A Banquet hall triptych
She wore tight black slacks and a white linen shirt, starched hard enough to cut glass.
Her copper hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she wore the type of lipstick that made you think of the word glisten.
Walking around the tables in the muted light of the ballroom, she was preparing for the dinner party I was catering. Perfectionist, I was thinking, as I watched her moving forks and knives at exact angles next to plates and glasses. Each diner had their utensils set to one side with a napkin rolled into their glass in elaborate origami fashion. There was no casualness to her approach.
Mike, who bussed tables, was slow. People would tilt their head in his direction and ask the question, as if it needed to be confirmed.
Is he, you know, slow?
Yes, we would say, yes he is. He was slow in all ways. Not just in his work skills, but in his ability to communicate; to understand. He was not quite "with it" But routine had served him well and he cleared tables and moved within the dining room traffic with a minimal amount of plate clattering and glass breaking.
Graceful? Never. But he was efficient in his machinations. Like a good appliance his special skill was in doing a simple job well in anonymity.
I overheard a waitress tell him once:
Mike, wow, I didn't even know you were here.
I know, he said. People say that a lot.
It was 1 am, and the dishwashers were sitting behind the banquet hall smoking one last cigarette and sharing some cheap wine. A blue toned security light made the group of us appear a little ghostlike. Not much talking, as we had been working in the sauna kitchen for 6 hours nonstop. Not much music, because we didn't want the cops who patrolled the strip mall to visit us. It was just a short communal exhale before we scattered in all directions. Five slumped figures in the shadows with matching nicotine night lights.