Grace (repeat)

By Aaron J. Housholder

December 19, 2016

Grace (repeat)

“Thank you,” I tell the manager, “for taking my order so late.” The sizzle of the grill frames my words. “I appreciate it.”

“Not at all,” he says. Sweat curls his hair. “Is a good time. We’re still open.”

The tables are spiky with upended chairs. The waiter pulls strings on the neon signs. I check the manager’s face for sarcasm but he smiles and swipes my card. Fajitas crescendo in back.

I lurk between tables on the damp terracotta floor with my hands in my pockets. The waiter straightens tables he bumped while mopping, stepping in time to overhead mariachi. He nods at me as he finishes.

“Can’t wait to go home,” he says, and I check his face, too. His eyes meet mine. He smiles: sincere, tired.

“Long day?” I say.

“Two jobs,” he says. “I work in a greenhouse.” He folds his arms, chiseled by working the earth. “Today I work fourteen hours.”

The manager brings me two white sacks too full to close. Steam from fresh chips tickles my face. Salt and oil, a ravenous fragrance. Foil-wrapped fajitas still sizzle. The manager smiles and thanks me. I carry my food to the car, listening in vain for the click of the lock. From the driver’s seat I look back through the windows to see if they’re watching me, hating me, eager for me to leave. The waiter swaddles silverware in bright white. The manager reads receipts. They won’t lock up until I’m gone.


Photo "Courtesy Diner Hampton Night" provided by MBK (Marjie), under the Flickr creative commons license.

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