The Cheerful Waitress And The Dirty Dishes Guy - Poem by beresford mitchell
She was sweet.
I noticed her.
She was petit and compact and tight.
No doubt strong.
No doubt, a healthy farm girl.
Moved to the big city,
Like they all do.
Shanghai was full of them, more now then ever.
And more every day.
And more refusing these types of jobs.
But not her.
Her skin gave her away.
It was like cream but brown and red and she had big rosy cheeks.
Her bangs were cut around her face to rest on her wide cheeks that stood high,
Giving her a proud look.
A look from somewhere near Mongolia, perhaps.
But she was of good karma and energy.
She stood on the third step.
The top step and watched over her area like a hawk.
It seemed she had about 12 tables in her section.
She was always smiling with a gleam in her eye.
Knew all of the other table attendants.
And was kind and respectful to the floor boss.
Everyone seemed to smile at her as they passed her on the way back and forth while she kept her eye on everyone and everything and came twice to top up our tea.
But what really gave her away were her hands.
Round palms and short fingers tapering into gentle points.
But this hand was powerful and rough.
Darker weathered skin still showing the chapness of being outside a lot and never languishing in dove dish detergent or moisturizing lotions.
Years in the open air, no doubt, doing the manual labor of whatever, on the farm were obvious and evident.
That gave her away.
They were course and rough.
I knew that feeling having had shaken many hands just like hers and from many times having hands of young girls like hers wrapped around my feet, massaging them, prodding them, pounding them, punishing them.
in total control of them.
taking me on a journey of pain then pleasure.
I noticed them when she grabbed the tea pot.
It was without any finesse.
Nothing feminine about her actions, nothing particularily masculine either,
Just something asexual, but her pour was accurate.
And she put the pot back down on the table with little sublety.
She returned my smile.
She had such a disarming smile.
Big, and genuine and slightly shy.
She returned mine then returned to her watch on the top of step three.
The four office girls behind us left and left a terrible mess of plates and cups and bowls of half eaten food.
The modern china.
She went to clean the table.
He came out from the kitchen or serving area or Mao knows what area
His deep plastic container of rectangle blue leading the way.
It was full of dishes.
Couldn’t tell if they were clean of dirty as I spent my time wondering where did he come from and were was he going.
His face was a dirty mess of unshaven scraggly facial hairs.
Thick black long and matted hung over his dirty grimy what was once white kitchen workers short attire.
He passed and my energy changed.
And my appreciation of food did too.
The bbq pork tasted less sweet.
The curry suddenly lost its sting and the rice got sweetlessly sticky.
And then he spoke.
Loud enough to be heard over the last sounds of the breaking tea cup our waitress dropped trying to clean the table.
When does speaking become shouting.
I guess when it resonates in your closest ear and bounces around inside your head causing brain turbulence.
And if that doesn’t do I guess one of the clues is when you notice everyone else in the restaurant has stopped mid sentence, their chopsticks, static outside of their mouths, their noodles drip down, their mouths are agap and all of their eyes are on the center of the speech.
The tea cup shattered into thick white pieces across the floor.
One clipped my grey khakis.
And spun on the floor.
I noticed the dirt there for the first time.
But my little heroine held herself together and smiled cheerfully at her own public misfortune.
It all came crashing down when my dirty dishes guy shouted across the restaurant at her, calling her stupid and ”that that would cost her 6 rmb, and he would take it from her salary
Perhaps in the old days that would mean something.
All it meant was Next.
No more bullying tactics, public embarrassment, or abuse of power amongst the peons.
Three minutes later there was another great crash.
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