I am graceful. I am the dancer, the ballerina, dodging dishwashers with loaded bus trays and bussers with loaded arms. Gliding around mops and buckets and customers. Around handbags and canes and misplaced chairs. Spin, twirl, pirouette, tour en l’air. The tips of my nonslip shoes skirt the floor and I leap. With two Apple Martinis in my hands I leap and I know the trick. Don’t look at the glass and the drink won’t spill over the top. The cherry spins delicate circles within the glass funnel. The ghostly green liquid never spills over the top. I can dance circles around you, so silent you won’t even know I’m there. Smooth, fluid. But I am there. You just don’t see me.
I approach your table in the early hours of the morning. Your business meeting is in full swing and tax documents are spread across the table. Tis the season for late nights and W2s. Black Friday for accountants. I stand for a moment, a pot of hot coffee perched in the tip of my hand, hovering precariously over your paperwork and yet it would I appear I am not there. Your heads are bent towards the table, eyes downcast, you do not see me. But you do. I see the swift movement of your eyes, from the corner a pupil darts in my direction. But you cannot be swayed. You’ll hope that I’ll go away but you’ve forgotten that you are sitting in a table in my station which means that it’s my job to wait on you and I don’t have a lot of time and I don’t plan on waiting here forever. I’ll clear my throat. Say a good morning. Your voices will continue to rattle off numbers and dividends and write offs and tax breaks. This coffee pot grows heavy in my hands. My feet shift awkwardly beneath me. To save face I’ll turn away but the moment will linger and I know that all the while you’re getting off on making me feel small.
Lunch with your high school friend. You haven’t seen her in years. Your heads are bent together and the gossip flows from your lips like honey. Sticky, thick, and sickeningly sweet. Hello, I’ll say. And I’ll stand there memorizing the image of your profile. Tracing the angle from forehead to brow to nose to chin. The way your hair curls down around your ear and the flab of skin at your neck vibrates with each word you utter. You’ll turn to me at long last, but only once your increasingly lengthening diatribe has finished, only to tell me you’ll have water with lemon, no ice. You’ll resume your speech and I’ll trudge away, both fuming and downcast.
I am a leper. A member of a group not forgotten but rather rejected. I am unworthy of your presence, yet you are forced to bear my own. Is the email you have pulled up on your smart phone really so important that you cannot bear to tear your eyes away from the luminescent screen? I must be invisible. I must. It is the only explanation. Because I cannot fathom that there are so many of you within this world incapable of recognizing your fellow species. You croon at the dog that crosses your path on your morning walk yet the word hello becomes too difficult to manage in my presence. I am not asking you to reach out and pet me. Although I am starved of affection so perhaps I wouldn’t mind. But if your manicured nails are unwilling to tangle themselves up in my hair then perhaps you could muster a small word of greeting. Yet it would appear that hellos are too much effort. Although I question that line of thought because Adele herself has virtually run that word so far into the ground that it has become commonplace nearly every place I go.
Hello, how are you? I was wondering if after all this time you’d like to order? To go over the daily specials…they say the burgers are delicious, but I prefer the roast beef.
Hello, can you hear me? I’m your waitress and I’m wondering just what you want to drink. Is it water, or iced tea? I’m running out of time cause I’ve got customers to see.
Hello from your serving wench. I must have asked a thousand times. Do you want coffee, soda or wine? Are you ordering, cause I don’t have much time.
Or patience. I’m a human being. You’re a human being. The only difference is that I can recognize that and you, apparently, cannot. I don’t want to take up all of your time. You don’t want me taking up all of your time. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: when you take too long to acknowledge me, I’ll take too long to acknowledge you. I will make you wait. And you’ll never know that I’ve done it on purpose but deep down within your subconscious you’ll get this funny feeling of being rejected and forgotten and you won’t be able to put a finger on it but you’ll suddenly feel sad and angry and you’ll begin to understand what I go through and I’ll pop up out of nowhere, my book poised perfectly within my hands and a pen wrapped within my fingers and I’ll ask you, with a smile, what you’re having for lunch. And you’ll leave full, but strangely dissatisfied.
And all the while I’m screaming out that I exist. That I am real. That these stains from the side of thousand island I poured all over my apron are obvious and evident and the burns from the toasters on my hand are hot and they are screaming out for a slice of tomato to stop the spread of pain. (It works. The back cooks told me so. Apparently mustard does the trick as well but that’s just pushing it).
I am here. I am in front of you. I am living and I am breathing and we are literally inhaling each other’s skin cells and we’ve never been closer yet you’re acting like we couldn’t be farther apart.
Hello, I’m here. Right. Here. Look me in the eyes. Acknowledge me. See me. I am here.