the Habitation Game – Book Synopsis

Were you hoping to read something from me today? Well, I really hoped you were because I realized I haven’t released my book synopsis to everyone yet! What better way to do that, than right here on the blog?! I hope you enjoy it and are ready to read this bad boy soon! 

Xo, Jaime                                                                                                                                                         

the Habitation Game by J Parker Sticklethe Habitation Game – Book Synopsis

Emily sits, staring at the clock on her computer screen, counting down the minutes until she can leave for the day while musing on how she ended up working for Corporate America. Little did she realize the worst part of her day was yet to come when happy hour obligations put her front and center with the woman who would put the word dead, into Emily’s dead-end job.

As Emily recounts 30-years of roommate relationships, some worse than others – like the time she lived with a nudist, whom she suspects was also a Nazi; to the times she unwittingly allowed an alcoholic, a drug dealer, and a couple of mobsters’ kids to live with her. Nothing could have prepared her, though, for Adeline.

Not only did Adeline manipulate Emily into living with her, but she also moved in with a secret boyfriend and an oppressive personality disorder. The worst part – Emily and Adeline work only three desks away from each other.

As anxiety begins to knot and twist around Emily’s stomach, the fear that she’s made a grave mistake by moving in with Adeline is validated when Adeline’s mood swings start to manifest themselves and secrets of her own past roommates are revealed. At least that’s how Emily sees it when Adeline starts to communicate with Emily using a butcher’s knife instead of a Post-it note.

As Adeline continues to mind-fuck Emily, she is unaware that she is playing with fire. After years of living with crazy people, and months of putting up with Adeline, Emily may have the motive to strike back.

Book coming! 2018! Woohoo! Make sure to follow me here or on Instagram for updates!

Fluff

I sit adjacent to her long, sinewy arm, our legs brushing against each other’s by force of proximity, and I stare into her piercing, icy blue eyes – I’m not going to back down this time. Her character assassination, though disguised as a general opinion of sorts is nothing more than her own insecurity of self worth and value.

“A writer isn’t much more than fluff for entertainment. Anyone can write about anything, it doesn’t take any sort of talent, or skill… you don’t even need an education. It’s not a profession,” I felt her words bunch up my guts like red meat: tough to swallow, hard to chew, regretful.

I smiled in spite of myself, favoring the approach of niceness and I questioned her, “do you read? Books? Fiction? Creative non-fiction? Do you? Any of the great works of literature past or present?”

She stares at me, a smirk passing over her lips that make her eyes dance a little in the light. It’s her tell. I know she’s going to come at me swinging. I’m ready to take a blow, as I see her thoughts passing through her expression. What would she say to cause me injury? Is she so eager to make another hit so early in the conversation?

“No. I suppose I haven’t and I don’t care to. My schedule doesn’t permit the luxury of books. I’m in the business of making money. I suppose that may be an excuse and I could make the time if I thought it were important, but I don’t. Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think books are important.” She giggles and picks up her wine. I think she may have had enough. Drinking makes her bold and unfiltered and while that can be charming on some it is not the case with Lily.

flowers-2067604_640Lily is an aging beauty. I make-up her past based on stories and photographs. A woman that men adored for her physical attributes and exotic accent, but Lily chose to live life on her own. Her life has been ruled by her fears and anxieties. It feels like a great loss to me. She could have been so much more, a soldier in the fight for humanity, the arts, feminists. She could have been a source of inspiration, but instead she’s a tale of warning.

“We aren’t learning anything new in this conversation, so we should just stop talking about it,” Lily offers as I am distracted by thoughts of who I wish she were.

“Okay,” I too easily agree, regret even, but I know better than to push for more. I know I won’t change her mind, or prove her wrong, but I wish I could point out the masters of the trade and what makes them great. I wish I could find the words that would sway her and make her understand why the world needs writers… my mouth is opening to speak —

It’s too late.

I’ve lost her to other interests. Lily rises from the table, and is moving onto a discussion regarding the inadequacies of individuals that work from home, “a luxury afforded to less ambitious people,” she determines.

I look at her wishing the conversation had not taken place.

I think less of Lily when she makes remarks like this.

I glance at her with a weak smile.

She silently smiles back, her eyes twinkle. I can see she wants to spar.

I decide to go to bed.

