June 25th, 2004
He looked at me differently than the usual guys, guys whose ages range from 15 to 85, guys whose eyes stay not-so-subtly fixated on unsurprising parts of my body, guys who are most definitely hiding erections under the table, guys who throw around shudder-inducing pet names like “sweetie” and use phrases out of the fifties like “be a doll,” guys who tip pretty well.
He looked at me differently, but it was somehow worse. I tend to notice the usual patron’s eyes shifting out of focus, and I can climb inside their heads, move some shit around, and see them bending me over, their motor oil-stained nails clawing through my hair, their hairy chests heaving, their foreheads dripping sweat onto my back. They can have these bouts of fantasy, but deep down they know that’s exactly what they are: pure fantasy. I register in their minds in almost the same way as the lake houses or the Mustangs they have always, and will always, be pining for. He looked at me like he knew he could have me.
What further bothered me was the realization that he was undeniably attractive, and I say “undeniably” because he was the kind of person that usually does absolutely nothing for me. He had that quintessentially all-American, clean-shaven, gleaming smile kind of attractiveness that usually bores the shit out of me. I want a man with some gruffness to him: sunken in eyes, hair in interesting places, lines in his face, all of which are entirely hard to find in my age range. Yet when I reached in to grab his menu, I was overcome by his cologne, and I immediately wanted to press my nose against his neck. I had to reel back and mentally slap myself for my slip up, then think about Tom Waits, sipping whiskey, cigarette dangling from his mouth, as penance.
His white T-shirt stretched tautly over his muscles in an obnoxious manner. I wished it were a size larger, so it could cover him up like some kind of male burka. His light brown hair was ruffled in a feigned look of messy indifference, and I wanted to smack him on the top of the head and pat it down. Rhythmically tapping on the floor below were his sparkling work boots, looking like they’ve never assisted in an ounce of manual labor in their existence. It was an image so utterly contrived and hollow, like a department store ad come to life. Under those clothes was a human being who was somehow unaware that he was wearing a costume. And through an awkward mix of reluctant attraction, simultaneous revulsion, and marginal pity, I smiled and chuckled and tossed out jokes and patted arms and did whatever would necessitate a worthwhile tip, all the while being ever-aware of that perpetually creeping gaze, the one that stated: “You will be with me.”
His total was $12.48. He left a dollar tip and a note on the receipt, which in his mind must have made up for his pathetic gratuity. The equally pathetic note was scribbled in rigidly neat handwriting under the tip space and read: “Here’s a tip, keep flashing that beautiful smile, and you’re going to make every guy that comes in here fall in love with you.” And below it was his phone number, not a digit of which I can remember, as my eyes rolled into the back of my head before I could even get a good look. And it would have been crumpled up into a ball the size of an atom if I didn’t, you know, kind of need it for the restaurant’s financial records.
June 26, 2004
I took a nap in my car on break. I set an alarm on my phone for 20 minutes, because that’s how long of a break I get for a seven-hour shift, twenty measly minutes. To the surprise of no one, I slept ten minutes through my alarm and woke up in a panic. In a half-awake stupor, I climbed out of the car and shut the door, immediately punched in the back of the head with the realization that ‘Shit, my keys are still in there.’ I let my manager know what was going and returned to my car to call AAA and wait. I had this conversation with the service man upon his arrival:
“It says here that you locked your keys in the vehicle.”
“That is correct.”
“How’d that happen?”
“I was taking a nap and just did it while half-awake.”
“Don’t worry. It happens all the time. Next time you should put them in your purse or something.”
“I’ll try to remember that.”
“Here we go . . . it is unlocked. They’re right there on the seat, huh? Pretty silly of you.”
“Is there anything else you need me to do while I’m here? When’s the last time you had an oil change?”
“I’m not due for another 200 miles.”
“You know how to do it when it’s time, right? You want me to show you?”
“I know how to put oil in my car.”
“Okay. Take it easy now. Your day’s gonna get better. Just smile, honey. You’re too pretty to look upset like that.”
“ . . .”
June 27, 2004
My dad called today as part of his new “weekly phone call” plan, and today’s central theme was the threat of losing my monthly allowance. Granted, at the age of 27, I should no longer need my mother’s generous $300 stipend, but I’ve sort of fallen back on it for the added sense of financial stability and comfort, and while I could logistically survive on my own without it, I’m not exactly ready to let it go.
It’s not like I asked for these checks in the first place. Mom, forever the doting-but-careful-to-stay-away-lest-I-appear-overbearing type, decided that I deserved it upon earning my degree and that it would be essential for surviving while I looked for a related job; plus, the hefty alimony she received via her and my father’s divorce granted her that luxury of indulgence. Yet five years later, I am still waitressing and still receiving these checks. Do I deserve them? Eh, not really. Do I feel guilty about them? Unfortunately, not anymore. Will I miss them in the event my Dad succeeds? Absolutely.
Like most people, I’m an amalgam of both of my parents’ personality traits. My dad’s pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, do-it-all-yourself work ethos is evident in the 50 hours a week I waitress, while my mom’s lax, you’ll-find-your-path-in-time mantra is apparent in the fact that I’m still waitressing five years after graduating. In that sense, I’m a living embodiment of their incompatibility in marriage. And if their conflicting ideals, the central reason their marriage didn’t work are somehow embedded in me, what does that mean for my future with anyone?
June 28, 2004
I don’t know if it was a coincidence or he specifically asked Marie to sit him in my section, but guess who I got to wait on again. If it’s the latter, it’s especially creepy because it’s been three days, and I never called him. I should’ve known he’d be persistent; he gave me that goddamn possessive look. I can’t say anything to my manager about it; I don’t have any grounds. So what that he left a note? At least four guys a day leave similar notes. Usually, they’re a bit cruder.
It was much of the same deal as last time; he had a similar get-up going on, ruffled hair still in-tact, boots still pristine; though this time he had donned an oxford shirt, undone two buttons too low for my liking. The cologne was still there, stronger than ever, only it smelled significantly less appealing this time around. The only thing truly different than last was the absence of my involvement in the charade.
Knowing full well his tipping tendencies, I ditched the whole routine. No arm-touching, no forced laughter, no extra-wide smiles; hell, I barely made eye contact with him. When I accidentally did, while I was delivering his second cup of coffee, I met that sweat-inducing gaze once again. Only it felt even more confident now, like he was somehow closer to his goal, like he had planted seeds in me while my back was to him and soon feelings of desire would begin to sprout up like crabgrass in the pit of my stomach. I wanted him to leave right away. I wanted to throw up.
Same kind of tip. No note this time. Rather, on the plate before me, constructed entirely out of garlic bread scraps, was a makeshift heart.
June 29, 2004
I had a dream that Julianne Moore came into the restaurant, wearing some kind of gaudy mink coat and a Burger King crown. She sat by herself, and I brought her like eight glasses of red wine and nothing else. When she finally got up to leave, she was so drunk that she stumbled, broke a heel, and fell onto her back. I tried to help her up, but she pushed me away, then rose and stumbled out the door. I collected her check and saw that she had left a $124.80 tip.
June 30, 2004
The world’s most loyal customer came back. Like a sentry, I spotted him from afar and alerted Marie, begging her to switch sections with me, even though she had already been working hers for an hour, and it would be a huge pain-in-the-ass. As repayment, I have to take her shift Saturday and work a double, which is a lot better than having passive-aggressive-Romeo shoot me looks like I’m a sock puppet he’s waiting to get his hand inside. But what if he shows up Saturday? I can’t keep playing this game.
The first time I received flowers from someone not in my family was in the 9th grade, when Danny Cole, noticeably perspiring in his ill-fitting tuxedo, handed a bouquet to me, right arm shaking, just prior to us climbing into his dad’s station wagon and being escorted to the freshman dance. For me, flower-giving is forever-tethered to a night of one-way conversations, slow dance erections, and sore feet from heels.
The most recent time I received flowers was tonight, when the world’s most frighteningly persistent man, seemingly un-phased by my choice to not ever call him or my failure to be impressed by his food art or my obvious last-second audible away from his seating section, instructed Marie to give me a bouquet (which I let her keep) with the message: “I couldn’t enjoy my food without seeing your beautiful face handing it to me.” Which, by the way, doesn’t make any sense because my face isn’t what’s handing him the food . . ..
I don’t understand the end-game here. Are these cloying gestures supposed to make me grow to want him? Does he see me as a woman encased in a stone façade of bitterness and ennui, and that if he slowly chips away at me with these “romantic” acts he’ll eventually unearth the real, warm, grateful me, and I’ll immediately seek to be enwrapped in his arms? I think what’s equally as discomforting as his brand of voyeurism is his idea that I don’t have the right to be not interested in him and that my disinterest can be overcome. At this point, I am just waiting for his next move, something significantly inappropriate, something I can take to the manager and say, “Please kick this ‘man’ out.”
July 1, 2004
I watched five hours of the Food Network today. Five hours. Did I end up ever cooking anything? No, I ordered Chinese food.
Oh, he didn’t come in today. It felt like a day off. There is nothing worse than when a new ritual comes into your life, one you simply abhor, and you can’t shake it. You start to think back to the way things used to be; you long for them and wonder if they’ll ever return. And it’s the fucking worst because it’s not your fault at all; in fact, it’s completely out of your control. Ostensibly, you should be able to remove all of the anxiety-inducing things in your life, but that’s not always the case, and when you’re trapped in this kind of situation it’s a confining, existential mess.
July 2, 2004
I normally write these right before bed, but I felt compelled to do an entry now, at two in the afternoon, mostly because I got little to no sleep last night, stressing out about my suitor, feeling harassed by my a man who’s never even laid a hand on me.
I go in for three, and if he’s there, this has to be the last time. I’ll figure something out; I’ll get him banned. I’m not going to be made to feel uncomfortable in my own place of work, where I have to put up with bad tipping, rude customers, being on my feet for hours and hours, dim lighting, and other crap on any given day. I will prove that beneath these innocuous acts is an entitled and antiquated concept of ownership. I don’t know; I’m just really tired of it.