Welcome to Nervosa. Just go with it– this is an old, unfinished story!
It was late, and Devin was tired. He could feel his eyelids falling as he tried so very hard to work. It had to have been close to ten, and the diner was closing in an hour. He looked down at his bony hands as he carefully took the plates and cups and put them in a basin to be cleaned later. So long as he didn’t have to carry anything directly, he could do his job. The owner of the diner was a wonderful old woman named Tabitha Anne. She was a very understanding, kind woman, and though Devin was mistrustful of most people, he liked her. She would always ask him to stay to eat or relax after closing time, though she had grandchildren to care for and a life to live. He never agreed, but he appreciated her effort, and she never failed to ask.
Devin wiped down the table and felt fatigue coming over him. He was dangerously tired now—he’d been working since the afternoon, and he really needed to sit down. But he couldn’t afford a break right now; he could barely afford rent as it stood.
Regardless, it was much quieter in the tiny diner than it had been a few minutes prior. A large group of people had taken up the table he was wiping down now, and they’d made such a mess. But it would be cleaned soon, and they even left quite a hefty tip! Devin pocketed the money carefully, and continued to wipe down the table.
“Oh it looks clean enough,” Tabitha said, coming out from the back, “Let me bring those dishes inside for you.” She was very understanding of his limitations, but Devin shook his head. He didn’t need pity.
“I’ve got it, thank you,” he said, and he turned to push the basin into the back room. But a bell jingled, and Devin wanted to scream. That damn bell had been ringing all day, and he was tired of working. Who came to eat in a small diner in the middle of California at this time of night?
He looked up to find a shock of purple. A man, slightly shorter than he was, was looking around him, his hair layered and bright purple.
“Go handle that, Devin,” Tabitha said, and she wheeled the basin into the other room. Sighing, Devin took out a pencil and pad and walked over to the man.
“Hello,” he said with a forced smile. The man looked over to him, and gasped. Great. Another person to comment on his weight…
“Your eyes…” the man said a smile spreading on his face, “They’re beautiful!” Devin frowned.
“What are you…?”
“I’ve never seen anyone with such blue eyes.” And the man leaned into him, making Devin lean back.
“Sorry, sorry. I just… I like making comments.” And he laughed. Devin found himself trying to laugh as well, but he was just so weak and tired…
“So you work here, huh? Well I’m ready to order.” Devin frowned.
“Alright. Take a seat.” The man chose his seat and Devin carefully followed, trying to be sure of himself. But he was tired, and when he was tired, he fell. And falling would upset Tabitha and disturb this man, if he wasn’t already disturbed. Devin certainly would be, if he saw a person like himself from a distance.
“Do you have breakfast specials?” the pink haired man asked, peering down at the menu Devin handed him.
“Yes, but we only serve breakfast between the hours of-”
“I want breakfast, sir,” the man said, eyes glinting in the bright lighting. Devin felt uneasy.
“Ah… alright, then. I’ll have to talk to the owner.” The purple haired man nodded contently, folding his hands in front of him. Devin carefully walked back to the kitchen, being sure that he minded every step he took. Tabitha stood in the kitchen, a book on the counter as she recorded something important.
“He wants breakfast,” Devin said with a lengthy sigh, his arms falling to his sides. Tabitha looked up and at him, and she sighed.
“Please tell him we don’t serve breakfast at this time of night.”
“I already told him.” Tabitha shook her head.
“Alright, let me speak to him.” And the two left the kitchen. Devin stood nearby, listening to their interaction.
“Hello sir, I own this restaurant.” The man smiled.
“Well hello! My name is Virote, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He extended a hand which she shook almost hesitantly, expecting someone a little more ornery.
“What’s the problem?” she asks. And they spoke at length about the times at which breakfast ought to be served. And in ten minutes, they were laughing about some joke or another. Devin took a careful seat on a stool at the counter and sighed. He looked at the clock—it was almost time for the diner to close. That was all that mattered.
“But thank you, I’ve never had such a laugh about fishing!” And Virote laughed again. Tabitha nodded.
“I know. Not many younger people enjoy fishing. But that story was funny, you are a very entertaining man!” Virote laughed, and Devin contained another sigh. How long would this conversation last? He needed to rest.
“Thank you! But I’m so hungry. How about I have salami and cheese on a roll, instead? I wouldn’t want to put you or your people through any unnecessary stress.” Tabitha smiled.
“I’m sorry about our breakfast times, perhaps I’ll consider making it a part of the regular menu.” Virote nodded, and the older woman moved away. Devin remained where he was, feeling incredibly tired. He eyed the clock again. Only ten minutes—he could last that long, right? Even as his hands shook dangerously, he really hoped he could get home before anything happened. People didn’t always look too kindly on those who passed out in the middle of the street-
“Hey,” and he whipped his head around to see Virote smiling at him from where he sat. Devin stood and walked over, his body protesting the movements.
“Do you need something?” he asked, trying to remain polite. He really hoped his voice didn’t sound as gruff as it did in his head.
