The Restaurant: Sam and His Dinner 

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My job at the BigBox store had been lackluster for quite some time. As a backroom retail supervisor, I was just tired of the beige color, beige feelings, and beige people. It was a constant drone of people looking for the same thing over and over again. Deep down, I wished I could go to some cosmic big box store and talk to someone like me about what I needed - but I didn’t know what I would ask for and couldn’t figure out where I could find it.

Not that I ever had made the time to look; my life was work. I had been working there for so long I had inevitably made my way up the backroom food chain; backroom associate, backroom lead, backroom shift supervisor, and now backroom lead supervisor. My path, like everything else, was predictable.

I filled my life with work-17 hours per day. Beginning at 7:30 am for morning shift prep, then jumping in to do some paperwork on incoming inventory, lunch at a breakroom table, then out to prep the noon shift. After I’d take another pass at inventory leaving the BigBox, those “clearance” items that no one bought were shipped back, another breakroom meal, then out to prepare the third shift team.

At first, leading teams was exciting. I had prided myself on being able to give directions for unpacking and hanging merchandise quickly and efficiently while coaxing the surly teens I had once been to get the merchandise ready for consumption. But eventually, it too, became a formula, and the excitement of management became one long, blunted drone.

The first shift backroom team was my favorite. They were older, adult men and women. They made little small talk as English was rarely their first language and were just happy to have a job and be left the hell alone. At precisely 8:15 am the shipping receipt would be ready, all the crates would be laid out for the inventory check, and these wise old souls would wait patiently for this young early-30s supervisor to do what he felt like was the most important work ever. I imagined their past far different than mine, they probably knew at last one good friend who had been taken during the night by police, or crossed a border to freedom, or had to suffer from hunger as food was scarce where they lived. And yet they still watched me patiently, roughing it through my fourth ice coffee … waiting for me to finish the check so they could hang and roll out the inventory throughout the store departments.

In contrast, the remainder of my day was motivating the younger workforce. Being a nanny to the whining and crying of 17 - 20-year-olds and the drama that continuously inhibited their lives, preventing them, like me, from pursuing anything worthwhile.

It wasn’t long into my supervisor career that my frustration and lack of motivation flowed down. Does any of this really matter? I would ask. Next year, are you going to remember what they said? Will you remember why you tried to impress that person or what it got you? Deep down, I understood other problems were just too big; the world was essentially dying, the sea was running out of air, entire countries were going hungry, no one is courteous anymore. How does being surrounded by canyons of lamps, food, toys, pots, pans, and clothing make any of that real? What is it that a 20-year-old can worry about? How about just deal with what the hell Justin meant last night when speaking about Alex, or better yet, how many hours do I have to clock to get promoted? I chose the second question and others of its kind to fill my days. Addressing the clutter of these unimportant questions prevented any meaningful actions - or relationships - of any kind.

What made relationships more difficult was I was caught in the middle of the age groups. People in their early 30s just were not doing this kind of work. They were pursuing real jobs with big salaries and limitless days off at big companies or ambitious start-ups. I was that strange character that employees would see day in and day out. Before they started, while they worked there, and would ‘drop-in’ and say hello after they moved on. They probably made up stories to justify why I was there. It wasn’t something I could explain myself.

Of all the backroom people, one small woman, Muriel, had seen some shit. I knew it. She seemed to take everything in stride, a big load that was late, a small load that was early, people clocking out sick, people not showing up, rushes, droughts, confusion - nothing flustered her. Even my constant reprimanding her for catching her smoking a cigarette on the loading dock didn’t move her to emotion. I’d say my piece, and she’d regard it with quiet nods and slow, maternal blinking. I’m going to pretend to respect you - the slow blinking nods would say. Then she’d simply shuffle back inside and do the most thorough job unpacking and restocking I’d ever seen.

It was this quiet diligence that promoted her to the backroom shift supervisor. It wasn’t long before other quiet women, all with the same steady quietness, began showing up on her shift. I suffered a double impact bursa eskort bayan of knowing she’d be moving into my job soon and that I realized I didn’t care.

The evening after Muriel’s second promotion, I got really drunk alone in my apartment. My place was far away from where my old high school friends lived. It was affordable only because the town lake had been negligently filled by raw sewage, turning it into a state joke.

