Ship Afire

“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?”

“No!”

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.


Comments

Ship Afire — 6 Comments

  1. You did exactly what I would getting the authorities involved. Sometimes it takes a view from the distance to see what needs to be done.

  2. While in school I knew someone who was abused and considering suicide, so I gave her my phone number (so we could talk in emergencies) and, not wanting to overreact but also wanting to help, told the dean of students anonymously. She got help and I was told I did the right thing. I think you did the right thing too, Waiter. Good work!!!

  3. You handled this exactly right right. Suicide is extremely serious. leithold please don’t be too quick to dismiss suicidal talk from your friends. I know of a few cases where friends were told before a suicide attempt, but they did not take it seriously enough.

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