ticks.
They know each other, if not personally than as members of the same club. People with the same shame. They eye the door for wives or children or anyone else who could rat them out, or worse stop them.
I’m the only white boy in there, but that doesn’t get a second glance. I’m safe and their secret is safe with me.
The man in front is up and he stands at attention as he is called.
"You know what you want, baby?" she asks.
She is a wonderfully large woman. Both maternal and sexy. Buxom to overflowing, hair covered in a cloth, lips glossy, skin shining with the slightest patina of sweat. Her words are honeyed and slow and weighted.
And he knows what he wants. He knows with a specificity and hunger that makes other in the line reconsider what they want.
"The smothered pork chops, over rice. But," he stops her before she scoops form the mountain of snowy white rice, "put the turkey gravy over the rice and then some black eyed peas and a side of yams!"
There are nods from the others in the line. It’s a good order. It’s a solid choice.
The next gentleman’s order is equally detailed.
"One chicken breasts-in fact that one there," he points through the steam fogged glass. "No, next to it, the well done one. Right. And a large macaroni and cheese."
The word large is emphasized.
The shame in the room is complicated. Men getting away with something they promised their wives they wouldn’t do. Or promised themselves.
I’m in the second camp. I have a good enough list of justifications though. I had a long week at a new job. I walked a mile and a half this morning. I had a low fat yogurt for breakfast.
The woman behind the counter gives me a slow and sultry smile. A little growl in her voice before she asks, “what do you want, baby?”
"Two thighs," I start and she smiles wider and her eyebrows raise.
"Collared greens, no rice."
It’s an easy concession.
She nodes and fixes my Styrofoam plate. She looked up at me through thick lashes and adds a drumstick and a wink.
As I leave I see many of the men wolfing down their food wearing napkin bibs. More are in the alley nearby, hurriedly eating before rejoining their family.
The ones who have finished have smiles on their faces and loud laughs. Children who got away with cutting school or stealing a piece of candy.
I go home with my grease stained parcel. To wash it down with iced coffee and silly television shows I pirated.
It’s a lovely Sunday.