Last time: Tracy lost her composure and ended up crying in the freezer.
Open Mouth. Insert Foot.
I wasn’t proud of what happened after my mini breakdown in the middle of the shift. Just as I got myself put back together and thought I had managed to get my self pity under control – I mean people lost their jobs every day, and in the grand scheme of things I was not in bad shape – Nell came in with a glare and asked if I was planning on leaving the entire floor to Claire for the rest of the night.
That was really all it took. I broke down into tears again, and I didn’t speak to anyone but my customers for the rest of the night. Davis gave up getting a response out of me after I glared at him for too many kind words. Claire was busy enough that she barely made eye contact.
It was my last night before my midweek weekend from waiting tables, and I was determined to use the upcoming days off effectively. I just wasn’t sure what that meant. Normally, when something was this disappointing, I would cry my eyes out to my parents and get them to fix it. But I was an adult now. I wasn’t going to run home just because no one would play with me. I could figure this out on my own.
When the last customer had left, and the bar was finally closing down, I put my chin on Claire’s shoulder and apologized for my complete and total breakdown in the middle of shift.
“I’ll give you a pass just this once since you were clearly not in a right state of mind,” she said with a nudge of her elbow into my side. “But don’t let it happen again. Today was not an example of grace under pressure going on your resume, you know?”
“Yeah,” I admitted. I just don’t know where I’m going to go next. That job was all I had.”
“Oh please,” Davis snorted from behind us. “You act like you just lost the most perfect job you have ever had, and you hadn’t even started it yet.”
Claire glared over her shoulder at him while my jaw dropped.
“I know it isn’t the only job I’ll ever have, Davis. I’m not an idiot.” I felt my lip curl into a sneer, and the words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. “Maybe I don’t want to wait tables forever.”
Claire’s shoulder stiffened beside me, and the glacial atmosphere spread around the room faster than an unspeakable and deniable bodily function.
“That’s not what I meant,” I tried to backtrack. “You know that’s not what I meant.”
“Please, explain to us what you meant,” Davis swept an arm around the bar, now empty except for my friends. His face didn’t hold the charming smile from this morning, and the sarcastic twist was back to his eyes. It was like looking at Davis from three months ago, not Davis from today.
I took a deep breath and tried to organize my thoughts. There wasn’t much to work with but I could pull myself out of this, right?
“It’s not that the job was perfect or that there’s anything wrong with this job. But I had a plan. I was banking on this job. And the last thing I want is to have to move home because I can’t pay my rent or find another job.”
I spit the words out starring at the floor like a scared child. I never said I was mature.
Both scoffed. My words had hit harder than I initially thought as both exchanged a look that said they didn’t really believe me. Despite knowing that I was potentially just digging my hole deeper, I continued on.
“I’m supposed to be working in finance, not a restaurant! I didn’t spend four years staring at spreadsheets and calculators so that I could memorize a menu and talk to the five year old out of throwing his fries all over the floor. This isn’t what the plan was.”
“Plans are boring, Tracy.” Nell’s voice surprised me as I hadn’t seen her come in from the kitchen. She leaned on the doorjamb and crossed both arms over her chest.
“Do you really want the specially plotted out life that you dreamed from your plan? Do you really want to know what is around every single corner on any given day?”
She pushed off the wall and went behind the bar to grab the bus tub that was overflowing with dirty dishes from the end of the shift. Her arms bunched as she lifted the slightly-slimy plastic in front of her, but her face showed no sign that it was even heavy. She looked like she’d been doing this all her life – like she was made for it.
“The plan my parents laid out for me included law school, an engagement ring and 2.5 children in a classic six on the Upper West Side.”
My jaw dropped at her revelation, and from the corner of my eye I saw Claire grin. As Nell walked past me again, the bus tub now firmly pinned between her hip and right hand, her shoulder brushed mine and she laid down the last piece of the puzzle.
“Best moment of my life was making the decision to drop it – school, the boyfriend and the dream – and move out to Brooklyn.”
“How could she throw it all away?” I mumbled, my jaw loose and my eyes staring after her.
Claire moved away from me then and went to follow Nell into the kitchen with a tray loaded high with glassware. Her voice was rich with condescending vibes as she gave her own parting shot with a wave of her free hand around the room:
“If you think this is throwing it all away, I feel sorry for you.”
Cover art for Headed towards the Right Decisions was created by Maritza Lugo.