A Tale of Two Restaurant Workers

I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the only two people in the room who were quietly and genuinely enjoying themselves – the staff in the kitchen.

She was a young Japanese woman with choppy dyed brown bangs and anime eyes, and he was a warm, smiling, weathered, brown-faced Okinawan/Japanese man in a blue cap and white cooking outfit. They stood visible from my seat on the sofa, where they could be present at the register and keep an eye on the room. They kept a wide space between them but rested an arm or hip against the counter, in the universal body language of workers during a boring stretch in the workday.

He was leaning forward into the long gap between them with his arm resting on some appliance at almost shoulder height, moving back and forth in that restless manner that men do when…when they like someone. She was 10 or 15 years younger than his middle age, and stood calmly, with quieter body language. Sometimes she turned her back to the room entirely and looked over at him sideways to the left. But that was later, after her face fell and lost the spark. Most of the time they were fully facing each other, never picking up a rag or any other excuse or busywork to break the spell.

I first noticed them from the way she was looking at him. Such tenderness and love would have been reflected on the face of anyone looking at that man. He lived in a sturdy, friendly, energetic smile, and tonight she got to be in its orbit. I couldn’t even be jealous, I was so mesmerized by the sight of the two of them looking at each other behind the bottles of liqueur and tap handles and lamp and postcards and hanging glasses.

They didn’t have the passion that Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston had been singing of on the restaurant playlist, or at least they would not. Circumstances of life had taken care of that. But listening to that over the subdued, tamped-down propriety and purpose-less conversation and togetherness of those two, I saw how what they had was not only enough for tonight but was enough to make the world go round. We don’t see how precious these fleeting experiences of true companionship are when we’re in them, but looking in from the outside, everyday connection is everything.

Bruno Mars was whining about how he should have bought her flowers, Katy Perry kissed a girl and liked it, someone got a funny feeling in her toes that made her crinkle her nose, and some dude wanted to be living in Beverly Hills for some mad reason, and those two looked and talked on. They still liked each other. It was guy number 3 in the kitchen, the third wheel, that broke the spell in the end by speaking to her. When I heard, “…stand with you on a mountain/live like this forever/until the sky falls down on me” I thought, that could be them. This too is love. It doesn’t matter how many feet apart you stand. You don’t have to be flirtatious or even infatuated to click, and click well.

How many people have I looked at the way they looked at each other, and never noticed? How many men, women, and children put a smile on my face and a swell in my heart when I saw them in their easy, happy, unguarded moments? How many people did I wish would look back and understand and accept it? How many times have I, and will I, catch a glimpse of that look on someone else’s face and jerk my eyes away, scared and suddenly serious?

There is a softer version of the “I want to kiss you” look that emanates warmth, liking, and understanding of the “we’re on inside joking terms now” variety. And that is the look that will make an entire work party or dinner worth the evening. The feeling of being liked and understood washes over your and you can bask in that gentle high as long as you choose. If someone gives you that look at any point in your day, you will go to bed happy that night with a full heart. “I see you, and yes. Yes to who you are and whatever you just did or said.” Only a glance, and yet it’s a stamp of approval on someone’s personality and very existence if done right.

I miss the intensity of those casual connections, often at mundane workplaces like these. They fill you up and you get the rare sense that today, out of all the other days, was deeply alright. A person who smiles at you and keeps smiling, who keeps listening and keeps talking, shows you that you are a person worth being around. That there is something about you that lights others up. They convey to you a sense of worth, and so you light up too.

Then the two of you go on twinkling together, perhaps unknowingly, lighting up your corner of this dark, lonely, dreary world of ours. Yes, ours. Not just yours or mine alone. We can be in this thing together, and we can look at each other as if we like each other – because we do.

Connection is magic.

Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

Published by gracexaris

Explorer, thinker, writer, teacher, woman.

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