Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meghan has a Wonderful day at Work (Meghan lies)

“You would make an excellent Elvis impersonator.”

Meghan sits in her car after work, stooped over the steering wheel. The keys lie on the dash board, untouched. Meghan stares straight ahead, lips pressed hard into a straight line. Her brow creases in concentration as salty liquid pulses behind her eyes. Her eyelashes bat up and down, furiously attempting to stay the saline waves. As the voice repeats again in her head, the liquid sees its chance and springs forward, streaming hot and furious down its cheek pathway.

No, no, no. That’s not right. Let me try again. I’ll tell you a nicer story, from the top:

Meghan pulls her minivan into the parking lot, swinging in under the neon sign. She immediately finds the perfect parking space. She does not drive around aimlessly for 10 minutes, cursing and smashing her hands against the dash, teeth gnashing and hair frizzing. No, she glides seamlessly into the spot; in fact she executes a positively superb parallel park. She is most definitely not late.

Meghan hops out of the car, skipping carelessly around a large puddle beside her van.

No, never mind. There is no puddle at all. Let me try that again.

Meghan hops out of the car, skipping for the joyous sake of skipping. Upon opening her car door, her keys do not fling out of her hand as if they had been pitched by a pro baseball player, skidding across the parking lot. Her cell phone does not wriggle loose from her ripped jacket pocket plunging directly into a cesspool of water and gasoline waiting below. She most definitely does not, only moments after fishing out the sopping mobile, step in this same pool of filth, soaking her left shoe completely before heading into work, where she is not reprimanded for being late...yet again.

Meghan is completely impervious to the heat pulsating in the restaurant, stifling, melting the paint on the walls, bending and blurring peripheral vision: airless and suffocating. Her face does not flush with a hot red splash of roasting colour. She need not desperately will the beads of sweat forming on the crest of her brow to halt and evaporate before the customer she speaks with notices the small droplet of salt dripping down the side of her cheek. Meghan, without a doubt, never has large unattractive perspiration marks form on the underarms of her cotton tee shirt.

Meghan does not hear the man with an uncanny yellow cowboy hat approach the cash register.

She does not look up when he projects arrogantly in a loud southern accent. She remains completely unaffected when he opens his wide mouth, rimed with a salt and pepper, handle bar mustache. Meghan does not hear his words, spat out by his voice box, pressed forward with his tongue and formed by his lips.

“You would make an excellent Elvis impersonator” this man does not say.

Meghan’s mouth does not hang perpetually open in this moment. She does not state blankly at the man with the yellow hat. She definitely does not giggle, because she didn’t think she heard him properly, and she never, ever asks him to repeat himself only to reassure that what she thought she heard was true.

“I said, you would make an excellent Elvis impersonator” he doesn’t obligingly repeat, giving a taunting smile, turning on his heel and marching away.

Meghan does not take a wavering step back, speechless, her brain struggling to process. She does not repeat this phrase to herself as he struts out the door. The picture of a gargantuan, fried banana sandwich- eating, fluff-banged, white spandex unisuit-wearing, sweating mass of a person that might be an Elvis impersonator, is not the image that forms in Meghan’s mind. The likeness of herself standing in the restaurant with a moist forehead, frizzy short dark hair and rhinestone-free two piece ensemble, does not immediately meld into that of the slovenly icon. This comparison does not sear into her mind, branded with a glowing red emblem, as embarrassment sends a wave of sickness crawling up her throat.