My life had been a steady path of meritless, predictable growth, and limited gratification. Worse, at some point, I called my career my life and my life my career. Either one could be described as moderately challenging as the games I’d play on my phone: small rewards to keep me feeling I was accomplishing something, then after hours of play realizing not a single hour of harvesting corn and beets on a farm, matching colored balls, or making a chicken lay more eggs affected my life in any way. How long had I worked there after college? Six years? 12 years?

But in my self-pitying despair, I was restless. Being released from my job presented me with a field of dense unknown. I dreamt of facing the foggy wall and the emptiness which would consume me and from which I would tumble forever. This impending fear of doing so kept me from drinking any more and forced me to sleep instead of burning through the night with endless hours of repeat binge-watching.

Instead, I dreamt of arriving downtown to my city’s Italian Quarter. I walked through its maze of streets filled with expensive brownstones and quaint street lights until arriving at a serpentine street winding uphill and dotted with small unique restaurants, each offering different cuisine. I felt happy at seeing the choices - but awoke before I could explore them with a mouth as dry as leather.

The next day, I called in sick. A difficult act which I embraced as my symbolic liberation from a career of easy choices.

I couldn’t blame or rage against anyone but myself for what I had done. I did it because it was easy - and I’m human. I couldn’t rage against myself because I’d quickly run out of beer money.

So instead, I would follow my heart, which I realized wouldn’t be easy, either. I decided the first easy not easy thing would be I’d buy myself a meal at the Italian Quarter as I was about to do in my dreams. And I would do it alone. Hell, if I could do what I saw in my dreams, what else would I be able to do?

Throughout the day, I fought the overwhelming sense what I was doing was unnatural and as dumb as laying down on a highway in rush hour. The illogicalness of it screamed in my head, so much so I’d steady myself and yell back. Thank goodness I was at home during these arguments.

Me: But you’ll be alone! People will laugh at you!

Also Me: Why? I’m just going to buy and enjoy and meal! Like everyone in the whole world does. There’s an entire industry built on people going out for dinner.

Me: You’re a fool! A damn fool! People from work will be there and they’ll recognize you and see how lonely and what a loser you are!

Also Me: I have a point there. I was lonely. But I’m going to go anyway. Maybe I’d meet someone.

“For one?”

The maître’d about my age with deep sad brown eyes and beautiful curly hair and teeth spaced a bit too far apart, smiled and showed me to my table while letting me know under her breath she was short-staffed and would be waiting on me herself very soon. It was still early for dinner, and many tables awaiting the first round of diners.

Gratefully, my table seemed to be made for one. It was nestled into a corner and faced a small section of the window so I could ignore the romance happening behind me at the other tables and busy myself with looking out into the street and traffic going by. I patted myself on the back. I had made it to the restaurant. I looked good. I felt good. Hell, I think I even smelled good. I was here. My insecurities’ seethed in the back of my mind, waiting for something, anything, that would make me self-conscious and inhibited once again. For now, the city was bright and happy, and I reveled in the opportunity to people watch.

I am reasonably sure that the happiness over my personal accomplishments came out in my thanking the pretty maître’d for the menu. I seemed a bit too happy. But she laughed a little and smiled sheepishly. I felt a zip of electricity at how pretty her face was and how her eyes sparkled. She may have blushed slightly at the silly man who listened engrossed to the evening’s specials of a flaky mozzarella and funghi panzerotti appetizers and frutta di mare with either linguini or farfalle pasta. Her face broke into a smile as her lovely round hips swiveled and wound through the small tables as she walked away.

The deliciousness of peeking at her over my menu, watching her move, and command the room filled me with a devilish enjoyment. I could never have done anything like that at work, and now here I was in a dark restaurant, flirting with an absolutely bursa merkez escort beautiful woman.

“Will anyone be joining you?”

And she was back. She caught me daydreaming - about her.

“No, I am here alone.”

“Ah, a fortunate teller told me I would meeting someone who would be dining alone.”

“Really? Is it me? Any details?”

“Many people dine here alone.” her voice was touched lightly with an Italian accent. “I would not be so quick to jump into my dreams.”

