“Are you drunk? You sound a little drunk.”
She was very drunk: It was Valentine’s Day and the happiness of others had drained her blood and she didn’t know what to do besides replace it with something better.
“No, I think you’ve just forgotten how I sound. It’s been a while.”
“I did not. I don’t think I could if I tried, honestly.”
It was actually an hour into the day after Valentine’s Day — he waited until then to call her because he always played his role flawlessly.
She changed the subject. They both believed that bad tippers deserved to carry buckets of water with large holes in them back-and-forth in Hell, and she desperately dug her heels into any space of common ground. “Someone left me $1 on a $50 tab tonight.”
He thought she was better than her line of work and was growing tired of hearing her complain about it, but she saw little difference between the performances they both put on every night.
“Why the fuck did they do that?”
“Their mom probably gave them a $50 bill and their girlfriend secured my doom the minute she decided she was in the mood for crab cakes? I don’t know. They were ironically the politest people I waited on all night.”
“Polite people don’t mess with someone’s money.”
He distractedly waved in the direction of someone who screamed his name and told him that the show was great.
“Oh, hell. They had a good time. I don’t care about it anymore. I’m just glad today’s over with.”
She waved her hands in a gesture of dismissal to an audience of no one.
“Wait… it’s Valentine’s Day, isn’t it? I’m so exhausted that I forgot.”
“It was Valentine’s Day.”
He recognized the disappointment in her tone but let it linger in the air to disperse and grow diaphanous on its own. “Oh. Maybe that’s why some girls brought me a huge basket of gifts.”
She was thinking about how she would never care to hear about any of this once her own life finally became something worth remembering, but still made comments like, “Oh, that’s so cute! Were the girls nice? They sound nice,” because it would keep him talking. He had a soft voice, mellifluous and calming after hours of clinking glasses, impetuously slammed pots and pans, and fragments of hundreds of concurrent conversations; it would bother her that his cadence never revealed any honest emotion if the rest of her world wasn’t so loud.
A group of five boys walked by, sticky from sweat and spilled beer. The rushing high from the evening had yet to dissipate from them as it had for him. One stopped and patted his arm. “Hey! Look who it is! Fuck yeah! What’re you standing around for? You sounded amazing tonight!”
He does, she thought, hearing a muffled version in the background.
He nodded at them and waved, turning his left side away from the brick wall so they could see that he was on the phone. “I might have to go. There’s no green room in this shithole and I haven’t gotten a minute’s peace the entire night.”
Nothing about this script was original and the movie would flop.
“See, everyone knows that you are special now. That’s a very good thing. No $1 tips for you.”
She smiled as she said this and felt silly for it because he wasn’t around to see it; she didn’t even know what city he was in.
Disappointed with their ersatz Valentine’s Day date but aware that she had no right to be, she decided she would get more drunk after he hung up, but their melodramatic storyline took an abrupt turn as she slipped on the second-to-last step while on her way to her liquor stash in the kitchen, blowing through the adjacent wall like a horny, depressed Kool-Aid Man that was only being spoken to on the (day after the) most romantic day of the year out of pity and a sense of imposed responsibility.
“What happened? What was that? Are you okay? Was that your fucking head? Did you just hit your fucking head?”
It was the first time in weeks that he did not sound preoccupied.
She stared at the gaping hole in her wall, envisioning the future gaping hole in her wallet. No such luck, she thought, so “No such luck!” she replied.