He touched the small of her back as he brushed by, his fingers delicate yet demanding, she turned her head and gave a faint smile. He returned the smile, his eyes narrow and inviting. As he walked off to seat a table she glanced at her watch. It was nine-o-clock, she had only been at work for an hour, and she was working a double shift. She appreciated the extra hours because she needed the money, but sometimes to get what you want you have to abandon your principles. Morals went out the window, and it was wrong, but she was also in debt. It starts with a touch of the back, and it eventually leads to a motel down the street. To her it was demeaning, but she put it in perspective by saying she wasn’t selling her body. She worked for her money, and the sex was just for security.
Eleven hours to go.
“Seat the next table, bring these drinks to table four, and tell Jake to get out here and clear these Damn tables,” Mark said, “And make sure you check up on your tables, Lisa. You have to be on top of them all, double shift or not.”
Lisa paused for a moment, then cleared her throat. “Is that all?” She asked.
“Yeah, just make sure you’re on point tonight. It’s gonna be busy.”
“Okay,” she replied and walked over to table four with their drinks.
Drinking helps. Alcohol has a tendency to lower inhibitions, but there is also the possibility of letting down your guard, becoming vulnerable, and being too honest for your own good. Societies moral standards do not say anything about self-depreciation being a burden on humanity. Cheers to the people who do not think highly of themselves.
Ten hours until happy hour.
“Jake, Mark wants you out there to clean off tables.”
“Can’t, Lisa. Greg has me running around doin’ salads and settin’ up the prep station.”
“Jake, he wants you out there.”
Jake mumbled something under his breath.
“What did you say?” Lisa questioned.
“No, what did you just say?” Lisa pressed.
“Nothin’, Lisa. I’ll get the tables cleared.” Jake left the prep station to clear off tables.
Nine and a half hours until happy hour.
The Calm Before the Storm.
Any person that has worked in the restaurant business will tell you that the dinner rush is the most demanding shift you can have. I disagree, but I guess it also depends on the location and what the restaurant caters to. Where I work, a diner, has more business during lunch. It isn’t all of the running around that tires you out, you do have a lot of regulars, so that’s easy, well, to an extent, but just being accessible to every customer can have its challenges. You constantly fill drinks, you have to keep updated with the cooks, seating new customers, clearing off tables, setting silverware, filling more drinks, run to the kitchen and grab your orders, check up on customers through their meal, and if all possible try to avoid the assholes. Not all these assholes I speak of are customers.
Mark was standing by the door to the kitchen, watching the staff make their rounds, and keeping an eye on customers.”Lisa, come here for a second,” Mark asked as I was finishing my new table’s order.
“Have you taken your break yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“Okay, go now, and tell Denise to cover your tables.”
“It’s too busy right now. She’ll be swamped, and besides, you know this is when the tips are best. Let me just finish up with these three tables.”
“No, go now. Denise will be fine.”
“Mark, you know I need the money, and two of the tables are almost ready for their check.”
“It doesn’t matter. I need you to go on your break.”
I opened my mouth to speak. No words came out. I looked aloof. I stared. Speechless. He stared back. Nothing was said. It felt like an eternity. Time stopped, and time is money.
“Mark, please?” I asked, pleaded.
“No. Now go.” Mark walked off and I stood still.
I was taken aback.
I was livid.
I felt taken advantage of.
Denise took over my tables. I grabbed my purse and headed out the back door adjacent to the kitchen, dug through my purse, found my cigarettes, lit one. I wanted a drink; needed a drink.
Checked my watch. Eight hours left. Halfway done.
If my mother could see me now. Her daughter the waitress. The daughter that went to college to “prove” herself. It’s not that she would expect anything more, she wouldn’t, but I can’t stand for her to be right. She never made anything out of herself. She was, in her eyes, the perfect housewife. I knew I never wanted to be that. I wanted more than that. Naturally, like any child, teenager, adult, what have you, I didn’t want to end up like my parents. There was always this distinction between giving in and striving for more. I wanted more. More than anything I wanted to make a name for myself, besides “mommy” or “hun.” But what have I really achieved? What title do I have? The independent woman?The dependent waitress?
Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions.
Maybe this is as good as it gets.
I light another cigarette before I decide to go inside. I came out to regain my composure and I become more irritable by thinking about my mother. Mommy Dearest. Hopefully this last smoke will calm me down. Halfway through it I was beginning to think so. Then Mark came out.
“Got a light, Kiddo?” He asked.
“Yeah, here,” I said, passing him my lighter.
He lights his cigarette and exhales the smoke. I do the same. He can see I’m trying to finish my cigarette quickly and head back to work.
