When I turned 20, I realized my life wasn't really going anywhere. Sure I was enjoying the relaxation new life as an English major afforded me: reading books, writing essays, playing video game hockey. But by the beginning of summer my bank account was drained, the landlady was leaving me threatening notes on a daily basis, and I was sleeping 15 hours a day [10 hours at night + 2 2.5 hour naps through the day]. I had put on weight and began hearing "sloth" from random passers-by on daily walks to the Clark Station for scratch-off lottery tickets.
And since shifting to the English program, I had ceased getting any. I couldn't even remember the last time I had sexual relations [a lie: it was over Christmas break, with some high school chick that had a crush on me three years ago. Really awkward--she was fat and I was approaching fat. Now I'm just fat], and my libido had been really waning of late. It was like a valve had been shut off in my testicles, my genitals appearing flaccid and unused. It was really depressing.
So I said to myself, "Andy, you need a job. Then you can pay the rent. Then you can make Landlady Gladys happy. Then you can find a girl. Wine 'em. Dine 'em. 69 'em." It was a brilliant plan. It sounded like a George Thoroughood song, too, but I didn't dwell on that. Old George seemed to have his act together.
And so on
And so forth
I drilled some of my contacts for information: job openings, recommendations, bridges to live under. Fortunately, my drummer friend Leroy also had a day job as a grill cook. I couldn't cook, but I did need a job. Turns out his place of business, a diner unflatteringly called “Coffee and Water,” needed some people to clean off the tables. I also wasn't much of a sanitary person, but wiping off tables fell into a realm a bit closer to my qualifications.
"Dude, talk to my manager," Leroy said. "Ask for Doug, he's cool. Totally like us."
Within five business days, my arms were plunged elbow deep into greasy, viscous, dish soak water. I accumulated innumerable cuts from knives hiding at the bottom of the basin. Said cuts were promptly infected by the teeming soak sink. I learned how to judge the trajectory of sausage gravy as it deflected from the inside of a dirty ladle by the tank spray hose. These amorphous projectiles would usually strike the surface of my eye, mysteriously arching over my unspeckled glasses.
I hit the busser life hard. I'd bike home, reeking of summer pits and grease, to sit in my apartment, which stunk similarly. Each night, I would absorb two and a half jugs of Clark Station Pisano ["The Wino Wine," I called it], only to bike back drunk the next morning, puking at intervals of down stroke.
Despite my jaundice-evoking lifestyle, I was looking a bit fitter. My flabby flanks were starting to appear meaty and my turkey neck had flown the coup. I became an expert with the pun, and dropped a nauseating amount of innuendo [sexual and otherwise] around the female servers. They flirted back casually, out of politeness, but never seemed too keen on any type of physical contact. It could have been my monstrously thick eyebrows or my lack of a car that caused their disinterest; such is the mystery of women.
One unusually slow Sunday morning, as I wiped clean a recently deserted table, a rather formless server sauntered over to me. I watched as she emerged through the stainless-yet-stained steel kitchen doors, looking indeterminate in direction. She came to stand at the end of the four-top, hands resting together at the small of her back.
I slid my eyes up from her narrow waist and hips to her flat tummy to her flat chest to her jagged chin, pursed lips, sharp nose, and wide set, inquisitive green eyes. Her shoulder-length red hair was tied in a pony tail, as was the standard server style. She miraculously lacked any scent; she obviously opted out of drenching herself in an asphyxiating amount of lilac spray from Bath & Body Works like the other servers, but managed to avoid gleaning the stench of grease and stale defeat as I and the other bussers had.
Upon making eye contact, her tight lips spread into a smile that exposed an array of slightly off-true teeth. At first glance, her smile didn’t appear crooked, though it seemed a different angle could tell another story. I tried not to notice her physical shortcomings.
I bent back to a better posture and stuffed my wash rag into my apron strap, patted my wine gut.
“Hi, I’m Andy,” I said, extending my rubber gloved hand. “Andy Stool.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Sam,” she said. Her eyes sparked upon learning my name. “You know Leroy, right? I like him.”
“Yeah, he’s a good friend of mine,” I said. “But I mostly work mornings and he works nights. I don’t see him a whole lot.”
Her smile vanished. “That’s too bad.”
“Ah well,” I said, “I don’t really like him anyway.”
Her eyes contorted into confusion. I smiled and she quickly followed suit.
“Yeah,” she laughed: a high-pitched, quick emission, “I don’t really like him either.”
A pause followed, not one I’d necessarily describe as awkward, though if it had lingered it could have quickly gone that route.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Andy Stool. I’ll talk to you later.” She turned and went back toward the kitchen.
“Most definitely,” I said.
She turned back to me and smiled that big asymmetrical smile. She turned her head back just in time to slam into the kitchen doors.
* * *