Thursday, July 24, 2008
"The Greeter" is back, hopped up on something, his speech coming in quick short bursts of as many words as possible crammed into one to two seconds of talking. He is complimenting the young man, nicknamed "Goldilocks" by the crew, on his new cornrow braids which, counter to his likely intent, make him look even more like a fourth-grade girl. "Your hair's god, man. It's tight," The Greeter says.
The cashier taking my order is getting cornrows, too; is about a third of the way, the little red rubberbands form a dotted line that arcs over her head, beginning just before her ear. I think of asking whether the entire crew is getting cornrows as a sort of solidarity thing.
An old woman with crapey skin, loose and puckered like a half-deflated balloon, comes in with her friend almost every day to get ice cream. About 20 licks in she has a coughing fit, the building hacking up of a gurgle from deep in her chest to the back of her throat. She licks again, swallows thickly. Her friend always pauses during these moments until she's done.
The employee with the whitish lipstick bordered by dark brown lipliner is glossing the quarry-tile floor with bleachwater. My flipflops hydroplane in spite of the sign admonishing me to watch my step. The place is busy: there are burgers all the way back to the restrooms, each burger the keystone to an arch formed by forearms propped on tables.
"Look!" the bilingual blue sign says: "Mira! The meal numbers have changed!" Dimes chime on the floor. The crapey lady's friend picks them up laboriously. They shuffle to the counter, get another cone each.
I can tell by the smell that they are cleaning off the grill. A smell of hot steel wool and pink soap, which combine with the fry grease and bleachwater in a way that smells, surprisingly, like grilling tuna steak, an actually appetizing smell.
The caffeine is making me jitter a bit. I twitch as if I've just been called up for karaoke, the blue screen's white squares counting down the time to when I should start singing. I drink Diet Coke till a dull ache starts in my chest, till my mouth is tired of the chemical bitterness of what's in the paper cup. Then what next? A walk through the traffic and trees and robins along the weed-choked 11th street curb to my buglighted porch, its clotted cobwebs, its alligator-varnished wood door.