All Stories, General Fiction

It’s Not About Her by Jaydan Salzke

Enter. Order. Eat. Pay. Leave.

The whole operation is streamlined; a seamless experience for staff and customer. The rules are clear and seldom broken: there’s to be no trespassing. People are here to nibble at sandwiches and sip coffee, not to have a stranger in an apron pry into their personal lives. So you serve them and leave it at that. That’s just the way it’s done.

…until it isn’t.

Because no matter how hard you try to respect the boundary, standing behind a countertop gives you a perspective you otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s from that vantage point, over the course of twenty-one years, that I got to know Nancy.

Tuesday June 15 2004

The door chimes. A family of six enter: a mum, a dad and four young ones, attached every which way to their parents. He’s more built. She does more of the carrying. They don’t speak much English, but find their way around the menu. They order. They eat. It’s chaos. I offer the kids colouring in. They take it. It works for a while. Until it doesn’t. He points at an apple cinnamon muffin and fumbles his way through asking for candles to be inserted and lit. They sing. She smiles. Until the oldest one blows them out before she gets the chance to. It’s not about her.

Sunday June 15 2008

The door chimes. A family of six enter: the children are older now and better at English. He’s on the phone. She’s handling the kids. They want the same as the previous four years: dinosaur nuggets and chips x4, a BLT for him and salad for her. They order. They eat. It’s less chaotic. I smile at how far they’ve come. They forget the muffin this year. They sit in silence. Until they don’t. He’s been promoted and needs to work away. They fight. She cries. Until the younger ones whine that they’re bored. It’s not about her.

Saturday June 15 2013

The door chimes. A family of five enter: the children are teenagers. He’s not there. She has bags under her eyes. They say a prayer for him. They order. They eat. It’s loud. I notice she’s not doing any of the talking. They talk over her. They ignore her. Until they don’t. He isn’t here to pay. They need her to. She approaches the counter, pays and spies the muffins. Until they impatiently call out. It’s not about her.

Saturday June 15 2024

The door chimes. A woman enters. He never came back. She, all alone, orders an apple cinnamon muffin. They want nothing to do with her. They left. They never call. It’s sad. I insert and light candles. They flicker. They hold on. Until they don’t: a draught extinguishes them. He isn’t here to sing. They aren’t either. She whimpers. Until people stare, disturbed by the noise. It’s not about her.

Sunday June 15 2025

The door chimes. It’s not Nancy. The café goes on. It’s not about her.

Jaydan Salzke

Image by Gundula Vogel from Pixabay 

18 thoughts on “It’s Not About Her by Jaydan Salzke”

  1. Hi Jaydan,
    I love how grim this is. As Leila has said, the tone and POV are brilliantly handled.
    It is simply done and shows the way a family can diminish.
    What I think is clever is that this is all observation but not really ‘known’ fact but due to it being so recognisable, we take it as fact.
    This is a very clever piece of writing!
    All the very best.
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Hugh. I appreciate your thoughtful observations. It was certainly fun to play with POV in this piece.

      Like

  2. Brilliant. A woman, a wife and mother reduced to an insignificant shadow floating in the background. This story captures the selfish reasons why so many woman are abandoned to live on their own. A clever interpretation and snapshot of lives merged out of existence. It is not about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, James! Thank you for reading. Unfortunately this story was inspired by a true story, though I knew her only be a secondhand account.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear you picked up on the irony! The story clearly was about her, but much of her life doesn’t feel that way and her abandonment underlines this. Thank you for your comment David.

      Like

  3. As others have said this has a very distinct, impressive pace. The short sentences, mainly focussing on actions, the use of pronouns rather than names, the repetition of themes; ‘the muffin’ all work together to give the piece a beautifully sad, ethereal tone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a moving and relatable piece of writing. You capture some very human experiences in the fleeting moments when we think we are invisible. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

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