His stomach actually felt full. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt full. Well, he could, but it was a damn long time ago. He'd still had a house then. Food had been one of the first things he'd cut back on during the final descent. He'd sold his furniture to keep up the sparse pickings of food, one piece at a time, and then he'd been foreclosed because he'd skipped mortgage payments. Then he'd slept in his car until that got towed and he couldn't get it out of car jail.
He'd lived in a cardboard box for awhile until it rained.
Now he lived wherever he ended up at night.
But it'd been a long time since he'd felt full.
Mally stared at him as he stared at the plate, really wanting to lick it and get all the maple syrup off of it.
She wondered who he was, where he was from, what his story was like. She had a feeling that he looked a lot older than he was, though she wasn't certain. There were lines around his eyes that made her think he had a great many years behind him. It was hard to tell with that beard all crazy and unkempt as it was.
"Try me," she said finally.
Nick looked up from the plate. "What?" he said.
"You said a before that I'd never believe you if you told me your story," she recapped, then she repeated, "Try me."
Nick laughed, "You don't understand," he said, "You literally wouldn't believe me, and I don't have any way to prove it." He reached up and ran a hand under his beard, across his neck.
"How old are you?" she asked.
"Thirty-five," he said, "And a half," he added instinctively. Nick was one of those who'd never grown out of that habit of adding 'and a half' to his age.
Mally blinked in surprise. "You are thirty-five?" she repeated. She raised her eyebrow, and studied his eyes. "No way in hell are you thirty-five. You've got to be at least in your forties." Even at her 'young' guesstimate she'd never dreamt he was younger than his late-forties.
Nick shook his head, "I was born January 28, 1980," he replied.
Mally whistled low.
Nick looked away and started picking at a napkin nervously, ripping it into pieces, leaving little shreds on the table in front of him. She watched this process. It made her feel sad.
"I'm sorry," she said.
He looked up, "Why?"
"Because I basically just called you an old guy," she answered, frowning.
"You called it like it is," he answered, shrugging.
Mally hesitated, "You'd look younger if you shaved."
He snorted, "In what mirror? With what razor?" he shook his head. "You forget that having a bathroom and grooming are luxuries that most people take for granted. Like bubbles and sunshine here," he gestured to where a waitress would stand if she were there, referring to their waitress, "She didn't even really want to take my order because she doesn't like the way I smell. Well showers are luxuries now. I stole one once from a gym downtown, but they figured out I didn't have a membership and they kicked me out."
"I'm sorry," Mally said again, unsure how to respond to that.
Nick shrugged. He slipped out of the seat and stood up next to the booth. He fished into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a silver lighter that Mally could see was engraved with something, but she couldn't see what because he quickly slid his thumb over it the moment he saw her looking at it.
"Thank you very much for breakfast, miss," he said, again lifting his tattered baseball cap and half-bowing, "But I'm afraid I must be on my way." He lifted up his stuff - which consisted of the city-issued blanket, an empty milk carton, a length of rope and a plastic shopping bag that appeared to carry a bunch of little trinkets that Mally couldn't make out through the white plastic, only the shapes of them pressing outward.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
He shrugged, "Wherever."
Nick turned and walked away through the restaurant, his stuff hanging off him. She watched as he went, patrons turning around to see him go, then whispering between each other and pointing. The door jingled as it shut behind him. She sighed.