“It’s starting to slow down in there. Take your time,” He said, smoke escaping his nostrils.
“Yeah, Mark. That’s exactly what I didn’t want to happen.”
“I know. I know, but I had to send you out. Ya know?”
“No, Mark. I don’t know. You know I need the money.”
I take a drag. He does the same.
“I know this, Lisa. But you know I can’t play favorites. I had to send you on break.”
“I think we both know you can play favorites,” I replied through clenched teeth.
“And what do you mean by that?” He asked, sounding more confused than anything.
“Nevermind, Mark. Forget it.”
“No, really. What did you mean?”
I started to become red in the face. My stomach was in my throat. I wanted to scream.
I lowered my voice. “It doesn’t seem to bother you to play favorites when you’re inside of me.” I take a drag from my cigarette and continue. “Is that you not playing favorites then? Huh, Mark?”
He looked utterly stunned when I first said this, but he quickly changed his expression. “Watch what you’re saying, Lisa.” Mark said with a clear inflection of a warning.
“You might want to watch where you tread.”
“Is that a threat?” I asked.
He took a drag from his cigarette, tossed it down, snubbed it out with his shoe. “We’re not talking about this here. See you back inside.”
Seven hours until happy hour.
What just happened outside between Mark and I didn’t hinder me from my job, but you could cut the tension with a knife. We gave each other quick glances from time to time, but never long enough to read each other. Instead, we both focused on work, even though the lunch rush had left. I was next to the kitchen filling napkin holders, watching the floor for customers. Mark was in the kitchen talking to the cooks, most likely feeding them bullshit like he did with me. Maybe that’s what made Mark a good boss. He could lie to your face with a smile. And what’s the point of being stabbed in the back if you know it’s coming.
Six hours until happy hour.
I wish our restaurant had a liquor license.
Five hours until happy hour.
Maybe my mother was right all along.
Four hours until happy hour.
I can’t believe I fucked him.
I went to college for what?
Three hours until happy hour.
The dinner rush isn’t as bad as lunch, but nevertheless it’s still busy. I’m back to seating tables and placing silverware, running out food and getting drinks, placing checks on tables and clearing others off. Trivial to say the least. Being here right now is the last thing I’m worried about. My nerves are shot, my mood has been shitty since Mark and I talked outside. I can’t get my mother out of my head, her voice in the back of it saying, “Lisa, you went to college for this? You’re clearing tables to pay for an education that got you nowhere.”
Only if she knew the half of it. If she only knew that I was miserable. That I’m fucking my boss. This man who could care less about me. I wonder if she would gloat? If she would be the one to say, “I told you so.”
Two hours until happy hour.
Morals went out the window, and it was wrong, but she was also in debt. It starts with a touch of the back, and it eventually leads to a motel down the street. To her it was demeaning, but she put it in perspective by saying she wasn’t selling her body. She worked for her money, and the sex was just for security.
I don’t know exactly how it happened, because it all happened so fast, but I do remember my hands shaking. My mother’s voice was still coursing through my head when Mark touched the small of my back.
“Don’t you ever, ever fucking touch me!” I screamed. Customers turned in the direction of Mark and I. “You keep your damn hands to yourself.”
“You’re causing a scene,” Mark said in a whisper. “Come with me, take this outside.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you!” I yelled.
“Come near me again and I scream,” I said cutting him off. “You’re never going to touch me again. And another thing, Mark. I quit.” I took a breath. “Yeah, I quit.”
“Lisa, before you do something rash.”
This was now dinner and a show for all of the customers.
“We’re past that point. Enjoy fucking the next waitress,” I said with a smile. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulder. I turned to Denise who was a few feet away from me, “Can you cash me out for the night, Denise?”
“Uh, yeah,” she said sounding small. She looked at Mark and then back at me. I’m guessing I scared her more, because she had me cashed out by the time I grabbed my belongings from the back.
I took my money, walked to the front of the restaurant, looked over my shoulder before I walked at the door, and laughed. “Pathetic, Mark. You’re pathetic.”
Happy hour came an hour early. My hands were still shaking even though I’ve had a couple of drinks, but I’d like to believe it was the extra adrenaline from telling Mark off. I took a breath and smiled. It felt good. I felt good.
As I go to take another well deserved sip of my drink a man sits down next to me at the bar. He taps me on the shoulder, and I turn my stool slightly to face him.
“Hi, sorry to bother you,” he starts, “I was at the diner when you left. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, fine.” I said vaguely.
“I just wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help. Maybe start off with buying you a drink?”
I accepted his gesture.
Maybe this is as good as it gets.
Maybe my mother was right all along.