I know tomorrow will produce more of the same logic from Lily and I want to point out to her that The Grapes Of Wrath is critical to our country’s history, and how James Baldwin makes us cry as a nation and the influence Ayn Rand has had on politics or Orwell – how can she live in the dark not even considering what these authors left us with?

Not a reader, that’s fine, but to criticize writing as a “lackey’s ambition” is too far. I’m sweating under the covers unable to sleep or calm myself. My frustration turning into anxiety, I reach for my Kindle and pull up a book and I begin to read. My heart rate slows as I lose myself in the beautifully crafted prose of Sedaris. Laughing at the humor of ignorance – or, arrogance? I know I will not change Lily’s mind, but I can write about it here on this page and feel safe knowing she’ll never read what I wrote about her…

On Account of Ghosts

By Michael Chrobak (Guest Author)

There are times when life moves in such a way that it becomes impossible to deny there’s a higher power. Relationships that come at the exact time you need them, or resources to help complete a project you thought might be dead. We’ve all had them. You take a wrong turn while driving in a strange city, and you end of finding the best jazz club you’ve ever been to. Call it a predestined moment, or divine guidance, or just old-fashioned good luck, but it’s clear something outside of ourselves had to be involved. That’s how I came to live where I do now; in a beautiful, loving home; with a ghost.

Let’s go back fifteen years. I was married (still am) with four kids (two of which I shared custody of), all trying to co-exist in a 1400 square foot house. There was barely enough room for our furniture, let alone ourselves. Then, I became a Realtor, and my income jumped. This was during the years when a blind monkey with one arm could find success as a Realtor in the super-hot California market.  I did better than most. After a year or two helping other people move into nice, new homes with lots of extra space, I decided it was time to do so as well. So, I started looking. (It was kind of hard not to be looking, since looking at houses was my job.)

I found a house that seemed absolutely too good to be true. For one, it was quite a bit larger; over 1,000 square feet larger, actually. It had an incredible backyard, and was in a very quiet neighborhood, too. I went to look at it, and immediately fell in love. I told the owner to let his agent know I was submitting an offer, then I went and got my wife and kids so we could all see it. She loved it as much as I did. It was the house we had been dreaming of and one we knew we might never leave.

I went back to the office and called the agent. That’s when he told me there was a ‘mistake’. The price listed was $100,000 under what they were really asking. He says it was a typo, I think it was a brilliant marketing scheme. I wouldn’t have even looked at it at the higher price, thinking it was out of my price range – way out. But, by that time, my wife and I were too much in love with it to pass it up, so we went for it. And, using some creative financing (not illegal!!) we got it.

It was about 4 or 5 months after we moved in that I first felt it – the ghost, that is. I was on the couch watching TV when I caught something out of the corner of my eye, and I felt a chill down my spine. There was nothing there…nothing visible, anyway. But I could tell it was there all the same. I didn’t feel afraid, or worried, just a little curious. “Where did the ghost come from?” “Whose ghost is it?” “What does it want?” I never got the answers to those, and I never talked to anyone about it…not even my wife.

Over the course of time, that ‘something is there’ feeling continued to happen, over and over again. And then, pardon the phrase, but shit got real. No, blood didn’t start seeping out of our walls, nor did my daughter’s baby dolls start chasing us with a butcher’s knife. What did happen was worse. Our appliances started breaking down.

The a/c went out, and we replaced it. The stove went out, we replaced it. The dishwasher, water heater, garage door opener, you name it, we’ve replaced it, or repaired it, or both. Blenders, hair dryers, electric shavers, televisions, computers, anything with power was at risk. Either our ghost doesn’t like technology, or it just didn’t like our bank account. I’m not sure which. Fifteen years we’ve lived here, and we’ve replaced every appliance at least twice, and repaired them multiple times in between. And the repairs have always been the kind where the maintenance guy says, “I’ve never seen a (enter appliance here) do that!” Lucky us! We not only have an appliance killing ghost, but a creative one at that.

