Sunday, April 12, 2009
Kim the Waitress
Portland, OR Autumn, 1993
“Let’s go there!” Jonathan shouted over the loud stereo rattling the loose doors of the old white car, while extending a finger in front of my face.
“because the charm of her smile and the depth of her eyes radiated softly when reflected in mine”
“What?!” I responded as I slammed on the brakes in reaction to Jonathan’s point.
“yet eventually we realized sadly that I couldn’t suit her nor could she suit me”
The rusty carcass of the old Buick careened across two lanes of Weidler and slammed into the sudden steep slope of the short driveway cut into the sidewalk, throwing the two passengers across the front seat. The music shorted out for a moment before continuing.
“but I know, I-I know, an assurance of perpetual love was quite impossible”
I veered the car diagonally across the parking lot and floated into a space opposite the front entrance of the old Farrell’s and shifted it abruptly into park.
“when only 80 percent of what she wants can I fulfill”
I sat at the steering wheel, with the engine running, mimicking the naked skittering guitar line of the Spoke song in anticipation of the big booming conclusion. Jonathan stared at me expectantly holding his invisible drumsticks. One of the speakers dropped out just as the full band kicked in.
“and I content myself with the few months we had!”
With that, I pulled the key back and removed it, cutting the music off suddenly. My door screamed as if in pain as I forced it open partway, sucked in my gut and slid onto my feet. Jonathan was already out of the car and moving towards the ice cream parlor.
The wet blacktop reflected the beaming lights of the Farrell’s sign in front of me. Its frame of white light bulbs still managed to burn my eyes from its glaring image on the ground. My overcoat blew open as a breeze swept through the damp evening air. Jonathan stomped his combat boots into a huge puddle that had formed next to the wheelchair ramp by the entrance, trying to splash me. He began to laugh maniacally.
“Look out!” he screamed in his approximation of a Ronny James Dio howl.
“What are we doing here?” I asked, oblivious to his antics. “I haven’t been to this place since my birthday party in 1978. Are we going to the zoo after this?!” I added sarcastically, imagining myself riding in the backwards seat of the Plymouth family wagon that we had back then, waving at the drivers in our wake.
“Since it was too late to hit the DQ, this seemed like the next best thing.”
“I thought we were getting Blizzards so we could take one back to Isabel,” I stated, already knowing that this was, in fact, true.
“They were closed dog…they were closed,” he acted disappointed as he held the door open for me, while clipping my back foot with an uplifted toe. “Oops! Be careful there buddy!” he laughed with an over-enunciated voice, as I stumbled.
Earlier I had headed over to Jonathan and Isabel’s apartment a few beers after getting home from work. The idea was to go out to dinner, but none of us could decide what to do. After endless deliberation, Isabel had changed into a t-shirt, sweats, and her slippers, while the dusk had turned to darkness. We decided that Jonathan and I would grab something to go. The final decision was to go get treats at DQ.
I leaned my left hand on the cash register counter just inside the door, while Jonathan went straight to the gift shop shelves to mess with the hundreds of colorful toys on display. The narrow row of tables that lay straight ahead reminded me of that old birthday party during the 70’s. I couldn’t remember who was there, besides my parents, or what I had had. Jonathan began to wiggle a day-glow green rubber ball with long bouncing tendrils at me. Apparently, the wad had a high pitched voice and a low opinion of me.
“Charles sucks!” it told me.
I watched Jonathan bounce the object around before it met an untimely end with a bright blue plastic dump truck on one of the display shelves.
“Oh!” I softly exclaimed at the tragedy, just as a teenage boy dressed as a vaudeville performer approached us. He was wearing a Styrofoam hat - made to look like straw, a vest with vertical red and white stripes on the front over a white long sleeve shirt, and a black bow tie with tails. His long scraggly hair poked out from underneath the ill-fitting hat and his unenthusiastic, pimply expression were the only things keeping me from believing that he might twirl a cane around one of his arms and start tap dancing for us.
“Two?” he queried reluctantly. He was facing me, but keeping his eyes on Jonathan to his right, whose sizable frame continued to hulk over the squealing toys on display below him.
At the table, in the open dining room, around the corner from the front entrance, we both struggled opening the thin newsprint menus.
“It’s weird being back in here,” I reflected as I glanced at the light fixtures around the room. “I don’t think that it’s changed at all, except for the new and improved musty smell.”