“Mine, too - I mean mine, either.”

“Would you like something to drink? Wine?”

“Yes, I’ll have a red wine.”

“A red? A red. That is what you want?”

“Yes, do you have any? I don’t know, are there particular kinds?” My mind flew to the shelves at the BigBox stores, panicking that I had never, ever took the time to read the box the red and white wines came in.

“You are not the person the fortunate teller told me about.”

“Sorry? I’m sorry. I guess that’s ok? Do you have a recommendation for a wine?”

She didn’t leave immediately but sized me up as if to confirm whether I was some joke. I hadn’t thought there could be any worse moment than her telling me that I was not the man in her fortune - but her stare was.

“What do you like to.. to eat? to drink?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” she reprimanded.

“No - really - I…”

The table. The short, squat candle. The savory smell of food coming from the kitchen. This tiny sanctuary of a moment so separate from the world I hated released me to be not the beige man I was. I could smell good, eat alone, flirt, and, now, I could confess.

“I really don’t know what I like. Last night, I had a dream of coming here after knowing - knowing, mind you- that my path of a lifeless retail job was coming to an end. I never explored, in all the time I thought I was living, what a panzerotti was or the difference between linguini and farfalle pasta and that hopefully, hopefully life is not a path like a series of hoops to jump through but more like this street, a series of choices, a dance, and I choose the next steps. And that would like what I found. Wouldn’t that be nice to know?”

My naked, bloodied, bruised soul lay draped, sticky and wet flopped across the small table-for-one between us.

Her expression softened from the hard pierce, and she regarded me a moment longer, then she turned and walked away. Her hips swing between tables filling with couples capturing my breath once again.

Panic filled my throat.

Getting up and running out of the restaurant made absolutely perfect sense.

My heart broke at the thought of never coming back to this restaurant, to this street, perhaps even to this city –

A generously filled wine glass was placed in front of me. The wine, in the candlelight, was a lush, deep velvet purple.

“This one is good,” she said. “Try it.”

I drank it with the intent of washing away the burning embarrassment and shame of recklessly trusting anyone ever again with my raw fear. The wine filled my mouth; it’s essence firing my senses.

I saw grapes, fat, deep, and purple, hanging from a rich green vine wet with morning dew on a rocky countryside in Southern Italy. I saw her, my waitress, in a simple, pretty white linen dress, a colorful scarf binding the tumbles of hair from her happy face. Her skin blushed and glowing in the early sun from light perspiration of the morning harvest. She pulled the choice clusters from the vine here and there, placing them gently in a basket. She turned towards me, her face radiating with love and contentment. In the horizon behind her, over rolling fields divided by ancient stone walls, I saw a sea of the warmest, most welcoming blue. I tasted its salt on my lips and saw an evening with her and me laying together on a broad, colorful beach blanket. We lay warmed by a fire, our lovemaking hidden by the sound of gentle waves crashing against the soft sand shore.

And then my head it the floor.

Wine poured across my face, burning the insides of my nose and eyes and sending gentle rivulets through my hair. I heard the tinkle of glass bowl breaking nearby, my hand still futilely holding the glass stem.

My free arm, which had once raked across the wall in an effort to catch myself, flopped across my eyes, attempting to soak up the small puddles of wine in pooled in my eyes.

I caught a hazy glimpse of her now above me, in complete shock. Her hand rested absently on my shoe, now my highest point as I lay on the floor.

“I’m so sorry,” I bleated, “I can pay for…”

“Are you OK?”

“Yes, of course, I can get up. Oh, boy.”

“Use the bathroom. It’s right around the corner.”

Mercifully, she ignored the tables of people craning to get a better look. She swung an arm around my waist and ushered me carefully to the bathroom before returning to the upset chair and table. At each table we passed, I apologized profusely to the couple.

To bursa sınırsız escort bayan make matters worse, the bathroom was occupied. I jingled the knob to discover it locked. I looked down to notice my shirt was stained with the wine. How much had that wine cost that I wasted so much of it?

She returned with hands full of wet, red-stained dishtowels from cleaning up the spill. There was a trace of a smile on her face. Her expression had warmed slightly during my destruction.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Is the bathroom locked?”

“Yes, occupied.” I stupidly tried the knob again to prove it to her, angering the female occupant to yell out in protest.

“I’ll take the tables, Diana.” said another young waitress. “you can take him to the storeroom in the back to get him cleaned up.”

The store room’s shelves were filled with plastic containers and cardboard boxes. I noticed the names of the different restaurants on the street scrawled on each in marker.

Diana. I thought. So now I could make a genuine heartfelt apology.

“Diana? I am really sorry about the wine - about everything.”

She threw her arms around me. I felt her breasts press against my chest. Her mouth mashed against mine.

Her lips were delicious. Salty. Savory. Hungry. Her passionate kisses moved my mouth as her fingers raked through my hair, sending tendrils of electricity through my body.

“It’s true,” she whispered in my ear. “You are true. It’s all true.”

“What is?” I whispered back, my arms wrapping around her body, hungering to keep her close to me, molding her to me.

She rolled my left earlobe in her mouth, and my knees buckled.

“My fortune teller tole me there would be a scimmia, a silly man who would come today and make me happy.”

“You said it wasn’t me.” My head still swimming from the gulp of wine and an empty stomach. “life is a dance, she said,” Diana gazed hard into my eyes “and she said ‘I choose the steps and everything would be ok.'”

“Like what I said?”

“Yes, what you said. What I felt. I choose you. It may be crazy, but this is what I want right now.”

“Me too.”

She stood back, and in the unpainted concrete storeroom with floor to ceiling shelves, filled with the mustiness of potatoes, vegetables, and cardboard, she pushed me onto a box wrapped in canvas.

She untied her waitress apron and flipped off her black clogs, revealing thick, ornate wool socks. We both giggled nervously as she wiggled her toes.

I caught my breath as she peeled off her tight black pants, revealing her shapely legs, toned thighs, and black lace panties.

“You are beautiful, Diana.”

“Take your pants off, silly man.”

I fumbled with my belt, having never, ever been with a woman in these circumstances and never with a woman like this. So bold.

My senses were on fire. The dampness of the room, the concrete dust, our breathing, cantaloupe, carrots, and tomatoes in their boxes. The clatter of the restaurant nearby, the world of the city outside.

She pulled off one of my shoes, then another, then yanked off my pants.

“Take those off as well,” she said, pointing to my underwear.

I did so, never having been proud of my size, far smaller than the gargantuan apparatuses that stoked women to insanity on the pornos I viewed during my “me time.” But tonight, her touch, her smell, her presence inflamed my body. My cock snapped out of the briefs as I peeled them away and readied myself for her.

“Yes,” she said. I adjusted my lap for her, but she surprised me by covering my cock with her mouth. My body jumped as the warm, wet velvet of her mouth enveloped and quenched the fire between my legs. I felt her lips rise and fall up and down the hard shaft slowly, wetly. Responding to her tongue and lips with a throbbing ache.

It popped out of her mouth, glistening from her attention.

“Now,” she unbuttoned the top few buttons of her shirt and revealing her beautiful round breasts contained in a pretty, ornate black bra. She peeled off her panties and flung them aside, and stood for a moment, drinking in my desire for her. “Now, me.”

She straddled my lap, embracing me to her, allowing me to kiss and lick her breasts in the cups of the bra as her arms wrapped lovingly around my head, pulling me closer. The faint perfume of her body transported me to the beach, our bodies twisted together on the colorful heavy blanket.

A deep, pleasurable moan brought me back to her lowering herself atop me. I could feel her labia crown the bulb of my penis and then give way to me, pushing me deeper in as Diana’s hot breath washed against my neck and face.

She let out a groan as she slowly pulled herself up and slid down once again. I grabbed her hips to move her along, but I heard her breath catch and her fingertips tense and stab into my skull. This was not the beige man making love anymore, so instead, I would do something not easy. I would sit back and encourage. My hands found their way across her body, caressing every inch of her hot skin, discovering areas with thoughtful touches and squeezes. I was rewarded for my explorations with a whispered yessss in my ear.

Her motions were long and slow, rising to my very tip and bringing herself down in one long slow movement, releasing a long sigh at each.

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