|Unfortunately, a server in the state of Colorado must wear a shirt.|
I had my first crush at a restaurant. He indicated that his name was Steven by using two crayons to write his name on the butcher paper tablecloth. He had the sort of smile that did not indicate he was exactly happy, but it always betrayed his interest in you. He made my mom, dad, even Grandpa at ease, and there were no hiccups when my sister excluded every other ingredient from something which probably started out boing, anyway.
It's still there, which is actually saying a lot for anything in Colorado Springs, but it succeeds to this day mostly because it has become a chain:
I knew I was in love when Steven touched my shoulder, asking ever so tenderly if I would like a refill on my soda water. I looked into his eyes and said "yes." He was probably 20, stood no more than five-nine, was quite skinny and wore his standard apron well. He was vaguely ethnic and decidedly not white. His hands were strong like his voice: commanding, authoritative, determined.
At the time I was ordering seafood just to gross out my sister and seem mature. It didn't work. In practice, I ended up eating all manners of squid, oysters, salmon and halibut who had met the long, cold prison of a year-long deep freeze. I never liked the food anyway, but I ate it. At this particular meal I ordered fettucini with clams, knowing at least that no one would ask for a bite.
This is not about that meal. That meal is the one I should have had, years later, with Steven and Mom and Dad and my sister, Grandpa was probably there, and who knows who else.
At least four years after I had seen Steven, I was was busy rehearsing for a play about runaway teens, but not that night. That night I was nervously enjoying carnal pleasures with my new boyfriend Noah who, despite his apparent patience was quite pushy. I was having new experiences all at once, in retrospect much like a weekend in Vegas. All I remember clearly about that encounter was that his butt felt like firm tomatoes.
I was carrying the family's only cell phone, and when I came to and remembered I needed to be somewhere, I found the phone just in time to receive a call from my mom, "Where the hell are you?" she demanded. "Rehearsal," I lied, "we're just getting out." The jig was up though, I should have known not to lie when my mother said "hell," this from a woman who gave me a stern talking-to after I used the word "sucks" to indicate that something or another was no good. I had used the unlikely cover-story of a late rehearsal to ride in Noah's Toyota Camry to some basement in a suburby cookie-cutter housing development, not far from Zio's, where he ate Funyuns before he kissed me.
"We went there and the janitor told us rehearsal ended hours ago. We have been waiting for you at the restaurant." Frightened, nervous, guilty-feeling on many levels, I said I would be right there, but I knew that I was no longer invited to my own birthday dinner. "Just go home. We'll talk about this then." At home I paced, hid under my bed a little, listened to 80's at 8, my favorite radio show at the time, but I couldn't calm my nerves. On top of it all, I was hungry.
There was a talking-to, more lies, a bit of anger, lots of tears and I finally fell asleep fitfully. Waking up around 2 a.m., still excited, confused and very nervous, I found leftovers downstairs in the refrigerator. Someone had only eaten half of their chicken parmigiano and there was some pasta suspended in cold-firmed butter. I sat on the floor, refrigerator door open, and awaited the gentle assurance of Steven asking, "is there anything else I can bring you?"