This kid with a Mohawk haircut starts talking to me as I'm standing outside Sophia's Restaurant on Main Street downtown finishing a cigarette. I'm not paying much attention to him as it's early morning and I'm still trying to wake up — but I think I'm friendly enough as I put out my smoke and enter Sophia's to get some breakfast.
Pete is busy at the grill, and mother Sophia is sitting at a table dozing. I sit down at a booth to my right and order a breakfast sandwich.
The kid with the Mohawk enters Sophia's, sees me sitting at the booth and walks over to it and takes a seat. Pete gives the kid a "what in the hell" kind of look.
"No, you can sit over there," Pete says. "Take a table to yourself."
The kid looks at me and says, "Can I sit here?"
Feeling puzzled, I look at the kid, then at Pete, and I tell Pete, "It's alright, he can sit here."
Pete gives me his own puzzled look and returns to the grill. All this commotion wakes up Sophia.
The kid also orders a breakfast sandwich and some coffee, then smiles at me and says, "Pay no attention to the Mohawk. I lost a baseball bet."
"Name is Todd," he says, extending his hand, which I shake.
I tell him my name, and then he starts to talk about being downtown.
"I've been down here since 6 o'clock," Todd says, and that's when I notice a bit of a southern twang in his voice. "My mom dropped me off, and it's scary down here in this here big city."
His face is round and struggling a bit with acne. Todd's eyes are blue, and his hands are short and chubby. He seems out of place.
"What brings you down here?" I ask.
"I'm taking a driving class over there at that Bob Shropshire Company," he says, pointing across the street. "I'm getting really close to getting my license back."
Bob Shropshire & Sons provide indoor and outdoor driving classes for teens and adults who are trying to get driving privileges reinstated. Todd tells me that last year he had a big problem with alcohol and got pulled over one night while driving drunk.
"That was just pure hell," he says. "I learned my lesson, and I never, ever touch the stuff now. Maybe it was the best thing that's ever happened to me."
Mother Sophia brings over our breakfast sandwiches and Todd's coffee. He quickly takes a big bit out of his sandwich.
"How old are you?" I ask.
"Where you from?"
I smile and say, "E-Town?"
Todd smiles back and says, "You know where E-Town is? Really, do you? Most don't call it that anymore."
Turns out Todd lives outside of Elizabethtown on a farm with his parents. I mention to him that I also grew up on a farm in Indiana — just over an hour away from E-Town.
"Why would you leave there to come to a place like this?" Todd asks.
I smile but don't answer him.
With his mouth full of food, he tells me he works on the farm with his dad and sometimes tries to find construction work, but it's been difficult to get outside work not being able to drive.
"I have a bicycle, but it takes me too long to get to the sites," Todd says. "I need my car back."
He continues to talk about his parents and how good they are to him and talks about wanting to find a girlfriend or maybe join the Army or maybe buy his own farm. He's a little all over the place as I sit there eating and listening.
I finish my sandwich and then tell Todd, "My friend, I have to go."
He gets a worried work on his face.
"Do you really have to go?"
"You'll be alright," I reply. "Take a walk around the city while you're waiting for Shropshire to open up."
"I'm not gonna do that," he says, now looking scared. "What if someone asks me for money and I say I don't have any and he pulls a knife on me and kills me?"
I hold back a laugh, but my heart also sinks a little.
"That's not going to happen," I say. "But if you're more comfortable, just stay here until they open up across the street."
"That's exactly what I'm gonna do," he says.
I get up from the booth and shake Todd's hand. His smile is wide when he says, "Thanks for being nice to be, mister."
When I go up to pay my bill, I tell Pete to put Todd's order on mine.
We were two country boys having breakfast together in downtown Cincinnati. I hope Todd from E-Town gets his license back.