We went out to dinner on Friday, at the same restaurant we usually visit on date night. But our experience was distinctly different than usual.
Our waitress was clearly experiencing a reality of which we were not part.
I felt as though I was a character in A Clockwork Orange. If you recall that dystopian novel (or the Kubrick movie), Alex the antihero and his droogs speak in a slang that is not explained in the book, at least not in the first version to be published, the version I read. But after slogging through a few chapters, I found myself understanding the lingo and reading faster and faster as if the text was written in ordinary English.
But I really didn't have enough time at dinner to learn to understand our waitress.
I don't believe that we have been served by this girl before, but I have seen her there. She was dressed in a t-shirt, as all of the wait staff are, but hers was as long as a dress. Long seemed the theme of her ensemble: her dark pants were at least four inches too long, and her shoes were somewhere in the stringy mess of cuffs, although I never saw them.
She moved quickly with some ghostly power, across the room as though she were gliding a couple of inches above the floor. Her face was propped open on the verge of confusion. Her eyes had a shine you see on animals hiding in ditches beside the road.
Everything she said we had to ask her to repeat. Everything.
Because she was talking ninety miles per minute.
Doyouknowwhatyouwanttodrink? We looked at each other, and I could see the Woodsman tamping down a smile, as I was myself. I felt as though I was a stranger in a strange land, not understanding the common customs of the planet.
Areyoureadytoorderordoyouneedmoretime? I truly listened very hard, but I could not decode the sounds she made.
Finally came the one that made me laugh out loud. Poof. She appeared next to my elbow and said, Wouldyoulikeformeto getyoua--
She couldn't think of the word. The name of the thing she was supposed to provide that would allow me to take my soup home with me.
In broad gestures she mimed the container. About this tall, about this big around, with a lid... and then she said--I kid you not--
Yes, I told her, swallowing my smile, I would like one of those leftover dudes.
We giggled and snorted until we saw her coming back toward the table with the leftover dude, and then we tried to pull it together and act like grownups. Which we look like. But we're not.
You know that saying: I'd like to have some of what she's on?
Neither of us said that.
I hope she got home okay. The way she was moving, she could have started walking and ended up in Chicago by morning.
I'm a salver. I make small art from the things most people throw away: a torn ruffle, a pocket, the fingers of a glove. I am batty for rich old papers, newspapers that come out of attics, and anything on which humans have scrawled. I like long striped socks and big boots and garters. I am Victorian without the prudery. In my previous life I was most likely a starving model for French postcard photographers and mediocre painters. I like to invent characters with big noses and watery blue eyes and clothes that are ragged and fringed--like me.