Monday, January 05, 2009
Arches of Gold, continued
At lunch (McChicken, Diet Coke). I'm working on semester plans--lessons, sequence of readings, which activities to do.
A woman, stringy-haired, 40-ish and not holding it well, pushes a stroller in through the side door, orders her food, finds her seat in a booth halfway across the restaurant. The employee who does the fries, with the shiny Billy Dee Williams/Rick James Jheri-curl, is out wiping tables. He, as he did over the summer, feels compelled to chat up the customers, but talks so quickly, and with such abrupt pauses, that people can't respond to all he says and often don't say much at all.
"Oh hitherewhat abeautifulbabyHiThere!Prettybabyyour Babyis gettinbig!" He says to the greasy-haired woman.
"He's an asshole." the woman says.
"Oh nonono, don'tsay that. He's beautifulbeautiful. Don't say that."
The woman swallows some burger. "Oh yes he is," she says, serious, yet singsong, "A lit-tle ass-hole."
The fry-guy has the rag twisted around both of his hands. "He's such a pretty baby. Don't say that."
"He's definitely a Junior."
"An ugly little asshole." The woman is nibbling on a fry, looking sideways at the three-month old in the stroller. The fry-guy, not sure what else to say, moves to other tables to wipe down. The woman, in rather grave baby-tones and with a mouth half filled with fries, leans to the stroller, "Yes, I'm talking about you. Yes I am. And your daddy too." Her voice raises in pitch with each last word: "I'm talking about you."
She turns back to her burger and the baby makes a slight noise. She chews. Rolls her eyes once. The baby makes another chirp. "You gonna cry? You gonna cry?" she says, again with that slight lilt that hints at baby-talk, but all dead serious, "You're workin' on it. All depends on how loud, that's what you're thinkin' of. You're working on it, I know." She doesn't move toward the child, continues to chew at her burger, both elbows against the edge of the table.
A more irritated noise comes from the baby. "Wonderful," she says, still chewing, "just wonderful."
After a bit, she finishes with her food, leans over to pick up the baby. Come ere, little asshole, she says, almost melodically enough to cover the malice. As she dandles the baby at the table, she sings him a sort of song:
Lo-ser. Lo-ser. You're a Lo-ser.
My mommy says 'you're a lo-ser.'
My mommy says. My mommy says,
Mommy says 'let's go see papa.'
Lo-ser. Lo-ser. Lo-ser...
She leaves before I do, by some five minutes. As I'm walking home, I see her about a block or so off, wanting to cross 10th. She does, halfway, then continues on her way for about a half-block, pushing the stroller right down the double yellow line in the middle of afternoon traffic, past two police cars. I see their brake lights and she loops back to the sidewalk, pushing doggedly to the bus stop.