This year alone we’ve had two repairs on the dishwasher, two on the oven, bought a new fridge, replaced the furnace and the a/c, have burned out three (yes – 3) blenders, 2 immersion blenders, a food processor, and at least one cell phone. This year has definitely been the worst year so far, and though I’ve never done anything about it before – don’t want to upset the ghost, right? – I intend to find out whose ghost this is, track down whatever relatives they have left behind, and hand them a list of all the items I want reimbursed. I have all the receipts saved in my banking software, in a folder entitled, On Account of Ghosts.

headshotMichael Chrobak has been involved in working with Youth and Youth Ministry programs since he was a teen himself; a long, long time ago. He has held the position of Director of Religious Education and Youth Minister for St. Bonaventure’s Parish in Concord, CA, and also as Youth Minister for St. Michael’s Parish in Livermore, CA. He has survived raising four children of his own and now lives in Oakley, CA where he continues to stay involved in Youth Ministry through his blogs and books.

How to Connect:

 

Adiós Chihuahua Ojo

My mom’s dog died last week. I know, I know, but don’t worry – she still has my dad and her health. And she’s pretty young, so there’s that too.

It’s interesting how much we rely on our pets: for friendship, protection, emotional support, and as great excuses for not having to do stuff. And let me say this: people are far more forgiving when you say your dog is sick versus when you say your kid is sick. I don’t know why the heartstrings pull so hard when friends or co-workers find out your adorable fur baby needs care, but when your toddler is suffering… again… they annoyedly brush you off with a dismissive, “they’ll get over it.” It’s the power of the fur.

Before you make me out to be a callous human, in case you don’t know, I rescued three strays in 2 years, cared and paid for one’s cancer treatments for another two years before she passed, and am absolutely ga-ga, head over heels for my current two fur babies, who mean the world to me. So, I get it. I also have a toddler.

All of that being said, my mom’s dog died a week ago. He was a 126-year-old, one-eyed, shaman looking, 27lb Chihuahua (Chihuahua mix…oops, they paid for a pure bred). The truth is either the damn dog was sick for all his 18 human years, or my mom developed Munchausen by proxy. I’m not a doctor. I’m a writer, I am in no way qualified to make this diagnosis, but, the dog was never sick until this last year of his life when he suffered from old age ailments. So I’m sticking to Munchausen. Let me explain:

Most individuals who suffer from a condition that requires a support dog, get a dog so they can have a pseudo-normal life – leave the house and live amongst the world. My mom used her “support dog” as an excuse to never leave the house again. Ever.

A little history on the pup: Originally he was a gift from my father. The then two-eyed Chihuahua was meant to rekindle a marriage that my mother had already extinguished and abandoned. She was living in a new home, with new people, and the dog, then just a puppy, was left in my father’s care. Under my father’s watch the puppy lost an eye. I know, I know, “WHAT!?!” but yeah, this is quite common in certain breeds. The veterinarian assured us that the dog, having been so young at the time of the incident, would never know the difference, and he didn’t even feel it since the nerve was cleanly severed. I sound very clinical relaying the information now, but it was a long and traumatic day when I had to drive my terrified, sobbing father, and my mother’s scared puppy to the animal hospital all those years ago. Someone had to stay strong and make choices, like calling my mother at her new home with her new (roommate? Boyfriend? Main squeeze?) partner, and telling her that her puppy had lost an eye.

After the “incident” my father could no longer be trusted with the pup and my mother could not keep the pup at her new family’s home, so ultimately she came back to my father, to care for the puppy, and eventually terminated the divorce proceedings. So I guess the dog did his job? This all sounds a bit sketchy, but for the purposes of time and length, it is a story for another day.

Since losing his eye, my parents determined that the dog needed two parents to care for him full time. Apparently, something not even their high school teenager, new grandbabies, young adult children, their home, or other two adult dogs needed. This one small dog that was missing an eye, but otherwise was in perfect health, was the only living creature my parents needed to give their full attention and time to. My mom spent time making inquiries to plastic surgeons about the possibility of a glass eye. My dad set up wee-wee pads around the house so the dog wouldn’t have to be burdened with using the yard. The pup was also segregated from the other dogs in the house until he was a year old; or perhaps I should say, the older dogs were forgotten, much like their teenage human sibling (not me). For all intents and purposes, the puppy was also segregated from all my parents’ adult children because we didn’t know how to “play” with him delicately, this now 27lb bowling ball of a dog.

