I love flirting with waitresses. These usually intellectually harmless beings inspire me in some strange way. But my response to them is, to put it mildly, inadequate: I try to impress them with sentences like a freight train with three locomotives and more wagons than you can count. Hearing me out would make them dizzy, that’s why they withdraw with a smile and the hope that I will figure out how to express myself more appropriately. I’ve left poems on the back of the bill, along with my address and phone number, but I’ve never gotten any sign that anything beside the tip was accepted with appreciation.
“They serve you your meal, so you see your mother in them, that’s why you so desperately want them to like you,” Krassi winked at me when our rakia, a traditional Bulgarian brandy, came and another one of my smart comments bounced off the girl with the short skirt like an arrow shot at a tank.
“My mother never fed me! On the contrary, once I got myself something to eat, but she got mad about something and took everything back in the fridge: ‘If you don’t behave,’ she said, ‘then you won’t eat!’”
“It’s the same thing,” my drinking partner, who was a shrink, persisted. “You’re trying to compensate! Well, anyway, cheers!”
Armed with new self-knowledge, I eagerly awaited the waitress’s next appearance. I saw her coming with a large bowl of salad. I decided not to say anything and just watch her. She came towards me. She looked like a winning lottery ticket – I couldn’t help myself, I would tell her, but suddenly her legs buckled, so she pitched forward and dropped the dishes on my lap. She instinctively grabbed at the tablecloth and while she was falling, she pulled the glasses down from the table along with the condiment set. Krassi hiccupped in a psychotherapeutic way as I jumped up, brushing everything off myself onto the woman who had wiped out in front of my chair.
“What a clusterfuck!” I thought. There were pieces of cheese and ham stuck to me, which my pants were savoring along with tomato seeds, a withered cucumber slice and a crestfallen chunk of red pepper.
I shook myself off squeamishly and feeling flustered, I went to help the moaning waitress.
“Don’t touch her,” Krassi cried. “Let her take care of herself. It wouldn’t even be bad to give her a nice, hard kick!”
I looked down at the combat boots that had suddenly sprung up on my feet. Then I gazed at my black clothes. Krassi had gotten up and pulled out a twelve-inch knife. Then his wife started screaming.
“My wife? What the hell is she doing here?”
“She must be here for group therapy! You should know, you’re the shrink after all, aren’t you?”
“I don’t want my wife to get mixed up in this! Albena, go back home to the kids! They need you,” his commanding voice pushed the screaming woman toward the exit. The waitress had gotten up. She was shaking a little and retreating towards the kitchen.
“Why didn’t you kick her?” Krassi asked, sheathing the knife and putting on his coke-bottle glasses. “It would have been very helpful!”
The two of us moved to a clean table. He lit a cigarette and I riffled through the menu. After a while the waitress came over – as radiant as the rakia she was bringing us.
“I apologize for the delay, but we were out of Sliven’s Pearl. I went to the warehouse specially to get one for you.”
“But, miss, the real pearl here is you. Even if you aren’t from Sliven, I…” I gave the green light to my next three-locomotive composition. Krassi looked at me, shook his head and reached for his glass with resignation.