“How do they expect us to eat our treats with this garbage all over our fingers?” Jonathan interrupted as he examined his finger tips and before sticking them into my face. “Look at this! This is an abomination! Now I have to go wash this sludge – this filth muck – off before I can even consider doing anything else!” he continued to shout around the empty place.
“There’s nothing on your fingers from the newsprint.”
“Filth! Muck! Who knows what else?!”
Our boy appeared again, leading three new characters into the space.
“I gotta hit the head, dude,” Jonathan said as he launched out of the booth. He had to turn his shoulder to allow the new customers by, who were left off at the booth next to ours in my line of sight.
The new arrivals consisted of a scruffy, tall and thin kid with hideous sideburns. The burns looked artificial - plastered across his boyish cheeks – having a darker color than the hair on his head. He sat next to a girl, who had slid into the booth before him. She stared off absently with her chin in one of her hands and her fingers gathered under her bottom lip. She had thick eyeliner on, short and spiky jet black hair and pale white skin. Her bulky furry dark purple coat tickled at her jaw line. The third member of their group was a non distinct guy who sat facing away from me. I tried to make eye contact with the girl.
As I sat looking at her, I was introduced to a faint sweet scent. Our waitress had appeared and was setting two small glasses of ice water on the table. I glanced to my left and saw a short red skirt underneath a lacey white apron and fishnet stockings wound around long luscious legs.
“Welcome to The Original Portland Ice Cream Parlour!” she smiled at me. “Do you guys want coffee?” she asked as she nodded to me.
I looked up at her glowing face. She wore shiny bright red lipstick which provided a sharp focus to her soft features. She looked airbrushed. There were matching red ribbons tying her curled light brown hair into different groupings that all hovered teasingly above her shoulders. My hand dropped from my face and began to examine the objects on the table randomly.
“I don’t know…um…”
“Oh, I’ll wait for your friend then,” she added with a smirk and twirled away. “I’ll be right back!” she called over her shoulder with a coffee pot held aloft in her right hand.
She stretched over the serving station to set the pot back onto its warmer. She held one leg up to keep her skirt from rising up and exposing too much, but enough to taunt my imagination. She began to fill three glasses with ice and water. Suddenly, I was jolted out of my daydream as Jonathan walked in front of my view of her beauty.
“Have you seen the urinals in there? They’re like six inches off the ground! I’m all, stooping down, hoping I can toss it in there! It’s fucking ridic!” he continued from where he left off, as I resumed staring at the seductive waitress. She was working her way back to deliver waters to the other table. “What?” Jonathan asked, interrupting himself. “Wait a second. What’s going on? What are you doing?” He turned his head and spotted her over his shoulder. “Oh, I see,” he realized, turning back to me, adding, “You are a dirty dirty man! Hoooo! Chucky is a dirty evil naughty boy! Naughty!”
His voice dropped to a whisper as she reached the table behind him. He hunched his head low and leaned in towards me. I looked over him and noticed that the girl in the purple coat was looking at us, distracted by our antics. She and I made eye contact before I looked back down at Jonathan’s wide grin and then at the stunning waitress who returned to our table.
“Hi sweeties,” she charmed us, “have you decided on anything? Do you know if you want coffee yet?” she said looking at me suspiciously.
Jonathan planted one of his boots firmly into my right shin, causing me to cringe and drop the spoon I had been twirling in my hand with a loud series of clanks.
“No coffee for me…thanks,” I spit out, while clearing my throat, and grabbing my wounded leg underneath the table.
She turned her attention back to Jonathan who ordered a banana split and an orange soda without hesitation and placed his filthy newspaper menu back into its holding place. I quickly began to scan the menu for the first time since our arrival. My eyes would not focus on any one thing. Jonathan had turned back around and started some sort of conversation with the other table. I sighed, trying to slow my thoughts down. I looked over at the waitress’ face, her chest, then back at her face, prior to hurriedly pointing my head back to the menu.
“I don’t know…” I said, just as Jonathan’s boot returned in full force with a loud pop. “What is your favorite?” I asked looking back up at her hazel eyes, while cringing from pain.
“If you want dessert…I’m fond of the milkshakes.” She began tapping her pen lightly on her slightly parted lips.