It was hard not to resent the dog. He received the care and attention that none of us had or ever would get from my parents. Every phone call or text message received or made revolved around the dogs day, his feelings, emotional health, physical well being. A trip to the vet for gas, bloating, hiccups, wet nose, dry nose, bad breath, soft stool, hard stool, you name it. It was hard to feel anything but severely annoyed. Was the son-of-a-bitch spending my one-day inheritance on his hypochondria? Hahahaha! I have no inheritance don’t worry. But seriously, what the hell was going on all these years? And before you activists weigh-in on the idea of diet, the dog had all his meal specially prepared: boiled chicken breast and steamed green beans with a little olive oil. He wasn’t sick, he was spoiled, literally, spoiled like expired milk, he was no longer a dog but a vessel for emotional pain. Poor guy.

My parents declined to attend birthday celebrations, canceled holiday plans, and rejected every dinner invitation extended by my siblings who lived locally. “We can’t leave the dog; he needs us. He’ll die if we’re not home with him,” they’d plead on every phone call.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, WHAT? Yes.

It had never presented a problem in the past with the number of family dogs we’d had before, but this dog carried the burden of all my parents emotional baggage: betrayal, unhappiness, entrapment, marital obligation, years and years and years of emotional grief and depression; all of which were heftily laid upon the back of one small dog, just like that.

Once joyful and spry like a young dog should be, he quickly became aggressive and mean to anyone who wasn’t my mother. Hugging my mom became impractical, as we never knew if the mixed breed Chihuahua would leap from her lap or arms and take a bite out of us. As my parents were unwilling to leave him at home, the executive decision fell on the parents of my nieces and nephews to not invite Grandma and Grandpa over, or out anymore, since the dog could not be trusted with children, or the children with the dog.

My parents feigned outrage, but truly they could not have been more relieved to be let off the hook. “Think of us as grandparents who live out of state. On the rare occasion we can see you, it will mean so much more,” they claimed. All these excuses and lies in the name of the poor dog.

That dog, living with one eye, became my mother’s reason for not living these past, nearly two decades. “We don’t get to take vacations; we are bound by our sick dog.” Or, “we can’t have anything nice because of our sick dog.” And of course my favorite: “we need you to elope, because of our dog, we just won’t be able to come to your wedding, meet your first born child, our grandson, or see the life you’ve built for yourself in California over the past 15-years, your entire adult life, because of our sick dog.”

Alas, this poor sick dog (he was never sick) has passed away. My parents carried him to the crematorium, watched as he was lowered into the flames, and came home with an urn, engraved with the dog’s name. I imagine my mom has sat holding the urn in her lap for the past week. She has not stopped crying or left the house. And just this morning they both decided not to attend my nephew’s (their 2-year-old grandson’s) birthday party, because their dog has died. They also don’t think that Christmas will happen this year for them; possibly even next year.

The dog, even in death, must shoulder my parent’s burdens. Poor fucking Pepper (oh, that was his name, Pepper).

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I’ve Been Too Busy To Write, Because I’ve Been Busy Writing

Yeah, I know how it sounds, but it’s true. I can’t think of a better way to have been too busy for my blog… except for my two-year-old. He keeps me happily busy as well. Our daily conversations start a little like this:

Me: Jack, I love you so much I could eat you.

Jack: I love you too, mommy.

Who taught him grammar at two? Hopefully Jason and I, but maybe he’s just a gifted toddler, that’s what I’m supposed to say – I’m his mother.

I digress. I’ve had so many things to talk about and as I sit here to recount them, I am left mindlessly wondering, what was I going to say? I feel like that happens a lot. Probably to everyone, but I’m just not used to it.

I have a few writing gigs at the moment and one of them is a total stressor, but it shouldn’t be. I won’t tell you which one, because that’s not the point. What I will tell you is that it reminds me of my first day at McDonalds. I was 15-years-old and had been working since I was maybe ten or eleven. That’s right. I grew up in a large family and there wasn’t a lot of money to go around. If you wanted something you had to figure out how to get it. You also were expected to work. So my career life started early. Sure I babysat, became a junior camp counselor, I had an enormous paper route, I was a grocery store bagger, then cashier, and one summer I got a job at McDonalds, because my friend worked there. What was I thinking? I was thrown on the drive-thru my first day and I couldn’t understand a thing anyone was ordering. It felt like I was watching an old Charlie Brown movie, everyone sounded like quacking ducks. Not to mention I had no clue how to punch in the orders. All the keys were unnecessarily abbreviated on the register. How does 2X equal Big Mac? My brain just wasn’t equipped for it. After getting every order wrong for an hour, they put me on Bun Toasting duty where I immediately set-off the smoke alarms and burned my finger. After which, I was sent home for the day. They didn’t fire me. I wanted them to fire me so I wouldn’t have to keep going back every day and embarrassing myself at a job I couldn’t do. And let me be clear, I never got any better working there. They put me on the fryer, they put me at the front registers, they put me on the griddle, they put me on janitorial duty and I failed at everything. Lets not get into why I sucked at the job any further, but rather why didn’t I quit? It wasn’t an option. I would have had to beg my parents for permission to quit, and that gave me even more anxiety. Which is a bad lesson to learn.

