Table for Two

Tip left for good service at my local Coco's. ...

A good meal, but less-than-hoped-for service. ... Image via Wikipedia

I sat waiting at a table in the corner, watching the Caleña sisters flit amongst the other customers, the work of their hive neverending. I had nothing else to do; my order had been placed, and I had nothing to read except a menu half written in Spanish.

The Caleña sisters glided. Maria and Salina – which was which, don’t ask me to remember – two brown-skinned flowers stagnating in a garden of grease, begged to be taken away. Their eyes, listless, avoided those of the customers; their petal-like fingers danced wearily across the cash register, and held menus like they couldn’t wait to let go of them.

One of the sisters – don’t ask me which, but her face was more tired than the other’s – at last brought me my meal, after many hungry minutes. But it was busy, and theirs were only two sets of hands – beautiful hands, but only two sets nonetheless – so I had waited, and watched, with patience. I watched the two sisters; I watched them glide, their movement smooth but their gait tired. I watched the other men who were eating in the diner, each one a possible ticket out of stagnation. I watched the Caleña sisters watch the men when the men weren’t looking, how they sized up the tickets, hoping with forlorn hope that an open seat would show itself, but each time being met with a shut door.

Ah, but the Caleña sisters were young; plenty more tickets would pass through – surely a seat would open up someday.

Ah, but the Caleña sisters had already been here for an age, gliding through their youth ’til they had reached premature weariness, wanderers who had never gotten to wander.

I poured ketchup on my meat and salted my fritas. The bubbles in my soda-drink reflected the dimness of the diner, and I gazed at them as I ate, until something dark moved into them, something brown and red. I looked up.

It was the other Caleña – the one with the less-tired face, and a red shirt with the word “oasis” on it – and she was looking at me – not talking, not smiling, just looking. Though I thought I saw a flicker of light pass through one of her olive eyes.

I glanced at my food and then back at her. She was still looking at me. At last she spoke.

“Everything okay?”

My heart leapt at the sound of her silky voice.

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Okay.”

She glided away to another spot in the hive, and I was left to myself again.

I finished my meal, left a tip, then gathered myself and went to stand in line at the register. The lady in front of me paid, then I stepped up and handed my bill to the first Caleña sister. Our eyes never met. I waited.

Moments later, when I held out my hand to receive the change, I kept my eyes on hers. She said “thank you” and at last looked at me.

And I saw no open seat.

I pocketed my change and left. The bell over the door clanged, and the Caleña sisters went back to their weary gliding.

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