“How about you sit down!” Virote said, his teeth glinting in the artificial light, “Your boss seems like a very kind woman—I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.” Devin huffed. So that was what this was about.
“I’m alright, thank you,” he bit out, trying in vain to keep his temper in check. He didn’t need this.
“Wait!” he stopped at the almost urgency he found in the other man’s voice, and he turned, “Come on, it’ll only be a little bit before my food gets here. I’m sure she won’t mind.” And Devin sighed, feeling too tired to fight. He gingerly sat in the seat in front of the other man, who gave him another winning smile. Were teeth even supposed to be that white?
“So, what’s your name?” Virote asked, and he fidgeted for a moment before responding.
“I’m Devin. It’s nice to meet you.” The purple haired man nodded, catching his eyes. They were hazel, and they seemed to almost change colors as he moved. Devin sighed internally, feeling the exhaustion begin to claim him. He shouldn’t have sat down. He’d pass out ten times faster if he rested halfway through—at least if he worked on pure adrenaline and the steam from the day, he’d make it home. But now…
“And I’m Virote. But you probably already know that.” Devin nodded.
“So why blue?” and Devin quirked up a blond eyebrow, “I mean… I don’t see too many guys with dyed hair.” He weighed his answer.
“Blue is my favorite color,” he said, “And I’ve been dying it since I was fifteen.” Virote nodded, flipping a lock of neon purple hair from his face.
“Purple is mine. I was thinking of going pink, actually,” he said, “Men ought to dye their hair more. They should grow it out, too. I cut mine awhile back and I’ve regretted it ever since!” Devin suddenly felt conscious of his shoulder-length hair. He shifted a little in his seat and said nothing.
“So how long have you worked here?” Clearly, this man was the king of terrible small talk. Devin sighed.
“Far too fucking long if you ask me.” He hadn’t meant to say that, actually, but exhaustion made him speak without thinking. Virote hummed.
“Well I guess you have other plans,” he said, chuckling for a moment, “I do, too. In fact, I was pretty hell-bent on graduating college this year, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
“Really?” Devin asked, “I… er… had to drop out.” He hadn’t really meant to say that, either.
“I almost did,” Virote said with a wistful smile, “But people kind of expect things from you after a while. Good grades, a bright future, all that inane bullshit.” Devin found himself chuckling despite himself.
“Yeah…” And his thoughts were turning for the worst, of failed tests and hospital visits. Feeding tubes. Tearful faces. Whitewashed walls. He frowned subconsciously and clenched his bony fists, almost forgetting the receipt book he still held.
“Do you work here every day?” Virote asked, pulling him from his reverie. Devin cleared his throat.
“Pretty much,” he replied, glancing at Virote for a moment before returning his gaze to the table. He really ought to get up. Now.
“Well maybe I can come see you again tomorrow! Perhaps not this late—I’ve got a lot of things that need to get done, and a lot of my classes are at night.” Devin had begun shaking his head before the man had even finished his suggestion.
“No, no, that’s alright,” he said, giving him a plastic grin. Virote sent him another winning smile.
“Come on. I’m not that ugly, am I?”
“What? I… no, that’s not it–”
“Well how about I stop by around one. You’ll be here around then, right?” Devin looked at the man for a moment, taking in the short, bright purple hair and rather colorful clothing. Something told him that, no matter how much he might choose to refuse, Virote would come anyway.
“Er… yeah,” he said tiredly, “I’ll be here.” He heard a bell ding from behind him, and Devin stood unsteadily, trying to stop his arms from shaking. Yes, he was far too tired for his own good. But Virote said nothing, if he noticed his predicament at all, and Devin shuffled towards the kitchen.
“Oh, dearie, I’ll bring it to him,” Tabitha said, taking a good look at his pallid features. Devin sighed, the breath coming our more like a wheeze. He shouldn’t have worked so late today.
“Alright,” he said, and she patted him lightly on one arm while bringing the dish into the dining area.
Devin sat there for a moment, feeling his situation worsen with every passing second. He needed to leave before he caused a scene. He liked to pretend that he was invincible. And when the pain got too bad– when his heart hammered in his chest so hard that he saw stars; when his every move gave way to powerful shaking and splitting migraines– he liked to pretend he could float and that nothing hurt. If only to get through a day of work, or through a pathetic attempt to save his failing art career. And sometimes it’d work, he’d make it through the day and collapse into bed and be happy he didn’t have a heart attack. And other times he’d be on his death bed for a few hours. And the pains in his stomach would get so bad that he’d force himself to eat something—anything. And the feeling of a rock in his stomach would hurt, too, and he’d curse himself for being weak.
He lived off of protein shakes and water nowadays. Everyone said it wasn’t enough, and maybe it wasn’t, but it didn’t matter.
Tabitha returned and found him barely holding himself up on his toothpick legs, and sent him packing with a tip he hadn’t earned. She’d offered to drive him, but there was no point. He lived five minutes away by foot. And he could make it. Even in the dark. Even in the cold. He left out the back so as not to flaunt his condition. Because that’s what it was, right? It’d get better soon.