I am sitting at one of the long communal tables at Toro, polishing silverware and staring deeply into space.
Things have been stressful for me at work and personally lately. It makes me look forward to nights when I work as a waitress at Toro. When you work as a waitress almost every question has a fairly simple answer, most business functions happen obviously, in patterns and without explanation, and when you are done for the night, you are officially done: wipe the espresso machine down, punch out, pour a glass of wine for your shift drink and relax (only once the night is officially over, of course.)
Now, in this lull before we officially open for service, is the only chance I'll have for the next eight hours to obsess about everything else that's bumming me out in my life. So that is what I do, wiping forks, knives, and four different sizes of spoons one by one with a damp rag.
Eventually it dawns on me that I have been sitting alone, wiping silverware silently for far longer that I should be, given the amount of front of the house staff house we have on tonight. Usually set-up time is a stream of endless chatter, joking, and catching up. Where is everybody? I think.
I turn around to look over my shoulder and have my answer. The entire front of the house staff is sitting together at a different table: my fellow waiters Juan & Luis, back waiters Monica, Liliana, & Bibbiana. They are all from Colombia -- I am the only American on the floor tonight. They chat away, engrossed in several different conversations, interrupting each other talking over each other, teasing, joking, and catching up. All of this is happening in Spanish...which means that, but for my broken several phrases of restaurant Spanish, I am completely excluded.
"Hey you guys, wait a minute!" I say.
"Yes, Mona?" Luis stops talking to Juan.
"What's the matter? What's wrong?" says Juan.
"I'm lonely." I say.
"Well, what are you doing over there? Come sit here and talk to us!" Luis says. Before the sentence is out of his mouth I have completely relocated my silverware polishing operation and am dropping into an empty chair beside Juan.
"Hola," I say.
And for the next 5 -10 minutes before our staff briefing meeting, I just sit there and listen to a musical language that is not at all my own, no longer excluded but far from comprehension.