Tapestry

It’s Saturday night. The first round of tables is seated and eating. That means there’s a lull until the dessert madness begins. Everyone takes a breather.

I’m standing by the beverage dispenser hydrating myself with club soda. Saskia, one of the new busgirls, comes by and pours herself a Coke. She smiles at me. I smile back.

Saskia is about eighteen. Her mother is Japanese, her father’s rich, white, and important. The result of their union is a young woman who is rapidly developing into an exotic beauty. In a few more years she’ll be breaking hearts. Perhaps she is already.

A senior in high school, dating a famous actor’s son, she’s won early acceptance to Cornell. Her father, a self made man, used to work in a restaurant and wants his daughter to experience “how the other half lives.” He made a few calls and now she works for us. Like I said – he’s important.

She’s chatting, as young girls do, about her boyfriend. Being older and invisible I nod and make all the polite noises. She’s in love, eighteen going on forty, and knows everything.

Ernesto, the sous chef, pops out of the kitchen, and pours himself a Sprite.

“How’s it going Poppy?” I ask

“Same shit different day cabron,” he replies.

“Siempre mierda,” I say smiling.

“Si,” Ernesto sighs heading back into the kitchen.

“Later amigo,” I call after him.

“What a sad little man,” Saskia says when Ernesto’s out of earshot.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because all he’s ever going to be is a cook. What a limited existence. I mean there is so much of the world to discover and he’s never going to see any of it.”

Her comment pisses me off.

I want to tell Saskia that Ernesto WALKED a good part of the way from Nicaragua to live in the US. He’s worked thousands of hours to get money to bring over the rest of his family. While the other busgirls take a bus home to a tenement, Saskia hails a cab and returns to a palatial abode.

I’m about to say, “You’re young and don’t know shit,” when suddenly I remember somebody I used to know.

He’s a young man, a divinity student, not much older than Saskia. Floating in a cloud of incense and tradition, he possesses very definite ideas of how the world ought to be. Excelling academically in theology and philosophy he understands nothing about how real people move and live and have their being. Looking at the world through stained glass windows he’s rigid, analytical and arrogant. A good kid, don’t get me wrong, idealistic and compassionate, he struggles unconsciously to find his identity. He doesn’t have a clue.

That young man used to be me.

God and I had a lover’s quarrel. The stained glass window shattered long ago. So much happened…. An intense love was joyously found then lost. Friends were cut down in their prime by disease and circumstance. People I assumed irretrievably lost found redemption; the sick were made whole, evil men triumphed, babies were born, and the world made less and less sense. I passed from certitude into the cloud of unknowing.

I look at Saskia and my wounding comment dies in my throat. For the first time I understand what my elders mean when they say “youth is wasted on the young.” Saskia is arrogant but then again that’s the way it should be. Time will be her teacher.

“You’re a nice girl Saskia, but in twenty years I’ll bet your opinion of Ernesto will change,” I say instead.


Saskia stares at me blankly.

“You’ll feel differently when you’re older,“ I add gently for emphasis.

“Thanks Obi-Wan. Coming from a waiter in his thirties that means a lot,” she says sarcastically.

Ouch.

Saskia and I don’t speak much after that.

Four years later…………………………………………………………………………..

I’m sitting in a bar appreciating a perfectly poured Guinness Stout when I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn.

It’s Saskia. My prediction was on target. She’s turned into a ravishing beauty. She’s graduated from Cornell.

“You know I want to apologize to you,” she says.

“Why?” I ask confusedly.

She reminds me of what she said about Ernesto four years ago and what she said to me. I had forgotten all about it until that moment.

“I never forgot what you said to me,” she says. “And you were right.”

“Don’t sweat it,” I say, “I’m learning more about how little I know everyday.”

We share a pint. She’s going to law school. She’s broken some hearts and had it broken in return. There’s some hard won wisdom in her eyes that wasn’t there four years ago.

I drive home. Four years! I’m amazed that Saskia remembered my comment. You never know what effect you’re gonna have on people. Serendipity? Or is there a larger plan at work?

My thoughts drift back to a time when my godfather and I were in a museum. We’re looking at a medieval tapestry. He’s intently studying the back of it. Puzzled I join him.

“What do you see here?” he asks me.

The back of the tapestry is rough and frayed, betraying the handiwork of the person who made it. The colors are mottled and muted. There’s a lot of darkness.

“A mess,” I reply.

“Yes,” he smiles. “I like looking at the back of the tapestry because it’s a lot like real life. A mess. It makes no sense, there seems to be no order or beauty.”

Then, his arms on my shoulders, he moves me to the front of the tapestry. I look at it. Undimmed by the centuries – it’s gorgeous.

“But every once in a while God gives you a glimpse of the other side and it all begins to make sense,” he says gently.

I’m silent. I know something important has happened but I’m too young to understand.

I look at my godfather. He’s a Byzantine Catholic priest. With his beard and flowing robes he really looks like an Obi-Wan – except he’s the real thing.

“No one is unimportant. We all play a part in designing life’s tapestry. You never know what your effect on people is going to be. When you think the world is ugly, makes no sense, remember there is always another side. If you’re lucky God will grant you a peek.”

“Uh-huh” I nod.

“Remember life is beautiful – even when you can’t always see it.”

Recalling that moment my eyes tear up. My godfather was right. My response to Saskia, unbeknownst to me, had a profound effect. Another stitch in the cosmic tapestry.

I don’t know where my life is headed or what its purpose is. But tonight Saskia gave me a glimpse of life’s interconnectedness. I think of my parents and family, of friends and mentors long gone. I think of the cast of characters I’ve encountered; Fluvio, Claude, Ernesto, Mr. Smooth, my coworkers – yes even the customers.

