Sweating horribly. Something new. Clear a table, pile three of the most heavy, osso buco plates, and beads run down the ridge of my nose. Carry a case of Chianti up from the liquor room and in the seat of my pants spreads a moisture unspeakable. Late that night after service, alone in my apartment, I stand at the kitchen sink downing tap water. My bare feet stick to the yellowed linoleum, and I can taste the sweet funk of natural gas, which is always in the air, leaking from the old, nylon-brown stove. That’s when it comes to me: having lost faith in youth, my body has taken to weeping for itself.
Next day, I pick up some talcum powder. Because of an early Saturday rush the kitchen is too busy to prepare the staff’s usual cauldron of meatless pasta. We’re all hungry. In the service station, Blinky is hunched in the corner near the bread warmer, tie flung over his shoulder, eating off a hardly-touched plate of gnocchi.
‘Girl’s. Thirty-one,’ he mumbles between forkfuls.
I brush aside the curtain and look into the main dining room at a girl in a coral dress who in her loveliness breaks my heart. Makes me wish I’d studied more and tried harder in almost everything. Eyes absolutely mint. She flashes her man a delicate and private smile. If a woman had ever looked at me like that I might have escaped disappointment, insolvency, inadequacy, drinking too much. It kills me that the blessed one she faces is the product of a mother who failed to teach her son to remove his baseball cap at the table. He wears a t-shirt.
I drop the curtain and grab a spoon. I’m not wholly unbothered by what I do next—all the male servers do, and Laren. We eat only off the plates of the beautiful. If I’d have happily swallowed any part of her, it would have been measly if I shied from her food and was hungry. Despite Blinky’s caustic blinking I dig in for seconds.
‘Man,’ he says, tongue groping around behind his cheek. ‘I can taste whatever that shit is you have on.’
‘I can see it too.’ He pulls out his wallet, brings it up to my face, lets it flap open. Glued, maybe pinned inside is a small mirror. In it I see a dusting of talcum on my collar.
‘What’s with the mirror?’ I say.
His eyelids flutter. ‘What’s with the pixie dust?’ He snaps his wallet shut. I sweep off my collar. I want to tell him it wasn’t me who named him, but he leaves too quickly.
John Kersey lives in Chicago with his wife and their daughter. He teaches creative writing at Elgin Community College. More work of his can be found in the Fall 2012 issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal.