As I wake after the fourth night shift in a row, I can tell I've been through the work week. My neurotransmitters have been worn down, as they get tending bar, the piqued mind responding to a night's demands and then some, for just a bit too long, and why keep faking it. The social is mixed in, throughout the evening, but in context the mind sees it as work, and of course it is. I wake to find the mind returned to the boy and girl and college, another episode, Christmastime, the last sociology class in the music building's amphitheater, where she sat, how he sat at the end of the row on the carpet floor, wanting to sit next to her, should have gotten up off the floor, gone down the row and sat with her, and all would have been forgiven in Christmas spirit and peace would have come. But instead, "look at where I am now."
The music, of Jazz Night number two, was good. Brazilian, and at the close of the kitchen, the band's dinner being brought up, the singer's friend of friends' main course has not been fired yet in the confusion of the closing innings. Shit. So I fire it. And then that will make dessert late. Oh, well, it all works out. Our regular friend has a kind word for me about my weekend soon arriving. "We all get in ruts." Go and try and have some fun. Do something different. Start a Meet-Up group. Hard to meet people our age and with the same interests... "I get in a rut myself, from time to time." Oh, yes, I know I do. I hear you, man, I hear you. He may have sensed my lack of immediate enthusiasm and I'd just taken the last food order of the night, the Brazilians in the corner, not ones to show up early, five soup spoons to share. When the waiter deals a large party in the back room, then the barman has to be on patrol over the dining tables, an established pattern. The waiter had the German ambassador, a 14 top, last night, and tonight it was a dozen mom's of young children... The waiter can leave. The barman stays, and there's always something that happens to him after that "can I get anything for you," and the resigned "no, I'm good." Always something to demand attention, and because of it, the heightened need for your own glass of wine as the last bit of electrical energy gets taxed.
The night before it was drunky "I'm a beach girl" mom with another mom having dinner, about to move back to South Carolina, coming up to the bar to chat with everyone else. (The attending Secret Service agents had commented to the waiter about her earlier, after she spilled water on the floor.) One thing precipitates another, just enough of tipsy bar crowd left to egg on, to feel like something's being accomplished when one drinking person meets another, as if they were long lost friends with projects to resume, cards exchanged, as if... The atomic spin-offs of the intoxicated mind... Things don't get better around drinkers, they get worse.
I'm serving dinner to the band, having kept the singer's crusty boneless pig's feet warm in the oven, with the salad transferred to another plate. I start clearing her friends table of the cheese plate slate, the wooden charcuterie round, let someone take the last of the seared foie gras, cold by now, but still good. I am almost done. There is no late-night crowd, no wanderers.
Then up the stairs comes the traveller, without a smile on his face. He's had to move to another living situation today, and the job he'd hoped for, so he could line up an apartment, 'no dice.' He'd finally gotten fed up down at the waterfront, getting into it with the busboy who kept pushing, pushing, but might wish it'd had been a neater exit as far as apartment hunting goes. He sits down and looks at the new Bordeaux and the open St. Emilion. You want a beer? I dunno. Try some Bordeaux, I say, giving him a glass. You must have missed Ray, he was just getting out of here. I walked down, didn't see him. We were wondering what you were up to.
Dessert for the Brazilians in the corner table by the front windows. The tall bass player hangs out, his bass in its zip-up case, the amp with a cover on it. It's the anniversary of the older couple, so after the mousse and the bruleé come from upstairs (as I'm talking with my friend about how to get out of the rut, as there is a Wisconsin Avenue one, a Connecticut Avenue one...) I bring over a celebratory splash of sparkling rosé, five of them. The younger guy at the table helped out with playing small percussive instruments, the thing with the sand in it that you shake, very well. They receive the house's offering with a nice celebratory fanfare, hooray, however they say it. Cheers. Flute glasses are raised. (Their Rhone red bottle is empty anyway.) The singer joins them, and I pour her another glass of Pinot Blanc, and she is happy, and the boss has signed her up for another date. "Thank you so much," she says in her soft, restrained purring way.
Back at the bar... "Maybe I'll go out to some dude ranch in Montana." I think of some encouraging things to say. Finding the restaurant where one belongs is a very particular thing; it has to be a match, almost a spiritual things. "Well, I could pull a few shifts up at this pub my friends know." Just stay positive. Don't let that ingrained negative voice take hold, is what I've gotten out of therapy. "I knew re-entry to the States was going to be rough."
My friend sits quietly. The Bujan (a Cotes du Bourg) is the best, he says. You want to work in a wine shop? Nah, they don't make any money.
"I'll feel better when I get my own living situation down." True. You can pick up shifts here, tell 'em you work here. Yeah.
"How are you," he asks, as I pull the last bit of the night together, send the busboy home without having to wait for the Brazilians to leave. Would I feel better if I were just alone at this point? One more guy to monitor, make sure he'll get home okay for various reasons, the great blank space of the night waiting outside the front door. Leo Dan's Brazilian Pandora station plays through its list, and I wonder if this might be making my friend a little nostalgic for the time he was at the World Cup, far away from old DC. He's picky about his music.
"Yeah, I got a buddy in Seattle." I heard through the grapevine the possibility of his going back there, one way ticket. "I could stay with him. Except he's a bit of a freak. And it might come to blows..." The clouds of that feeling of being trapped, nowhere to go, lower over the bar, over the bottles, over the bright light over the cutting board above the stove used to warm the countless baguettes we burn through madly in a night, out of the long brown-paper baker's bag, into the oven to get hot and soft and crisp on the outside, into a little basket lined with a folded napkin with a ramekin of butter, over the last bit of paper work and the dishwasher with its glassware. "I could get a car, go back to my dad's, then I could get into Charlottesville, save up some money..."
What happened, to my burn-out generation, who've ended up in restaurants and uncertain living situations... What educational discouragement got to us, what turn of the economy...
The Brazilians depart into the night. The singer follows, thanking me generously one last time, looking at my friend at the bar, then back at me. A final flirt would have ben nice.
"I've been depressed a bit lately." He gets up and goes over the over and pulls out a morsel of baguette bread. It's probably pretty dry by now, but he cracks off a piece above the recycling bin and gnaws on a hunk, then another bit, then throwing the remainder in the trashcan. I do the paperwork, then retrieve a plate of pig's feet and its sauce from the oven, still warm, could use to a bit warmer. I'd offered him some, but no thanks.
He rises and pulls his jacket on, pulls a cap over his head, his long hair about his neck. I'm going to get going. Okay, man, remember it's all a spiritual thing. Jesus was a smart guy and he didn't have anywhere to stay either, I offer, as a sort of barroom perspective chuckle, look on the bright side, if there is one, or at least, "take it easy."
And then I am left alone to gather my things. Down to the basement to get my bike. Change out of my clothes. Hopefully beat the rain.
Awake now, the day after, sipping hot water with lemon and some smokey tea the boss shared with me reminding me of our recent ridge-tip camping trip and our good talk of yoga's transformative powers in the bright early light after the windy night gusting over our nylon tents, I take an L-tyrosine and 5-HTP and a B-12 for the nervous system, an Ashwagandha for the pollen and remind myself of the yoga to look forward to, the day off. Time to light some incense and crack open a window, let the egos disperse.
When you're stuck in a rut, it's like your chakras don't want to light up. Too much damp. You can't convert things into the spiritual lesson, as that seems beyond your grasp. The demons sloughed off of others have caused you unrest. And then maybe it's time to go for a walk.
I take a soak in epsom salts, shower off, shave, am able to do a bit of yoga without much energy, but at least there is some flow. It takes some patience, some effort, some deep breaths.
Four night shifts is a good deal harder than three, like earthquakes, exponential, and I did not feel good going in yesterday. The yoga was a lot better yesterday, so at least I was aligned. Though I was late to work, I beat me co-workers by a good few minutes. Today, the down mood is disturbing. Something I thought I shook, but then I remember, how I only worked three shifts the last week, thanks to Memorial Day.
There's a nap, there's a hamburger with sweet potato and onion and a call to mom, there's another nap, a text from the traveler, 'I've been cooped up all day and need to get out; what are you up to? feel like doing anything,' there's a low key walk up to the bridge on Massachusetts Avenue and back right before the day's sunset at the miraculous 8:27, and then another series of naps, and then around midnight the creature is awake again. Take the trash out, the recycling into the bin out front, gather the laundry, vacuum, mop. History Channel movie about Jesus on the laptop. Fuck, I need at least one glass of wine, much as I would like to meditate.
Wine at home, alone, seems okay. There's not all the egos around, the self-importance. A glass gives you energy to do the little household tasks.