We’re all part of the tapestry my Obi Wan talked about it. On this frigid night driving home I catch a peek of the other side.

And it’s beautiful.


Comments

Tapestry — 30 Comments

  1. I know this is an old post, but that was a beautiful story. I really like that tapestry metaphor. Nice writing.

  2. Good on ya, Waiter. It’s a tribute to both you and Saskia that she remembered what you’d said and allowed it to change her life.

    A single drop can ripple out for metres…congratulations.

  3. Good story, cool metaphor and deep message.
    yet.
    I can’t shake the feeling it is incredibly contrived.
    all the same,
    cheers.

  4. This must be bullshit.
    Not once in the story did the chef try to fuck the new girl waitress, the waiter wasnt a fag and nobody was stealing anything.
    I remember the days when little tony just started as a dishwasher and i would get him to clean the coolrooms all the time. Thats when I would sneak in and get him to give me a blowjob while I drank a strawberry shake and let it drip out of my mouth and on to his head, it looked like pink cum. OOOOOHHHHHH

  5. Hey, I just wanted to comment on how awesome this story was. It seems like everyone is the same way that Saskia used to be. It gives me hope in humanity that she changed and became a better person. Awesome writing.

  6. If I were you, I think I’d just turn off the comments. If people care enough to really say thank you, they can take the time to send an email. If they care enough to really argue against your point, they can take the time to write a post in response on a blog of their own. People are just as interconnected as you say, and most of them are completely clueless as to how harmful their spiteful trivialities can be. They take thirty seconds to write a venomous comment and are gone. In a day, they’ve likely forgotten they even wrote it. But the author remembers.

  7. @ rob or should i say “little tony”
    I thought it was you, I can recognise that whining voice of yours even when you type.
    Upon seeing your post I wasnt aware until now how much I must have hurt you in the coolroom all those times we had alone.
    I can only say how sorry I was to only to use your saliva and poo as a lubricant, but the friction was so enjoyable for me, but its not about me anymore now is it Tony?
    How about we get together and I can give you a big man hug to show you how sorry I was for not kicking the living shit out of you pathetic ass when when I finished with you.
    Your reply now Tony. Come on give it to me, Im sure you have some pent up frustration you have bottled up.

  8. ‘Read this story a year or two ago, and happened to stumble over it again today. I’m still touched. Love the tapestry analogy, especially.

  9. 1. i like this as a kind of feel-good story; it seems kind of like an inspirational message parable.

    2. if you’d like to deepen it into something else, i’d suggest that you rewrite it being very mindful to avoid cliché. you’ve got good thoughts here, but they get lost in the heavy-handedness that you use to try to get your point across. don’t worry so much about that — if you use a little subtlety, you won’t lose your point but you will give the story more plausibility. remember that the most effective endings are a combination of the positive and the negative.

    3. i hope this was not intended as a true-life-experience bit of non-fiction. if it was, you fucked up. nothing in real life is so tidy, no matter how hard you want it to be.

    4. people on the internet are dicks.

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  11. Ah yes. At first you go from idealist to cynic when you realize how bad the world is, that is you see the back of the tapestry. Then something good happens and you see the silver lining; the other side of the tapestry. The idea is that it is evidence that there is meaning to life yet, and good meaning at that.

    Which is wrong.

    If there is a God watching and creating this, if this is one stitch in a cosmic tapestry, fine. But there are some damn ugly stitches, and he must be doing it for his own benefit rather than ours because we only see the backside the majority of the time. God, with his ultimate perspective, obviously doesn’t, but looking at it that way how can we say whether the tapestry is good or bad? If he doesn’t prioritize us, if he considers it acceptable to include torture, rape, and child abuse in his tapestry, what makes you think that the tapestry is something we would enjoy seeing? Maybe it’s good for God, but if he just uses us as tools for his entertainment, he isn’t good for us.

  12. Ah yes. At first you go from idealist to cynic when you realize how bad the world is, that is you see the back of the tapestry. Then something good happens and you see the silver lining; the other side of the tapestry. The idea is that it is evidence that there is meaning to life yet, and good meaning at that.

    Which is wrong.

    If there is a God watching and creating this, if this is one stitch in a cosmic tapestry, fine. But there are some damn ugly stitches, and he must be doing it for his own benefit rather than ours because we only see the backside the majority of the time. God, with his ultimate perspective, obviously doesn’t, but looking at it that way how can we say whether the tapestry is good or bad? If he doesn’t prioritize us, if he considers it acceptable to include torture, rape, and child abuse in his tapestry, what makes you think that the tapestry is something we would enjoy seeing? Maybe it’s good for God, but if he just uses us as tools for his entertainment, he isn’t good for us.

    • Just because you don’t like God doesn’t mean that no one else can. Art CAN have rape, and all of those other things. Ever heard of de Cartona’s “Rape of the Sabines?” Boucher’s “Leda the Swan?” The “Allegory of Death?” Art can be about anything. People pay money to see art, including art with death and rape. And if you don’t believe me, Google something like “art based on death.” People have made LISTS of it.

      I really did enjoy the story, though. Neat.

  13. A simple story filled with a bit of wisdom should be appreciated by its readers. The amount of rediculous comments on here bother me.

    I am 18 years old, in my senior year of high school, and I know I will go far in life. As in, I will be successful, and I will not have to work in a restaurant my whole life.

    My father tried getting a lesson like this through my head, and reading this story really helped pack it in. So thank you, author.

    Also I noticed how much you appreciated her remembering what you said. In my mind, it didn’t surprise me at all she remembered, a lot of kids will soak up any friendly advice that an older adult has to offer.

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