Leo's Coney Island - Royal Oak, MI


ENTRY 38 – Late Night at Leo’s


Fifteen minutes and he still isn’t here. Is this the right Coney? I guess it’s a good thing I keep this diary in my purse. He seems like a really nice guy too. Who knows, maybe he’s the one?


He said Leo’s right? We were on the dance floor and I’d had like… a lot of drinks and I could feel he was… excited to be dancing with me. And I said, maybe you want to get out of here? And he’d said Leo’s. And I’d said fifteen minutes. And now here I am.


At least I can look out the window. It feels weird to be sitting in this booth by myself when every other booth is packed with high teenagers. And these tacky Grecian murals on the walls that were probably painted by some friend of somebody who owns the place... the vibe is a little… put on. And I’m here in my black leather skirt and high boots and it’s probably three degrees outside.


I’m definitely alone. I feel like such a skeeve.


Forty five minutes now.  He’s not here yet. Not even a text. I’ve already nursed down two coffees. Maybe he got held up. It is snowing outside. And maybe his phone is out of battery. Or maybe he turned it off? I think I’ll order a gyro.


Food photography is difficult.

C/O Urban Spoon


I pretty much have to keep shifting around because the plastic booth-cushion is sticking my leathered ass to the seat. The gyro was tasty, but in a regretful way. I know the garlic-filled Greek dressing is stinking up my breath. And the soft, vaguely-sweet pita it was wrapped in probably is, as we speak, settling into my waist.


Why do I even think about things like this? Why can’t I just enjoy anything without overthinking it? Is it just me?


It’s been an hour. I have a “Famous” Greek Salad in front of me. It’s probably 2/3 feta. Most of the teens have left. So, I guess this guy might not be coming. No big deal. It’s not like this is the first time. Who knows, though. I feel stupid. Maybe he just got held up? Maybe… 

I ordered a plate of fries.

Why is it so hard to be alone? I like myself, most of the time. I think I look good and my friends think I look great. And they don’t know how I can eat so much and still be so skinny. I tried to call his phone and it went right to that stupid answering-machine woman’s voice. So I don’t even know if it’s his number. Maybe his phone did run out of battery. But it’s been like an hour and a half.


I do feel lonely almost all the time now. When you work with people all day, like I do at the coffee shop, it makes it harder to be alone. I just want to touch somebody, to have them hold me back. It’s weird that we need that. That people need actual physical touch.


"You aren't a Michigan teen until you've snorted Sierra Mist in Leo's."

C/O Flickr user Aaron Gillespie

It’s still snowing so hard outside and every time a couple walks by I can’t help but inspect if the guy is my guy. I can’t even really remember what he looked like. Short brown hair with that little ski-jump spiky-swoosh in the front. He had on a polo that was either light green or blue. I think it had stripes. And that was pretty much it. But that’s all I need at this point: a person. A human. I keep sinking deeper down into my side of the bed while the other side has lost any hint of an imprint.


Two and a half hours and I now have a milkshake in front of me. I’m not even a bit tipsy any more. Except for me, two middle-aged women talking in hushed tones and this crusty guy two booths over who keeps leveling his eyes just below my chin, the place is empty. I should have left two hours ago. More. But the alternative is a cold, silent apartment. The alternative is work in six hours.


I don’t know if this is making me stronger. Everybody talks about how hardship makes you a stronger, more independent person. But when your problem is not wanting to be independent – not wanting to be alone – does it still work that way? Like, am I building up a giant wound in some part of me that will develop into massive psychic scar tissue that’ll cover the aching need for company that I’m feeling? Can a person ever learn to be fully alone, forever? I don’t think so. Just by the simple fact that a person’s first impulse after doing something they’re proud of is to want to tell somebody about it. You want other people to know about what you’ve done. It’s why a lot of successful criminals eventually get caught. Who wants to be great at something if nobody else knows about it? If you’re completely alone? It’s really hard to do something purely for yourself.


Only four and a half hours to work now. I got another coffee. The waitress is past concern. She just keeps looking at me with a mixture of “what’s next” and “give it up.” I could tell her all this stuff that I’m writing but I don’t want to. I don’t want to spread around my alone-ness. I just want to hold it close. Maybe I can smother it, like a flame without air. Or maybe it’ll smother me?