“I’ll have one of those then!” I leaped in loudly. “SHAAAAAKES!” then shot from my mouth unexpectedly like the legendary McDonald’s mascot beast Grimace stricken with Tourette’s syndrome. She held her gaze steady, choosing to ignore our (or my) idiocy. “Sorry, I, um… uh…make that a strawberry one. Yes, strawberry….”
She smiled inwardly, I’m certain.
“Anything else?” she sighed. We both shook our heads with furrowed brows.
“Thanks Kim!” I tossed in quickly, as she turned away, catching sight of her tiny name tag expertly placed over her heart. She glanced back and made eye contact for a second before walking off.
“Nice going chump,” jeered Jonathan.
“Dude, I wasn’t ready for this. I didn’t expect the waitress at a kid’s ice cream place to be smoking hot! What is up with the garter belt? Did you see that? She’s like one of those fantasy French maids!”
“Yeah! I did!” his voice cracked with sarcasm.
Silence overcame us for a few moments as we settled into our seats and sipped from our waters. My mind raced. Kim, the waitress, was all I could think about.
“Maybe they hired her to keep all the creepy fathers distracted so they’ll keep bringing their screaming kids to this dump?” Jonathan offered. “You should ask her out.”
“Right. I’m just the man for the job. I’m sure she gets play from hundreds of assholes a day…” I trailed off and dropped my face into my hand, lost.
I didn’t respond as I considered his question. What would it hurt to ask her out? That answer seemed easy: me. I could foresee, not just a polite decline, but a denial of humiliating proportions. I didn’t bother to think about what that would entail since she was approaching again with coffees for the other table. I tried to absorb the entirety of her figure in order to burn her image into my memory for all time! Unfortunately, I was too conscious of this goal, because I couldn’t focus at all.
Jonathan sat sideways in the booth with his back to the wall. He had his right arm resting on the back of the booth shared with the neighboring group. The solo guy just on the other side had partially turned around to address us.
“So, it’s her birthday today, so we wanna get the whole deal,” he whispered, indicating the purple coat girl. “Do you mind?”
Jonathan looked at me for a split second, pretending to commiserate, before answering. I looked at the birthday girl again. She continued to look disinterested with every aspect of the proceedings.
“Here you go, my darlings,” Kim had returned with the treats. “Can I get you anything else?” she queried as she looked at my empty water glass. “More water, honey?”
I blushed. Jonathan shook his head in disgust as he returned to his previous position facing the table.
Kim had a pitcher already in her left hand. She slowly leaned across the table to fill the small glass. Her perfume gently filled my nose as I slid down low in the booth, while my feet jumped around erratically like one of those wood block jig dolls that dance around on a plank. I made every effort not to ogle the closeness of her teasing cleavage, as I was ogling it. I had stopped breathing.
After the uncomfortably exciting moment had passed and she had gone away, I gasped for my breath. Jonathan’s grin widened from ear to ear as he jammed a hunk of sliced banana into it.
“Are you shaking?” he asked with a laugh.
I shook my head defiantly.
“Leave me alone,” I whined as I stabbed the straw against the table to pop the paper wrapper free. “She’s way out of my league.”
“All I’m saying is that if we played in our league, I would not be with Isabel. It’s all about overachieving. ‘Be all you can be’ and all that,” he air quoted. “Annie Oakley, dude. Blood in the water. Blood in the water,” he repeated like a mantra as he slid his right hand back and forth along the inside of his upraised left forearm – representing, presumably, a shark fin cresting the surface of the ocean’s water. “Blood-In-The-Water!” he emphasized by adding a pause between each word.
I pushed myself up higher after sinking down in the seat, so I could lean over the pink shake, asking myself what the point of this was.
“ANN-IE OAK-LEY,” he confirmed with an invisible rifle aimed at my face.
Our stand off was abruptly interrupted by an unbearably loud siren from inside the dining room. I spotted the kid who greeted us cranking on a handle to a box. That box seemed to be the source of the spiraling scream.
“AIR RAID!” Jonathan shouted, ducking his head down below the back of the booth.
