The place was pretty empty and there was a choice of table or booth.
"Can I get you anything to drink?"
"Water and coffee please."
"Coke...no, sweetened iced tea for a change."
"Ok. Milk or cream?"
"Milk is fine."
She finished jotting and walked away.
"How was work? Get the exams done?"
"Yeah, I've got one set of essays left to read. I want to get to the gym today and I have to be back at school at 6:40 to judge a competition."
"Any good bands playing? Maybe I'll come listen."
"No, it's a video game. Kids play fake instruments and pretend to be rock stars."
"So they fake it."
"Yeah. You want my lemon? I hate lemon in my water."
Taking the lemon, he put it on the rim of his glass and began stirring with the straw. I mixed the milk slowly into the coffee.
"Ok so I've been figuring." He grabbed a napkin. "You have a pen?"
I fumbled a black felt tip from my pocket.
"Here's what you're looking at in bills." He was writing as he was talking. "Phone, electric, gas, insurance for the place, insurance for the car, food, gas, savings, and car. First off," he was pointing at the word "CAR" with the tip, "how much is this a month?"
"What're you having?"
"You go first."
"Ham and cheese omelette. Can you put sausage in it too?"
She nodded. "Toast and potato?"
"Wheat and home fries if you still have them please."
"I'll have a western omelette with white and a side of sausage. Ok so figure hundred dollars a week for food." He wrote down $400. "One fifteen for phone, gas and electric," he drew a bracket and wrote $200 next to it. "Are you filling the tank once a week?"
"How much was the last fill?"
"So say seventy-five. It depends on where you live. House insurance maybe twelve thousand a year." He wrote $100. "Car insurance one twenty-five. I'll leave this blank." He meant "Savings."
He had always been good at math, as far as I could remember, and had it added in seconds, column by column like they teach in school. He turned the paper toward me. It was not as much as expected.
"Here you go, ham, cheese, and sausage and western."
* * * * *
"I make this," took the paper, added two paychecks together, "a month."
He subtracted the previous amount. "Then this is what you'd have left to pay the mortgage."
That figure was also smaller than expected.
"Don't forget that you'll need a down payment and a couple thousand for closing costs." He looked at me. "You're really ready to do this, huh?"
"Yes, I am."
"Can I take that for you?"
"You're in a good position, you're making money, you have a job, you're putting it in the bank. When we moved out we didn't have any savings and neither of us had steady jobs. We had a little cause we just got married, but it took us seven years to buy a house.
"You know you're not being forced out or anything. You can have people over if you want, that's not a problem. Did something happen? You seem hellbent on moving out. Was it driving Nani the other day?"
"No, nothing happened, it's not that." I looked away. "I set a goal for myself and I want to be out before Ali's done with school."
"And know there's no problem with staying past that goal."
"I want to move out. Staying past that goal turns us into a sit-com." Laughter. Way to diffuse the situation.
"Take that when you're ready."
He started playing the trombone with the check, forgetting his glasses in the truck.
"OK, you ready?"
"Yeah, I'm ready."