The snow stopped. I’ve become one with this bench. Maybe this is it? Maybe I’ll just go home and lock the doors and drink myself to death. It’s funny (maybe not funny, but more interesting) that that’s always an option. That it’s easy for me to just go home and drink all the alcohol I’ve legally bought and die. And it’s weird that I’m thinking about that now. No, I don’t really think I want to do that. But I could. Is it weird to think stuff like this? Is it weirder to write it down? To share it in some private way? I think it’s weird that we don’t share it more often.


A crash course in capitalism.

C/O Urban Spoon

But we don’t share much with anyone, do we? We don’t share thoughts like, when I’m driving, the thought that I could just flick the wheel to the left and kill at least a couple people. Or how, in the mall, I could just hurl myself from the escalator and scar, at least, 40 people for life.


And if I did tell someone those things they’d cringe and tell me how weird it was and how unnatural. But unnatural? Weird? They’re such a small step away from normal. They’re not difficult in practice or in imagination. They’re sitting there in plain sight every single day. But I guess they are weird, if weird, by definition, means something that’s uncomfortable to think about. But I don’t think I’m alone in thinking them. It’s just not OK to talk about.


Maybe that’s why I’m still in this booth. I need to do something weird. Do anything for long enough and you become an oddity. That’s how easy it really is to go outside the bounds of our culture. It’s as simple as too much, too long, too little, too anything. So I’m just going to keep sitting here. I’m going to find power in something that’s not my own loneliness.


And is this so weird? I’m just sitting here, enjoying some food. But the waitress probably thinks I’m crazy. And all the people who have come and gone have probably looked at the dressed up girl alone in her booth, scribbling away in some book and thought that she was either super depressing or probably screwed up. But I don’t feel screwed up. I feel good, actually. I feel in control.


I could kill myself at any moment. Any of us could. But we don’t. It’s the truth. The morbid truth. The unsettling truth. But it’s the truth nonetheless. The truth is the reality we live in, rather than the reality we choose to acknowledge.


And I think the fact that I’m thinking about it now makes me appreciate it a little bit more. Makes me appreciate life a little bit more. Like, I’ve had all these escape routes all this time from my sorrows and loneliness but I’ve never taken them. Like I’m stronger than I thought I was without even knowing it.


Within these walls, anything is possible.

C/O Yelp


Well it’s an hour from work. I guess I’d never have written any of this down if that guy had come. I guess I’d never have thought about any of this stuff if I’d had company. I probably would have just gone into the comfortable mode of “where do you work?” and “do you watch Game of Thrones” and everything else that we can ask anybody without fear. Maybe that’s the point of being alone? To think past everything you think of otherwise. To find something you originally thought was bad – or at least unsettling – and look into why it was bad. Why you thought it was the way it was. What is it that makes you uncomfortable? What is it that drives you away from that thing? Maybe being alone is about finding that the instinctual aversions to "weird" things are thinner than you previously thought.


 And find yourself expanding. Find yourself growing from the inside. Find yourself able to encompass and comprehend and appreciate ideas for what they are rather than what you’re societally-programmed to think they are.


Maybe being alone isn’t about armoring yourself against the world, but becoming more accepting to it? Maybe being alone is about finding peace with more and more ideas and thoughts and realities until you can never be uncomfortable. You can never feel weird. You simply feel that what you think and feel is fine because you know -- truly know -- everybody else thinks and feels the same exact things. That we’re really all alike and thus never truly alone. That we’re all just people trying to find some way to get through this day and the one after that, all the while struggling to find our own versions of success, learning and re-learning to let the petty injustices of reality slide off of us and holding onto the small joys that life affords us every single day if we only take the time to find them.


Then again, I really do want a boyfriend.




3.0 Stars

It’s a chain Coney Island and not even the best chain (that would be National Coney Island). But it’s tasty as all heck if you’re hankering for some AM munching. A late (boozy) night in Royal Oak is always boosted by a trip to Leo’s.


End of the month

You can find a heck of a lot for under $10.



Imagine a diner: pleather seats, linoleum tabletops, menu-at-the-table, now add an afterthought of ancient Greece. Odd? Yes. Endearing? Meh.


Working for the weekend (or whatever days they have off)

Nearly always solid and friendly, but it’ll depend on what type of day your waiter/waitress had.



The reasons to enter Leo’s Coney Island are few: late nights, laziness, quick bites and meeting a cheap friend. Not an essential part of the Michigan experience, but certainly one that doesn’t hurt it.