Leaving 99

There’s such thing as a blue-collar waitress. Their work in a restaurant is not a means-to-an-end, something that subsidizes their acting or music careers. It is their job, something they take pride in, the way the engineer takes pride in her bridge, the choreographer in his opening night. They are able to convince you whole-heartedly that you are at the centre of their universe. They call you “sweetie” and it somehow doesn’t feel even remotely condescending. They are the crossbeam, the frame, the foundation upon which hundreds of people’s days are constructed.

These “decorative” poles cast shadows that look like dicks.

Reminded of the time we found a jawbone (likely from a cow) embedded in that one cliff down by the creek.

The neighbourhood teenagers all do their requisite six months at the grocery store. That was me too, once, only we were open until eleven, as I remind them every time someone complains about having to work “late.”

Yuppies from Glenora take up a lane of traffic with their BMWs as they park across the street from my old apartment to buy bread and pastries at the French bakery next to the vet next to the “tatu” parlour. People honk their horns in frustration.

Walking to Wunderbar. Walking home from Wunderbar. Various states of inebriation, heartbreak, catharsis, dejection. Being young.

Jim’s record. Walking with Jim, drunk, when the street was all torn up and there were dozers and everything everywhere, like sleeping dragons. Climbing on one.

Giant graters clearing the roads at two in the morning so people can make it to work on time the next day. Their work goes largely unappreciated, but not by me at least. I’m up. I see you.

The food has gone steadily downhill at the cafe. Everyone knows it. Still, a morning glory muffin and a large coffee have gotten me through dozens of shoots. I worked here too. Still recognize at least 30% of the clientele. There’s an older bald man (likely retired) who comes here around 8 AM every morning. The parents of that lanky kid Chris who worked at the cafe too for a while and cut his hair into a mohawk to look like Travis Bickle and found a surplus army jacket and everything so he looked even more like him. Don’t see old Val the animal lover as much anymore, I think she’s starting to lose her mind to Alzheimer’s. She lived on a ranch in California for thirty years or so, can’t remember what brought her back to us. She was the one who put up all those stickers in the bus stops, raising awareness about some animal rights crisis or another. I almost rented an apartment from her once. I hope she’s doing okay.

Then there’s Nick, the retired Dutch publisher who used to bring me German newspapers. It’s taken years, but the other day I saw him on the bus and he’d finally forgotten my name. Maybe that was when I knew it was okay to leave.

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