Later, at the end of the day, Meghan does not slump miserably over the steering wheel of her van. She does not let the musings of a person wearing a large yellow cow boy hat reach out and shake the very foundation of her self-worth for that day. But most importantly, large round tears do not form behind her eyes threatening to spill out in cascading ribbons. She most definitely, without a doubt, does not being to cry.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Hope you had the Time of Your Life

The knife slices through the flesh, shearing it in half, then again and again as each little chunk tumbles down with a plop into the bucket below me. I pick up another potato. Cut...cut...plop, cut...cut...plop, it is mindless work, but I’m in control. I think about the fact that today I am not a server, I am a cashier. I run over the word in my mind...Cashier. It sounds fancy, better then servant, I mean server. If no one is at the cash, I can simply stand here all day long, mutilating potato after potato for the consumption of the masses. Cut...cut...plop, cut...cut...plop. The muscles at the corners of my mouth twitch in amusement. Today I am given money. I get to take and they have to give. I have the knife, I have the power. I pick up another potato. Cut...cut...plop, cut...cut...plop.

“Hey Megs, I’m going on break so you serve the tables.”


A crazy person might imagine that the particular potato I’m holding is Jan’s face or something. Don’t worry; I’m not a crazy person. I drop the whole potato onto the counter, its fate delayed another 30 minutes.

I round the corner from the kitchen and reach into a cupboard. Grabbing a black waitressing apron, I tie it tightly around my waist. My feeling of power, wielding a knife against defenceless vegetables, taking money from strangers while I stand behind my proud cash box, slowly dissipates as I grab a pen and paper from a large stack, ready to take orders. As I straighten up, pen and paper in hand, four boys appear from behind the front wall and saunter their way to an empty table. They laugh mockingly and slap each other on the back jovially, wrestling over which chair to sit in. They are instantly recognizable; I went to high school with them.

My heart stops beating for what feels like a whole minute and then leaps back to life, erratically thumping in my chest.

“Who cares, it’s just high school, that was years ago” Says my brain.

“CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP!” say the butterflies in my stomach as they flip in the air, dropping down with a whooshing movement that makes me feel ill.

“I don’t care about what stupid high school boys think anymore” My brain strains to reiterate.

“RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN!” Says my pumping blood as it flushes embarrassingly to my face.

I am horrendously aware of the discoloured spots on my shirt, of my dirty sneakers, of my hair hurriedly tucked behind my ears, my makeup free face with red cheeks and blue-ish dark stains under my eyes...the thin glaze of sweat forming on my hands.

I whip around on the spot, pivoting on one foot, the other not even getting the chance to step forward. I march swiftly back into the kitchen without thinking. I look into the dirty reflective mirror that is the back metal wall of the kitchen. I see myself slowly transform. My face becomes rounder, less defined and speckled with red blotches. My hair lengthens in all directions becoming long, thick and frizzy, center parted. My eyebrows thicken and lose their shape; two large caterpillars perched above my eyes. The kitchen around me shifts and changes: the long counters morph into tall rusty lockers, the cooks into loitering students. I am in grade 9. I am in a crowded hallway. Boys laugh and push each other, girls giggle obnoxiously, giddy and chatting. The awkwardness, the insecurity sweeps over me as I make my way up this memory lane. I tug at my ill fitting, ill chosen clothes and stumble my way to where I am going.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath.

I open my eyes. Picking up the potato left abandoned on the counter, I rip into it with a sharp kitchen knife. I am 19 years old. I am in University, I am a grown woman. I am in control of this situation. I take another deep breath and then I laugh. It bubbles up from my throat and pours out in a few quiet giggles. I drop the potato into the bucket.

I am ridiculous.

My reflection again changes. My skin is clear, flushed with embarrassment and shame. My eyes are tired but shining from the laughter. My hair is short and tucked behind my ears, but my face is again defined and my eyebrows tamed and distinguished. I wipe my hands on my apron, grab a paper towel and mop the sweat and kitchen grime from my forehead. I walk around the counters towards the boys reading the menus and talking loudly.

“Hey man, its Meghan!”

“Hey Megs, you work here? That’s sweet! Do you guys have perogies?”

I smile brightly, confidently, over my temporary lapse of high school insecurity...immaturity, “Yeah, we do, did you guys want something to drink to start?”

Later, as I punch their orders into the electronic computer screen, my hand shakes slightly as I hold the pad up to read. I take another deep breath and will the image of the high school hallway far far away.