I was waiting tables at a trendy Thai restaurant going full-bore on a Friday night when a nice old man at a deuce asked me to sit in his lap, cut his flounder and feed it to his young and attractive wife. I was like, what? I went over to the wait station and lied to co-workers and said I was going to one-up the waiter-crouch they did to get up to the patrons ears to hear what they wanted to eat. I told them I was on fire, slammed an espresso, and returned to the table. I had left him hanging, telling him I was going for a bottle of zinfandel or some suchness, that yes, I would…sit in his lap –
– and I’m moving in slow motion. I’m back at the table, presenting bottle, glasses, cutting foil, uncorking, decanting. While they nose around I look across the floor to see the manager tied up with the business dinner in a semi-private room. My co-workers are smirking and glancing over at me. I wink at them.
The guy was like maybe skinny but not frail. He looked sort of sturdy. She looked half his age, wearing a beautiful red cocktail dress with lots of jewelry, hair did. She’s smiling at me and I can tell that she’s not fazed in the least. The fish on the plate was a candied flounder. They dipped it in syrup, broiled it, threw onions at it and a runner took it smoking hot to the table, sizzling on its broiler plate. It had cooled, and was ready to serve.
The phrase kept going through my head. How many people had ever been asked that? “Would you sit on my lap, and, ah, feed flounder to her?” I had thought, why not? My life had been fairly remarkable up to that point and I wasn’t about to let a chance to get weird go to waste. Life is too short. At the same time I’d thought, how strange, how alien. Why would he ask that of me? How is that okay?
I sat in the old bony guy’s lap – I thought I was going to crush him. A burst of gasps and gurgles escape from behind the waitstaff curtain. Now they’re out on the floor. The old man was like a bunch of sticks. Not comfortable at all. I cut his fish, vaguely aware some kitchen and prep staff were peeking around the curtain to the kitchen, staring in disbelief. Other people, staring in disbelief. I’m making casual eye contact with different shocked-looking people while they ate, but I was thinking someone in the kitchen would tell the manager, and that would be bad.
I would say it was one of the things I enjoyed about living in the city. There was so much to do, so much to see. Holy shit. I took a forkful of candied grouper from the most tender portion of the filet and lay the morsel on the tongue of his very attractive companion. This was absolutely awkward and horrible and stunningly sensual at the same time. She takes the glass in a mighty quaff. I did not stand to refill her. The old man chuckled. And I thought, what are you laughing at, you old chair?
I had the urge to tell the man, hey, thanks for being my chair. The fourth time I fed a piece of fish to his lady friend I hit her teeth with my fork. She winced. I asked her if she was okay. She said yes, and poured herself a glass of wine. She offered, but I declined, on the job, you know. I smiled and fed her.
I’m sweating. I think I might throw up. The espresso had exploded with stress like a grenade in my stomach. The old man shifts, says, continue, please. He’s drinking his wine, content. Good, because I’ve got bills to pay.
More staff, kitchen runners, they’re watching. This is like the Mt. Everest of no fucks. I give her a couple of more bites, glancing to see the reaction on the face of the old man. I’m sitting on an old man feeding fish to a lady. I’d gone too far. I excused myself to join staff in a birthday song, I told them, and made my escape. When I returned they both looked sad. I got the feeling I’d abandoned two eccentric and needy people. I felt a bit guilty. That was kind of unsettling, too. I felt bad for not sitting on him for the whole course, but I also wanted to kick him in the forehead. The tip was good, but it wasn’t great. It’s not like I tried grinding on the guy. My manager was pretty peeved about my behavior, treating the place like it was some kind of god damn circus.