Now I find myself in a similar situation in that I have a job I can’t quit, and I don’t think I’m any good at it, and it’s definitely stressing me out. I have anxiety just thinking about it. What’s the worse that will happen? I’ll be let go, I’ll quit, it’s not a big deal, but somehow I’ve turned it into a mountain of an issue. I found it hard to even relax while on a five-day vacation in Maui! That’s right. I was a mess the whole time. And I know I’m not alone in this. Why do we do this to ourselves?

And when do we get to an age where we can just relax a little. Let the 20-somethings stress, we’ve paid our dues, let us be calm before we get old.

I’ll survive the job, or I’ll leave on good terms, or they’ll let me go – no hard feelings. That’s the absolute worse that can happen. Until then I’m going to just breathe through it and keep plugging away at the rest of life. Living it, not letting any one thing consume me. I will keep working toward finding balance and I will promise to write more blog posts. Let’s see if I can manage to get one up this weekend, too!

Is Vacation, Vacation?

We’re going out of town next week. I wouldn’t call it a vacation, but traveling is always a treat, right? We’re headed back to our hometowns to visit family, sing Happy 70th Birthday to my Dad in Michigan, and celebrate the High Holiday – Rosh Hashanah in NYC. It will be a treat.

However, traveling is not as easy as it was before we decided to shack up together, get some dogs to pretend we were parenting, and then go ahead and open a 24/7 home business known as AirBnBeeber. Not to mention the whole traveling with a 2-year-old… talk about pretending to be parents.

Let me just start with the basics, to travel with or without your own car seat? That IS a question. If you rent a car in Michigan adding a car seat is like an extra $15 USDOLLARS a DAY! Are you kidding me? I could purchase a new one and then auction it off, donate it, return it?, and be better off financially. Why are you penalizing human beings for procreating? Do you actually want the human race to fail? Should we just not travelwith children?

If we left our baby at home with a sitter while we, Jason and I, travel that would be a couple thousand dollars and a lot of heartache, because what’s the point of visiting Grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins if the wee ones aren’t with you? Rhetorical. I can tell you with certainty that once we had a child no one, no one, but our friends care if we, Jason and I, visit – just as long as the baby makes the trip. And shocker, 2-year-olds are not allowed to travel solo… yet, but in all honesty, if they were, that’s like a whole lot cheaper and then parents everywhere could ship them off to family while staying back and enjoying a peaceful, clean, tantrum free home again – that’s what I would call a Stay-cation, but I digress.

Let’s jump back to those dogs, WTF dogs? Sure, there may be fancy dog hotels and kennels, but only a barbarian (or someone with money, not the Middle Class) would dump their pre-baby, babies off to the unknown while going away for a week or two. No, our furbabies must be treated as the children they are, we will have someone stay at the house full time. Nurture them, walk them, feed them, hug them – basically our dogs get the vacation I want. Meanwhile, I’m schlepping around two cities, taking multiple flights which keep me locked in stale-recirculated-air filled airports for too many hours, while carrying my 30lb toddler because he’s tired of walking and the new “light-weight” (HA!) umbrella stroller we bought for the purpose of travel (add another $60 bucks to the trip) is just not the same as mama carrying him. Not to mention the several carry-on bags that are filled with necessary distractions for said toddler and all our work files while we travel, because hey, we do have jobs and they do require our attention and no, we don’t get vacation days, but that one is probably on us, since we own our own business and all. And being a small business owner (and I’m not talking about AirBnBeeber) is a lot of work, it has its perks, but it’s also 7 days a week and a lot of hours, but again, I digress.

Then yeah, there’s the AirBnBeeber and the guests all the guests that book their trips months in advance. We aren’t going to cancel on them for our vacation. Nope, instead we’ve hired a friend to manage and care for our guests while we’re gone. It’s a nice gig if you can get it! I think we pay pretty well.

