Meeting Rex Jenkins
Three years ago, I met a man named Rex Jenkins. I'm not sure if that was his real name or a stage name, but whatever it was, it suited him. Rex came into the Crossroads Diner here outside Lincoln, Nebraska on a hot, dry, prairie day in the middle of June.
Like many that come through this diner, usually headed anywhere but here, Rex rolled up on a Harley, road weary, and looking for a place to get a cup of coffee, and that last slice of cherry pie all travelers seem to crave when they know they're at the last outpost before hundreds of miles of open road awaits them.
I usually hear the motorcycles pull up while I'm tending to our few regulars and wiping down the pie case. I hardly even look up anymore. But for some reason, this time I looked up and gazed out the window as Rex roared in. Dressed in leather, with a battered guitar case strapped to his back, his long blond hair whipping in the dust and wind. You could say that I might have looked up out of sheer animal instinct, Adonis on a motorcycle just pulled up, but it was more than that.
It wasn't anything physical at all. Good looking men of all kinds come through here. But there was something about him that made me care to look up.
Guitar still strapped to his back, he walked from the small parking lot to the front doors - my eyes following him the whole time. The bell chimed as he walked in, but sounding like a bell giving an angel its wings this time. Blond hair now calm around his shoulders, leathers dusty and weather chapped,..but his boots were clean and shiny. As if his feet never touched the ground.
He stood for a minute looking around the diner, took off his aviator shades, and met my gaze with ice blue eyes. Eyes that smiled, yet had an overwhelming sadness about them. He flashed a matinee idol smile at me showcasing impossibly white teeth against his tan and weathered skin. This man seemed very yin and yang unto himself and it intrigued me to see this walking contradiction standing before me.
"Hey there, welcome to Crossroads - you want to sit at the bar or do you want a booth?"
"A booth," he said squinting to read my name tag, "Maura."
I smiled, "No problem, follow me." I grabbed a menu out of the holder by the side of the cash register and and led him to a back booth that would hold him and his guitar.
"Musician, huh?" I asked.
"What gave it away?" he smiled.
"Your boots," I said wryly.
This made him roar with laughter as he slid his guitar on the bench first and followed, picking up the menu as he slid into his seat.
'Well, Maura, I guess now that you know my vocation, I guess you're going to tell me what I'm going to eat, too."
"Most get a cup of coffee and a slice of pie."
"I'm a lot of things, Maura, and 'most people' isn't one of them," he chuckled, "How about a hamburger and a Pepsi?"
I scribbled the order on my pad, "That I can do, too. And since you know my name, it's only right that I know yours."
He chuckled again, "You are wearing a name tag, m'dear. My psychic powers are not as good as yours. I should make you guess my name."
"Hmmm," I said, "Grouchy McCrankypants?"
Again the roaring laugh that filled the whole diner, I noticed his laugh shook his whole body. As if joy came from deep within his soul and he felt every bit of it.
He held out his hand for me to shake, "Rex Jenkins," he said as we shook hands.
"Pleased to meet you, Rex. What brings you to Oachuck, Nebraska?"
"On my way to Colorado Springs for a few gigs. I do summers there, go home for a while, in the fall I'm in Montana and parts West, go home, tour east for a while, go home, back west, and so on and so on..."
"Ah, a bit of a Gypsy, huh, " I said.
"Exactly - it's the boots," he smiled.
I smiled back, "Let me go put this order in for you and get you that Pepsi."