“Something’s really wrong with table 23,” Saroya says.
“What’s the matter?” I ask.
“Go over there,” Saroya says grimly.
I hustle to the front of the restaurant and find a lone blonde woman sobbing into her martini.
I know who this lady is. She and her girlfriend were regular customers until they broke up a few months ago. I think the blonde’s drinking has something to do with it.
Taking a deep breath I remember this is what I get paid for.
“Are you alright Madam?” I ask.
“No!” the woman cries. Well, that’s obvious. Smooth move Waiter.
“Can I help you?”
I look on helplessly. Luckily we have a light crowd at the Bistro tonight. The only other customers in range look on sympathetically.
The woman drains her martini. “Another,” she says angrily.
“No madam,” I say, “I think you’ve had enough.”
“GET ME ANOTHER DRINK!” she yells.
“That’s not going to help you.”
The woman waves me away. I back up and give her space. I can’t help her.
Blonde pulls out her cell phone and makes a call. The conversation’s rather piteous.
“I want you back,” Blonde cries into her phone. Hearing the reply she sobs like she’s going to fall apart.
I stand back and watch.
She talks with her ex for another minute. Suddenly, Blonde’s affect goes flat and she stops crying. In a low even voice she says, “I’m going to kill myself.”
Oh shit. I have a full blown psychiatric emergency on my hands.
Blonde snaps the phone shut.
I head over to the hostess stand to call the police. The phone rings before I can get there.
“I want a reservation for Saturday night,” a gruff male voice barks.
“Call back later,” I say, hanging up.
I look back over at Blonde. She’s got a determined look on her face. I think to myself, “Should I really be doing this? Is this really my business?”
I worked in mental health for years. Suicidal ideation is serious. Yeah, it is my business.
Before I can dial 911 the Bistro’s phone rings again. I answer. It’s Blonde’s ex.
“How is she?” the Ex asks.
“She’s in bad shape,” I say, “I was just about to call the cops.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes,” the Ex says hanging up.
Blonde asks me for the bill, her voice chillingly under control.
I take her credit card and head to the back. I have to stall for time. After a short pause I go back over to the table.
“I’m sorry madam,” I say. “The credit card machine’s slow today. It’ll be a couple of minutes.”
“Whatever,” Blonde says dismissively.
My ploy works. The Ex walks in the door. The crying starts all over again. They have a short conversation and not a good one.
Blonde gets up and storms out the door. The Ex looks at me helplessly.
“We need to call the cops now,” I say.
“I don’t think she’s really going to kill herself.”
“Either you call or I will,” I say.
The Ex calls the cops and gives them Blonde’s description and heading.
“The cops will be here soon,” Ex says.
I hand her Blonde’s credit card. “Can you give this back to her?”
“Yeah,” Ex says numbly. I bet she’s wondering how it came to this.
I walk outside the Bistro. Suicide Blonde staggers down the street, like a burning ship floundering upon a dark and angry sea. A siren wails in the distance.
Blonde leans against a Fed Ex Box to get her bearings. A police cruiser pulls up alongside her.
“I’d better go over there,” the Ex says.
“Good luck.” I reply softly.
After a few minutes it’s all over. An ambulance comes and takes Blonde away for a long rest. I head back inside.
As I start closing up I think about the tough times in my own life. I remember experiencing pain like Blonde’s feeling. It’s a pain we all encounter. It’s unavoidable.
At some point we’ve all been a ship afire.
I lock the doors and go home.