Okay, so just to get to my sister’s house in Michigan we’ve spent money on, flights, rental car, child car seat, travel stroller (this may be a splurge, but if you have kids you get it, if you don’t have kids trust those of us that do – this is necessary), dog sitter, AirBnBeeber manager, and car parking at the airport which is about the same as an Uber ride there and back, but comes with a Car Seat for the kid – that’s like SO MUCH MONEY and we’re not even on vacation yet.

I could go on, but I won’t because at the end of the day we’re getting away and while I will worry and fret about the costs, and the business, and my pups I think it will be worth it, right?

I’m laughing like I’ve lost my mind, because I think maybe I have. Please, laugh with me so I feel like I’m not alone. 

~Xo

Table For One

There I stood, by myself, at the hostess stand waiting to be seated. The sign indicated I was to wait, and as I looked up and down the single row of booths, 14 in total, in the little diner that I had been frequenting since I moved to town, I saw a happy bustle of people taking leisurely lunches on a Friday afternoon ahead of the three day weekend. There were two servers and a busboy on the floor; from the window behind the counter I could count three line cooks.

After putting my name down, Jaime – party of one, on the self sign-in sheet, I stood and waited for a good long 5 minutes until I decided to take a seat on the narrow, holding bench, just big enough to support two waiting patrons. The Diner was as put together as an Ikea showroom: small and uniform, filling every space with perfectly fit, custom engineered small pieces, bright, and happy. After another five minutes of waiting a party of three entered the door, just to the right of me, and one of the two waitresses bee-lined over to them and asked, “Have y’all been helped yet?” She had a soft, put-on, Old South accent.

With a quick, unanimous shake of their heads – No, the waitress grabbed a stack of menus and ushered them to one of the two booths that had just been cleared in her section. Surely the dismissal of me was an oversight and the waitress would be right over to seat me in the empty booth opposite the three-top she’d just taken a drink order from. I smiled at the waitress as our eyes connected, and I waited.

I waited another five minutes (it’s now been 15 minutes if you’re tracking). The waitress made no indication that she would be offering me the booth, so I stepped outside and contemplated leaving. If I say something it would likely ignite an argument, I thought, which gave my insides an electric current of anxiety. But what if I just go back in and wait another few minutes standing so there is no confusion whether or not I’m waiting to be seated? I opted for the latter, my curiosity was piqued – just how long would it take for someone to wait-on the SWF (Single White Female)?

I reentered the diner and planted myself directly between the front door and the hostess stand. It would be a tight squeeze for any new diners to be seated ahead of me, and I smiled with newly found confidence.

The minutes ticked by slowly and painfully. I shifted my weight back and forth from one leg to the other, my hips pushing themselves into a deep tea-kettle pose, as I rested one hand at my waist while raising the other hoping to catch the attention of both waitresses or the busboy. It may be cliché to write, but I was boiling, you could tip me over…yada yada yada…

I stared unapologetically as patrons were leaving and tables cleared, first from the section to my left and then from the section to my right. The bright orange vinyl booths held the shape of the wide backs that had previously resided in them, and then after a few minutes they slowly restored to their original plump shape, with a faint pop as air penetrated it’s way back in. There I was, loitering, or so it must have appeared, as no one spoke a word to me. My mind started to wander as I looked at the melting cheeses and toasted buns being served one plate at a time.

Then the bell on the door behind me announced another new arrival. I turned to see a couple smiling at each other dreamily as they prepared for their lovers lunch on this Friday afternoon. I was mesmerized by their affection, and while distracted, had not noticed the same carrion waitress swoop in to snatch the couple up and seat them at the available booth in her section.

It took everything in me not to scream. I felt angry and self-conscious and the fact that not one of the patrons cutting in front of me bothered to say, “I think she was here first,” pissed me off even more.

I stared at the waitress, this two-time offender. I stared with the weight of my anger and frustration until she took notice. She hesitantly walked toward me and asked if I had been helped.

“No, I’ve not been helped,” my mind was bitter and spewing the words, but my mouth was calm and collected.

“Are you waiting for someone?” she asked obtusely.

“I’m waiting to be seated,” I answered as neutrally as possible, while thinking, okay, you’re special, you are a special kind of asshole.

“Oh, I guess we didn’t see you over here in all the commotion,” she giggled as she lied. I frowned. “Follow me this way,” she directed.

