At the diner, about lunch.

How Much Do I Hate Reality TV?

“Oh, did you see the episode of Preacher’s Daughters last night?” Penny asks. “The one with the–”

I stop her there. “I hate reality TV shows.”

She gives me a look like I just ruined a birthday. “Excuse me?”

“I don’t watch it. I just… feel there’s something wrong with it,” I say trying to meet to harsh glare and show her I’m actually on her side.

“What does that matter?” she says with an insulted look.

“Just because you like it doesn’t mean I have to listen to it. Why do you have the right to talk about it and I don’t have the right to avoid listening to it?” I pose back to her.

With a sneer she says, “You could go away.” She wasn’t trying to be helpful, but she meant it.

“I’m eating,” I remind her, motioning to my half eaten burger.

She glances at my plate and guilt flashes across her eyes. It doesn’t take. “Like I–” she starts.

Her friend interrupts her with, “Why do you put up with him?”

“Like I chose this place,” she returned, turning sharply to look straight at her.

I didn’t catch Friend’s name. She’s kinda dull. But Friend looks at her, taken back a little, then at me and says, “What’s your problem if she tells me the story?”

“Because I have to sit here and listen to it,” again, motioning to the table.

“Pretend we’re not here,” Penny says.

“No. Because I hate reality TV for good reasons. It’s not reality. Sometimes it’s intentionally fictional. But most of it is just an indulgence in people with broken lives and broken values. It creates an illusion that these people are common. And maybe they are. Maybe so many people like it because it’s a magic mirror. But instead of making you look beautiful, it makes other people look ugly. Same result, but instead of celebrating your beauty, you are celebrating other people’s misery.”

“Wow,” she says. I might have gone too far. She’s insulted now.

“I’m not saying I’m a saint,” I tell her. Her eyebrows twist into ‘duh.’ “I mean, we all have a choice. Move forward, press through our internal struggles and demons, or avoid them and feed them by looking for problems that exist outside of you.”

“I didn’t come here to be lectured,” Penny says. I went over the cliff. “I have two jobs I need to keep hold of. My father might be going senile. And I have to move in two weeks, and I can’t find anything I can afford. Other people’s misery is the only thing that’s keeping me from killing someone. So, why don’t you fuck off and finish your cow guts or move to another booth, I don’t care, but I’m going to go back to my birthday lunch and talk about shows I like.”

I nod a few times, sheepishly. She has a point. Alright.

I turn back to my own booth, and let them chat behind my back. My burger looks like it’s through with me anyway. This is what I get for venturing into the world. I get up and leave cash that includes a generous tip.

I kick the diner on my way out. I’m sure I heard him snicker. Asshole.

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