I watched the kid’s hat fly off his head as he used all of the force of his skinny arm to spin the horn’s handle with determination. Then the kitchen’s door swung open, revealing two more vaudevillian kids high-stepping their way into the dining room carrying a tray atop a platform. The platform displayed a shiny silver trough jammed with countless multi-colored scoops of melting ice cream. This new duo, carrying the treat, suddenly broke out into a sprint, jolting their way back and forth across the dining room, as the air horn continued to shred our ears. Meanwhile, a thudding bass drum poked its way out of the kitchen, riding on the belly of yet another showman/ restaurant worker, who was clearly cast in his role due to his girth. In his High School daytime life, he was certainly the funny tuba player for the marching band. Jonathan peaked up over the bench just as the air raid siren slowly declined and our host joined the side of the drummer to march the quartet towards our tables. Apparently this show was designed to create intrigue and excitement for the potential recipient of the unappetizing sloppy treat piled on top of the bouncing display. The approach of the dissolving dessert and its four pallbearers triggered memories from my own birthday party. My eyes watered from over saturation. I had to place both hands on the table to keep the room from spinning.
Once the trough-bearers had reached their destination at our neighboring table and the noise had ceased (it was still ringing inside my ears), I saw the purple coat girl hang her head down and hunch her shoulders. Maybe she was being sheepish. I felt embarrassed for her. The trough was dropped under her nose with a bounce and a splash and the barbershop quartet began to serenade the victim with a version of a “Happy Birthday” song I was unfamiliar with. I could hear Jonathan humming along with the tune, while raising over the back of the booth to take in the scene. I looked around the restaurant hoping to spot our lovely waitress. I felt a surge of pride fill my chest, assuming her disdain for this tasteless show, because she was nowhere to be seen. I sank back down in my seat and examined the table, trying to be oblivious to the activities.
I began to ponder the idea of asking out the hot waitress. I closed my eyes lightly in an effort to focus – to try and summon up an angle and some courage and to shut out the action around me. “When would be the best moment to make my move?” “How would I do it?” “How could I make it memorable and intriguing for her?” “Would she be willing to give a dumpy chump like me a chance?” “How could I make her happy?” All of these questions looped around in my thoughts uselessly. My eyelids popped open with a sudden panic, realizing that I no longer knew where she was.
“She’s totally pissed!” Jonathan whispered to me, suddenly leaning in from across the table. “Look at her. Her face is red, but I don’t think it’s from embarrassment!” He tacked on as if narrating a silly sitcom. I could faintly hear a studio audience groan in unison. He was right though. She was breathing very quickly through flared nostrils. Her sneer stabbed at the sideburns kid next to her. He stood up from the table quickly; she slid over, and pushed herself upright by pressing down on the corner of the table, before storming off from view.
“Damn,” I blurted in monotone, watching her disappear. “Maybe I should go after her. Console her.”
“What is wrong with you, dude?”
“What? I dig the purple coat.”
“What about the waitress? Stay on target! Besides, she’s with Beck over there,” he indicated with a thumb over his shoulder.
Beck, and his mismatching hair and sideburns, was still standing by the table confused. The massive pile of ice cream scoops were drooping into a dark mudflow that was threatening to spill over the lip of the silver bowl. He looked at his friend who urged him to go after her with a gesture of his hand.
“What was that all about?” Jonathan asked the remaining guy, who was eyeing the birthday sludge with trepidation. He shrugged in response.
“Fuck if I know. I just got into town to visit and I’m supposed to stay with them.”
“Sweet! That’s bound to be fun.”
I made some gurgling sounds with the straw as I sucked down the last remnants of the shake and pushed the stem of the glass towards the middle of the table. I noticed the bill sitting on the edge of the table. Kim had drawn a bubbly heart onto the back of the slip. It sent a chill down my spine, despite knowing that she probably adorned all her receipts with this personal touch.
“Let’s get out of here,” I resigned.
“What about the chickie? You have to get in there.”
“I don’t know what happened to her. She’s disappeared. If she’s still around, then maybe I’ll see her at the register up front,” I suggested. I was still attempting to get together the nerve to at least tell her that…. Tell her that she’s…. I didn’t know what was appropriate.
“Maybe she’s taking a break from being so hot,” he offered.
Jonathan was on his feet, sliding an arm into his new leather jacket, as I fumbled through my wallet trying to pull together enough of a tip from the few ones inside. I had $5 total, so I dropped all of the singles onto the outside edge of the table next to the bill.
“Is that a heart?” asked Jonathan as adjusted himself into his jacket. “She so wants you.”
I slid the bill off the table with my thumb and followed Jonathan around the corner back to the gift shop entryway. Jonathan shot a look back toward the stranded guy remaining at the other table.