She had led me to a booth in the other waitress’ section.

“Some one will be right with you, okay Hon?” As the pronoun rounded itself off her tongue in a slow southern drawl, I smiled neutrally, again, as I made a mental note to write a Yelp review commenting on the one time I didn’t have decent service at The Diner, and then I thought, no I won’t, I don’t like being negative, I prefer everyone to see me as happy and positive all the DAMN TIME!

I was seated, in a booth, menu in hand and mentally, actively choosing to change my attitude. I sat, my lunch decision made: the Mixed Green Salad, a Fresh Fruit Bowl, and a Decaf Coffee. I closed the menu, and I waited. I checked my phone, the first time since I’d arrived at the diner, and noted I had now been at the restaurant for half of an hour and had not even been asked how I was doing today. Not that it’s mandatory, but it is customary.

I watched as a second booth in my section was filled by two burly men and then a third booth was filled by two women. I watched as the waitress in my section made her way to both tables, and chitchatted. She asked them how their day was going, if they had plans for the holiday weekend. I watched her take both tables’ drink orders and then deliver the beverages. I just sat there, and I waited, smiling, and watching.

I watched as more couples entered the restaurant, sat in the opposite section of mine, and placed their orders. Finally I caught the attention of the busboy and I asked him for a glass of water and if I could order.

“I’ll tell your waitress you’re ready,” he replied.

I watched as he made his way to my waitress. I saw her glance over and felt hopeful. I watched as she hustled to my side of the diner, walk right past me and gossip with yet another table of twenty-somethings about the good old days when she was married to a “Psycho, but that was before you all were born, I’m old,” she joked, lightly.

Then I watched as she took the orders of the burly gentlemen and then the women. I watched with longing, because I had skipped breakfast and was now really hungry. I thought my choice to stay and watch how this played out was stupid, but I was too invested to leave.

As my stomach rumbled, the waitress put the orders in for the tables seated after me, and I swallowed dryly as their drinks were topped off. I flagged down the busboy once again and asked him, loudly, “Who is my server? I would like to at least get a water.”

And then, the energy shifted. I was louder then I had intended to be. In fact I had projected so loudly that the carrion waitress was upon me instantly.

“Hey Hon, what seems to be the matter?” her drawl even thicker and her smile less convincing this time.

“Well, I’d like a glass of water, and I’d like to place my order, but it seems that I don’t have a waitress,” I stated neutrally and still quite loudly.

“Oh,” her tone condescending, “well maybe she just thought you were waiting for someone, Hon. Why don’t I get your order started and I’ll let her know,” she was dripping with sweetness and insecurity, unsure of how she would be handled by me.

“Great,” I started calmly, “I’ll take the Mixed Salad, the Fresh Fruit, and a Decaf Coffee.”

“You got it, Sugar,” I wondered whether Sugar was a euphemism for Bitch or Cunt.

As she placed my order with the line cooks, I saw her gesture at me to the other waitress. A moment later, the other waitress wordlessly delivered me a decaf coffee. The mug, indelicately set before me, spilled with the hard landing. I sopped it up, also wordlessly, and I felt the deep animosity of this older waitress and thought, was it your ex that was Psycho or was it you?

 Exactly three minutes later, my salad and fruit were delivered with the same amount of physical enthusiasm and silence. I ate quickly and efficiently, trying my best to enjoy the fresh cut mango. I had one silent refill of coffee and then the check arrived. I paid, left the standard tip, and exited.

When I got home I wondered if this was a normal, everyday experience for any of my friends.

****

That evening Jason, Jack and I went to the supermarket. I grabbed bananas as Jack and Jason made their way to the sample station, as is customary during our Trader Joe’s runs. When I met them at the sample station, there, cooing at my son, was the carrion waitress with her Old South accent. I said nothing as I looked at her and then to my husband, and I kissed my child’s head to show a little power. This time there was no denying that she had noticed me.

Her face turned as scarlet as the red, eyelet shift dress she wore. I smiled at her confirming recognition, as we had only just parted ways 3 hours prior. The guilt written on her face was enough for me, I looked at the family and asked, “what are we sampling? I’m starving! Did I tell you about the fresh mango I had at lunch?”

I winked good-bye to the waitress and pushed the cart forward as Jason (my husband) popped a bit of mini quiche in my mouth from the sample tray.

****

What would you have done?