Ever since publishing my last post, I have wrestled with how to approach this next phase: writing about my relationship with my ex-husband. I told myself at least fifteen times that I don't really have to do this, and it's perfectly fine to keep going with posts about my kids or how I'm keeping myself busy while I'm unemployed. Anybody who reads here would understand if I said I'm not ready, or I'm worried about what the kids/my parents/my former in-laws/the postman will think. Mary Karr warns in The Art of Memoir, "everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory's waters drowns a little" (27), and the sheer amount of procrastinating I've done in the past ten days tells me exactly how much I would love to avoid dealing with it.
Except it won't leave me alone. Which means it's exactly what I need to be doing.
I do want to be clear on a few things right off the bat.
Let's dive in before I change my mind again.
I met Sarge the summer before my junior year of high school. I worked as a hostess at a Chili's-esque restaurant, and he started as a waiter while I was out on a family vacation. I groaned when I saw a new name on the section chart my first Friday shift after I got back. The other hostesses and I made bets about how long it would take the new guy to get "in the weeds" (i.e. completely and totally screwed with the kitchen and his tables). Friday nights meant 15 sheets of names on the waiting list and wave after wave of people crowding into any available space from which to glare at the hostess stand; they were nights of "How much longer do you think it will be?" and "Did you forget about us?" and "Those people [a party of two] came in after us [a party of 12]; why did they get seated first?" A Friday night shift was a baptism by fire for new waiters, and after having been on vacation for a week, I didn't want to deal with the fallout if this new guy couldn't keep up.
So I got drinks for every one of his tables during the first few hours of the shift. That way if he didn't greet the table right off, they were still somewhat satisfied until he could get to them. Then all he had to do was manage their food order, so he started each interaction a few steps ahead. Managers encouraged us to get drinks when we could tell waiters needed help, and I thought a preemptive strike might head off a meltdown.
I worked without noticing Sarge for most of the night. Then during one of my circuits through the restaurant checking for open tables, I paused at the top of a staircase near his section. I heard a voice from the bottom and looked down; a blue-eyed boy holding an empty tray was saying, "So-and-so said you're the hostess who keeps getting my drinks? Thanks a lot. But you really don't have to do that." I told him to let me know if he needed any help and walked back to the hostess stand with the list of tables that were ready. He made it through the night in one piece.
Over the next few weeks, I started checking the waiter schedules to see when Sarge was working. I found out he had just graduated from high school and lived nearby. I volunteered to help with waiter side work--rolling silverware, refilling salt and pepper shakers, "marrying" ketchup bottles--and stayed to hang out in the parking lot after the restaurant closed on the nights he worked. We both ended up at a party thrown by one of the other hostesses, and I left with him for a few minutes to retrieve a board game from his house. (That was the first time I met his stepdad, who came out of his room in his boxer shorts when he heard voices in the hall at 11:00 p.m.) I thought I might really like Sarge, but then he and another guy started making racist, homophobic remarks. My heart sank, and my hackles rose. Sarge could tell and asked what was wrong, so I told him. The other guy waved off my protest, but Sarge listened. When I was finished, he said, "I never really thought about it that way before. I can see that." He seemed earnest and open, like I might have actually persuaded him to think differently. When he asked me for my number and said we should "hang out" before I had to go back to school, I hoped he would call.
The last week before school started came and went. I didn't hear from him.
Football season started when school did, and on Friday morning, I realized I needed money for dinner after the game. I had several shifts' worth of tip-share envelopes (all the waiters for each shift paid into a pool for the hostesses and busboys) in the manager's office at the restaurant, so I went up there after school. Sarge was sitting at the back table where all the waiters lingered until the dinner rush started, and I knew he saw me walk in. I glanced in his direction as I turned to go to the office in the kitchen; I'm pretty sure I gave my cheerleading skirt an extra flounce, too, knowing his eyes were following me down the hall. After a few steps, I heard him call my name and ask me to wait, so I stopped. I turned sideways and let him catch up.
"Hey. How's school?"
"Well . . . it started. So much for 'hanging out' before I had to go back, huh?"
"Oh, right. Yeah, I'm sorry about that. . . . What are you doing next weekend?"
"I don't know; I haven't made plans yet."
"Do you want to go out?"
"Yeah. Okay. Sure."
"Okay, great. I'll call you."
"I'll believe it when I see it."
He smiled and walked back to the table with the other waiters, and I wasn't surprised when my phone rang the next day.
Mother, photographer, writer. Expert in making things up as she goes and figuring things out along the way.