Inside the women's restroom, the hand dryer is roaring. When it stops for a moment, it's quiet. Both stalls are occupied; a voice giggles from behind one of the metal doors.

"I'm at breakfast now. But I'm sobering up, and I'll be leaving soon."

The toilet in the other stall flushes, and young brunette in jeans walks out.

Rene Cavaness takes orders during the 8 a.m.-to-2 p.m. shift. She's worked at Courtesy Diner for almost six years.
Rene Cavaness takes orders during the 8 a.m.-to-2 p.m. shift. She's worked at Courtesy Diner for almost six years.

Location Info

Map

Lumière Place Casino

999 N. Second St.
St. Louis, MO 63102

Category: Casinos

Region: St. Louis - North Downtown

Courtesy Diner

3155 S. Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

The Buttery

3659 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Restaurant > Diner

Region: St. Louis - South Grand

Tiffany's Original Diner

7402 Manchester Road
Maplewood, MO 63143

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Maplewood

Courtesy Diner

1121 Hampton Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

Uncle Bill's Pancake & Dinner House

3427 S. Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South City

City Diner

3139 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South Grand

Eat-Rite Diner

622 Chouteau Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63102

Category: Restaurant > Diner

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Denny's

1515 Hampton Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139-3038

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South City

Coffee Cartel

2 Maryland Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Coffee Shops

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

"Yeah, but when's the last time you got tested? No, really...."

The brunette quietly washes her hands. When she's finished, she lingers with dripping fingers, listening to the happy, oblivious voice still in the stall. If she listens hard enough, she can just detect a string of mumbled male responses.

"And you were clean? Really, you promise?" Both girls wait. "OK. I'm on my way."

A cell phone snaps shut, the toilet flushes, and before the other stall opens, the brunette rushes out of the bathroom, shaking her hands dry. — Kristen Klempert

Denny's (Hampton), 3:57 a.m. The windows are dark, but there's one car in the parking lot, which means there's still hope. Maybe the late-shift cook and server carpooled? There's no way Denny's — of all places — would foil the plans of countless drunks and insomniacs by closing.

"Oh, for fuck's sake."
— Ian Froeb


Coffee Cartel, 4:42 a.m. The woman has been in the restroom for at least half an hour now. African American, average height and build, strikingly big, round eyes, short ash-gray hair pulled back into a tight bun. She went in there with a backpack, which isn't at all remarkable — who wants to leave stuff unprotected in a public place, especially at the asscrack of dawn? — except that she left another backpack at her table. Every few minutes comes the sound of water splashing in the restroom sink. It's hard not to conclude that the woman is washing herself, maybe changing clothes.

No one seems to notice. The half-dozen customers are lost in the dull glare of their laptop screens. An employee is cleaning up, iPod buds in his ears, the motion of his sweeping matching the beat of his music: Stab into a corner with the broom, then sweep, sweep, sweep out. Stab — sweep, sweep, sweep.

Finally the woman emerges. She has changed from one dull, formless tracksuit to another. She sits at her table and from her other backpack removes what looks like a stack of brown paper towels. She unfolds this stack to reveal a banana, which she peels, then slowly eats. Finished, she carefully folds the brown paper towels into a flat stack, which she stows in her backpack.

After another trip to the restroom, she ties her hair in a kerchief, puts on a coat and leaves. The barista says something. To whom isn't clear until she turns, revealing a Bluetooth headset plugged into one ear.
— Ian Froeb


Courtesy Diner (Kingshighway), 6:48 a.m. Ed Hardy is eating at the Courtesy Diner.

OK, clearly, the guy's not the Ed Hardy, but the designs crowding his pale Ed Hardy T-shirt blend seamlessly with the tattoos on his pale biceps, so the name seems appropriate. He's in his early forties, fit, with close-cropped hair, a heavy brow and a flattened nose — boxing or bar fights or maybe a little of both.

He paces outside the diner's entrance, talking on his cell phone, gesturing dramatically with his free hand. He's ending the conversation as he walks into the restaurant and takes a seat at the counter: "Keep your head up, OK?"

He orders coffee and a special, "The Hangover." His phone rings. "I think he's going to pull through," he tells whoever's on the other end. "They had to cut open his head on both sides. Because of the hemorrhaging. Blood on the brain."

The conversation takes a turn. Now he's describing his night in south city, a nameless woman: "We were dancing real slow."

The phone call is over, breakfast served. Ed Hardy eats slowly, pausing every few bites to stare at the wall behind the grill. Suddenly, out loud, he sings the chorus to "Push" by Matchbox Twenty.

I wanna push you around, well I will, well I will.

A few bites later, he turns to the man seated to his right. "What's really going on?" he asks, and, after another few bites, says something that sounds like, "He shoulda had a mustache."

The waitress clears his empty plate. Ed Hardy props up his arm on the counter, rests his head against his knuckles and soon, as his head sinks toward the counter, falls sound asleep.
— Ian Froeb

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