© 2001 Kenny N Gamera
Okay, I was having a day. You know, the kind where the little yellow smiley face has Xs for a mouth and eyes with a red dot in the center of the arc which would be a person's forehead and drops of blood dripping down. The sort of day where you write whole paragraphs in sentence fragments that really freak out the grammar check in MS-Word (R). The sort of day where you recycle old gags from other stories. That sort of day, with nuts and a dab of whipped cream on top.
But I digress.
She was watching me as I typed away at the keyboard in the computer lab on the north side of campus. She was not young, not even my age. She was at that age where she was definitely someone's mom. Still, even with her short blonde hair streaked gray, she was nicer to look at then a blank screen and an empty mind in need of just another latte to be at full strength.
A latte. The thought hung in my mind like a girl from a ceiling in a TM Quinn story. I got up from the table where I was working. I passed her as I walked out the door and she searched for a place to sit in the crowded lab. She smiled at me. I smiled at her but noted with a quick glance down the diamond ring on her left hand.
Probably just gas, I told myself as I went to the little coffee stand next to the convenience store next to the food court in the floor above the basement lab. The girl at the counter was your typical gum-chewing freshman. So, I waited just a little longer than I should have as she remembered the secret to making a latte. Unfortunately, she spent more time remembering to flirt with some guy in a hat with greek letters arranged in a manner quite unlike a mathematical formula. I, therefore, got a cup filled with something more similar to a cappuccino than what I wanted.
I was having a day, but I said that already.
I got back down to the lab, half expecting someone to have stolen my machine or my jacket or be using my e-mail account to spam most of the planet. Instead, I found that the woman known as someone's mom had grabbed the computer next to the one I was using. She smiled at me again; I smiled at her which seemed to be the polite thing to do. I, also, tilted the screen a little so that the empty wall to the other side of me had a better view and the mom had a worse view of the little sex ditty I was writing.
I just stared at the screen some more as the words refused to flow anywhere near the screen. I watched the mom as well as she waited for the ancient computer to boot through the long routine that was required of it. She smiled at me, again. It was the type of smile that I learned to be afraid of as a kid. That radar that tells a mother just what is going on in her child's mind. Or any child's mind.
Too bad all men are somewhere still children.
I adjusted the screen away from her and continued to type away at nothing. Or is it not type away at anything. I know, for certain, it is not "not type away at nothing."
Anyway, back to the story.
After a time, I finished the not-latte, and the not-story finished me. After a few seconds of internal debate, I saved the pathetic fragment that I had written to a floppy. I adjusted the screen back to normal and started to log-off. I stopped however when I realized that I had forgotten to make one last check of my e-mail. There was nothing, of course, but I would not get another chance to check it until the next afternoon.
I logged off.
The mom was looking at me and smiling. I was really getting nervous at this. She looked somehow familiar. Deja vu is a trick, though. I could not place her at all, but her pretty features were common enough that I was reminded of several women I had known in my life. That was all it could be. I smiled and offered her a good night as I rose from the cheap-ass computer lab chair. In a voice made rough by cigarettes, she said good night to me in reply.
I heard a giggle as I walked away from her.
The next day, I got up late as per standard practice. Quickly, I showered, shat, and shaved, fed the cats, and chased the large one around the hall before he tired of the game and wanted to go inside the wrong apartment. The door to that apartment opened. My run- away cat naturally freaked out when a blond haired woman walked out of the door, almost stomping him in the process.
"Whoops! I'm sorry, little guy." Before he could react the woman had him up and in her arms. In alternating pulses, my cat squirmed and froze while she petted him. She looked at me and smiled, "Is he yours?"
I squirmed a little as well. She wore a loose shirt and a pair of khaki shorts, which showed off a long pair of, tan legs and ankle socks tucked into a pair of tennis shoes. I looked up into a pair of ice blue eyes, which I could feel having seen before, maybe in a dream. Her face was common, but in that way very pretty. I remembered at once all the girls that I had loved before. Both those from afar and those from up close.
Well, I did. I could come up with nothing suave or witty or even stupid. I just stuttered like a stupid teen-age boy.
My cat answered for me by frantically reaching his front paws in my direction. She noted his reaction and handed him to me. I wordlessly accepted my pet back from this woman. He quickly hugged himself against me and began to purr very, very loudly. I just stood there.
"He seems to be happier with his daddy, doesn't he?" she stated. With another smile, she stepped by me. Closing her door, she turned away from me and walked down the apartment hall. I watched her retreating ass. She started outside, stopped, turned, and waved to me. From the short distance, I could hear her giggle. Then, the door closed behind her.
Finally, I took my cat inside and went to job number one.
I hate waiting tables with a passion that Republicans save for Bill Clinton. Naturally, this is what I do to keep kitty chow in the cat bowls. Fortunately for my little monsters, I did receive a section in the dining room rather then being sent home. It was a slow day at the Country Club, the golf course closed for maintenance, but I still had a total of three tables for most of lunch. They were large, mostly businessmen, talking about work between the sordid lies of golf games past. They tipped well.
The cats would eat well tonight.
At two, the manager walked over to me. This is a bad thing at two o'clock in the afternoon of a slow day and with the kitchen about to shut down. I knew what was up before he said a word.
"Kenny, we got another table. A deuce. You're taking it."
He retreated before I could tell him where he could stick his table. I could almost get out right now with a decent hourly rate, but a deuce would rarely leave enough on its own to make up for the extra time I would spend in the dining room. I groaned to myself and with my order book in hand left the server station.
I groaned again when I saw the table by the window. It was a woman, very plain, with a young girl with blonde hair. If it weren't enough to be stuck late, having to deal with a child was way too much. The words "shut up and soldier" flashed into my head in my father's voice. With a mighty sigh, I marched to the table.
"Good Afternoon, Ladies," I said in my relaxed country club waiter's voice as I gave each the appropriate menu. "May I offer either of you a beverage before you order?"
"I'll have a glass of white wine, the Lindenman's Chardonnay." The woman's voice was as plain as her face. "My ward will take a glass of fruit juice."
I turned to the girl who was about twelve, an age where almost all people would order for themselves, nor would they order a juice. Instead of being angry or sullen, she just smiled mostly at me. At least, I assumed it was me because she kept contact with my eyes.
"I really like apple juice," she said.
I smiled at her and answered with a light voice, "of course, ma'am. I will be right back with your juice." I turned to the plain woman. She did not smile. I assumed a formal expression and said formally, "and with your wine, ma'am."
They ordered and ate quickly, with no dessert. Twice, I refilled the juice. I never refilled the wine. Each time, the girl smiled at me with a bright cheery smile. The friendliness of her sweet everygirl face brightened my heart. This was what I had wanted in my life; just this little touch of sunshine cleared some of the gloom over me.
If I had my life again, I wished, this girl would be my daughter.
But then again, wish in one hand and shit in the other...
They, at last but too soon, got up to leave. I stepped away from the service station long enough to watch them go. The girl held onto the plain woman's hand as they walked away, but with a sudden movement as they approached the host stand, she pulled away from her guardian and ran to me.
By instinct, I bent down as she reached me. Still, she had to stretch to reach my cheek. There, she planted a little kiss before stepping away. I touched the spot her lips had just parted.
"You're cute," she said with a giggle. Then she ran back to the plain woman who just waited for her at the host stand. Together, they walked away.