“Good luck tonight,” he blurted as he shot a double finger point in the guy’s direction. The castaway shook his head before pressing his right index finger to the side of it and mimicking his own suicide.
The lights had been dimmed up front, because they were shutting down for the evening. No one was in sight. Jonathan resumed fiddling with the toys for a few moments. I started to feel flushed thinking about what I would say if Kim walked around the corner.
The wait was becoming a long one.
“We should get the hell outta here. They obviously don’t want our money,” Jonathan suggested as he tossed a yellow super ball a few inches out of his palm over and over. “Why don’t you go find the waitress and tell her you’re ready to pay? Go get her!” His enthusiasm had built during this thought process, but I could see it wane immediately after he stopped talking. He closed his fist around the rubber ball. “I’ll be outside having a smoke.”
With that decision, he jerked his fist down and slammed the ball into the painted cement tile floor. The ball lunged back and forth from floor to the low ceiling panels and back too fast to see. The jackhammer rapidity of this action rattled out like machine gun fire erupting in the hushed silence of the entryway. Speckles of white powder floated down from the damaged ceiling panels.
“That should get someone’s attention,” I heard his voice menace just as I saw a puff of smoke dart in through the closing door as he disappeared.
The yellow ball was slowing its momentum and no longer touching the ceiling above with each bounce. I was able to chase it down and hunch over to grab it just as I heard some steps walking in from the dining room. I breathed a quick sigh of relief since I was able to snag the incriminating evidence before the potential arrival of Kim. I placed the ball into a clear plastic container holding rubber chicken key chains and watched the pimply kid appear and walk determinedly behind the L-shaped counter towards the register.
“Are you ready?” he queried as he made eye contact.
My shoulders hunched with disappointment, causing my hand to accidentally drag the rubber chicken container off the shelf and onto the floor with a small series of clacks.
“Damnit!” I shouted and shifted around to grab the mess up off the floor, bumping the shelving with my ass.
“Sir. Sir. Don’t worry about it. We can take care of it.”
I jolted upright, straightened my long black overcoat and stepped over the mess. I handed the kid a credit card and looked around to the dining room to see if I could spot the waitress one last time.
“Please sign here, sir.”
“Sorry about the, uh, mess.”
“Thank you,” he said, as I handed the receipt back to him.
The kid moved quickly away and out of sight. I could hear him tell someone to pick the toys up off the floor. Probably the chubby bass drum guy. I lingered in the dim light briefly and pushed open the door feeling a cool rush of wind sting my eyes. I squinted in reaction and tried to get my bearings by locating my 1975 Buick Apollo on the other side of the parking lot. At the moment I spotted its familiar shape, mildly illuminated by the orange hued lights surrounding the parking lot, I felt something snag my left foot, which was in the process of transferring weight towards my still raised right foot. The car disappeared in an upward blur, smearing into the lights from the Farrell’s sign that were behind me, and then to blackness as my eyes unconsciously clenched to brace for impact.
Lying sideways in a heap, head first down the blacktop wheelchair ramp, I felt my left palm burn from trying to catch my fall. I could hear the glide of cars passing by on the street behind me. I groaned and lifted my right hand from the puddle it had landed in and rolled on to my back. My eyes opened to see Jonathan hovering over me.
“Oops. What happened there buddy?” he asked with a wide smile as smoke flow out of his nostrils. “You okay?”
“AH! HA! HA!”
He reached out a hand to help me up, but was interrupted by a car turning into the lot. It cruised over the top of my head. I looked over to my left in reaction and saw Kim wearing a thin leather jacket. She was holding herself tightly to keep warm. She held a skinny strap against her left forearm, so her tiny glittery purse dangled next to her skirt. My neck relaxed as I watched her fishnet adorned legs clomp quickly towards the car that had pulled in to pick her up.
“Oh, no. Wow. Tough break. Sorry, man,” Jonathan stammered flatly and returned his hand to help me up. I sat up and brushed my hands together to discard the sand and gravel that had embedded themselves from the tumble and accepted his offering.
“What the hell?” I asked in mild exasperation.
“I didn’t think you’d go down!”
I brushed myself off and noticed a gaping hole in the left knee of my pants. I wasn’t upset. I shakily stepped off of the inclined plane of the slope and reached for my car keys.
“Let’s grab some beer,” Jonathan suggested as he tossed the butt aside. “It’s on me.”