It’s a hot muggy Friday night and the Bistro’s crowded. The central air system struggles to hold down the temperature. I guess we won’t be selling cappuccinos tonight.
The hostess takes a smoke break. As I’m watching the entrance a foxy brunette walks through the front door. A midriff shirt showcases the ruby pendant set in her firm abdomen while low riding jeans hug her hips with perfect snugness. Wearing her hair up, the girl caps her ensemble with old fashioned glasses and a string of pearls.
This chick’s got the whole dirty librarian thing going on. Waiter likes.
“Good evening Miss,” I say, my face brightening. “How can I help you?”
“I have a reservation under Smythe,” Sexy Librarian replies. “My father’s delayed. He’ll be joining me in half an hour.”
“Not a problem Miss,” I reply. “Your table’s ready. Please follow me.”
“Actually I need to use the ladies room,” Librarian says. “Where is it?”
I direct Librarian to the ladies room. As I watch her wiggle down the aisle I make a mental wager she’s got a tattoo stenciled above her butt.
A few minutes later Librarian emerges from the bathroom. I direct her to her table and pull out her chair like a perfect gentleman. As she sits I covertly glance at the space where denim meets backside. I can’t see a tattoo. But I don’t see underwear either.
“Would you like something to drink Miss?” I ask.
The girl takes a glance at the wine list. “A bottle of Cabernet please,” she says.
I fetch the Cabernet and start polishing two red wine glasses. Saroya, one of our waitresses, sticks her head in the kitchen.
“You really like that one,” Saroya says, glancing toward the brunette.
“How could you tell?”
“Your face lit up when she came in.”
“Really?” I reply winking, “You don’t say.”
“Get her number,” Saroya says.
I shake my head. “I don’t think so.”
“You’re too shy,” Saroya teases.
I leave Saroya and bring the Cabernet to the table. After I perform the wine ritual Librarian accepts the bottle.
“Can I get you anything while you’re waiting?” I ask.
“I’ll just wait for my Dad,” Librarian says smiling, displaying perfect teeth. “Thank you.”
Ten minutes pass. I’m taking a table’s dessert order when Saroya pulls on my arm.
“Something’s wrong with the girl on table five,” she says, looking alarmed.
“The girl waiting for her father?” I ask. “What happened?”
“I think she passed out.”
I walk over to Librarian’s table. She’s slumped forward in her chair, face resting on her bread plate. One arm’s draped across the table while the other hangs at her side. I notice the Cabernet hasn’t been touched.
“Miss,” I say, gently shaking her shoulder, “Are you all right?’
I shake her harder and repeat my question. Still nothing.
I automatically grab her wrist and feel for a pulse. Her arm is thin, clammy, and cold. I can’t find a pulse. I move my hand to the artery in her neck. There’s a weak pulse. I look at the girl’s ribcage. Respiration’s slow and shallow. I shake the girl again.
“Miss,” I say in a stronger voice, “Can you hear me?”
The girl’s eyelids flutter open. Her pupils look like black marbles. She mumbles something that sounds like “Leave me alone,” and passes back out.
“Hey waiter,” a man at the next table shouts, “Is she all right?”
“I don’t think so,” I reply.
I wave the hostess over.
“Call 911,” I say. “Tell them we have an unconscious woman, twenty-five years old, possible drug overdose.”
The hostess runs to the front. I remove the wine bottle, glasses, knives, forks, and plates off the table.
“Why you doing that?” a female customer demands.
Working in drug rehab I once saw a ninety pound woman smash her fist though a wire mesh window. It took five men to restrain her. She broke every bone in her hand. The girl was trying to hit me. If I hadn’t ducked I might’ve lost a few IQ points.
“Just making sure everyone’s safe Madam,” I reply.
“I’m rather busy Madam,” I say, cutting her off. “The police will be here soon.”
As we wait for the ambulance Librarian starts falling out of her chair. I prop her up and hold her gently in place. I can’t help but notice that her backside’s slipping out of her jeans. Any sexual interest in this girl has been overridden by the emergency management part of my brain. But, as I suspected, she has a tattoo. I also confirm she’s not wearing any underwear. I laugh ruefully to myself. What a time to be right.
Within minutes the police arrive – a rookie and a veteran. The older cop warily approaches the unconscious woman.
“I think she OD’d,” I tell the cop. “She passed out soon after coming out of the bathroom. She probably took something in there. She didn’t drink anything. Her pulse is weak and her breathing’s shallow.”
The cop nods. He shifts the bulletproof vest under his uniform and moves in closer. Placing one hand on the back of Librarian’s neck he uses his other hand to feel for a pulse. The hand’s on her neck so he can control her if she freaks out. I notice the cop’s positioned himself so his sidearm’s out of reach. This guy’s had lots of experience.
The cop leans the girl back in her chair and opens her eyelids with his thumbs. Librarian moans. Suddenly she looks very small and the cop looks very big.
“She’s on something,” the cop says to his partner. “God knows what.”
“Rig’ll be here soon,” the other cop says.
The officers rifle through the girl’s purse. They find cash, pills, and discharge papers from a drug rehab. The girl was released today. The name on the forms doesn’t match the name on her license.
“That means the hospital was paid in cash,” I say. “No record.”
“You’ve dealt with this before,” the older cop says.
I told him where I used to work.
“You clear the table?” the cop asks.
“Old habits,” I reply.
“So this girl’s got money?” the young cop asks.
“Maybe,” I reply. “The girl’s waiting for her father. He should be here any minute.”
“Poor guy,” the older cop says.
The ambulance arrives. Librarian revives somewhat and becomes combative. She demands to be left alone. She’s offered a choice between the emergency room and jail. She picks the ER.
The ambulance crew straps Librarian into a stretcher and wheels her out the front door. I follow them outside. As they slide Librarian into the rig I notice she’s crying. I feel bad for her. There’s nothing I can do. I head back inside and let the cool AC wrap around me.
The hostess greets me by handing me the portable phone. She says someone that might be Librarian’s father is on the line.
“Hello,” I say, taking the phone. “Can I help you?”
“I’m supposed to meet my daughter there at 8 o’clock,” a prosperous sounding voice says. “She’s a thin brunette girl with glasses. Usually wears her hair up. Could you tell her I’m delayed and to start without me?”
I know the girl’s name from the license. It isn’t Smythe. I ask the man to confirm his daughter’s name.
“That’s it,” the man says.
“Your daughter’s going to be all right sir,” I say. “But she’s being taken by ambulance to City Hospital. She passed out.”
“What’s going on?”
“I think it’s better if they tell you at the hospital,” I reply.
Librarian’s father sobs a quick powerful sob and hangs up. I stare at the phone a moment.
“Was it him?” the hostess asks.
“Yeah,” I say, handing back the phone.
“He hung up.”
“His daughter’s going to the hospital and he hung up?”
I look outside. The ambulance still hasn’t left. “These things can get very complicated,” I say.
The hostess says nothing. I head back outside. I know why the father hung up. He can’t take it anymore. Maybe Daddy’s little girl is a junkie because he was running late her entire life. Who knows?
The police cars leave first. Then, with a blast of horns, the ambulance launches into traffic and disappears into the night.
As I watch the rig drive away I imagine I hear Springsteen’s lyrics floating on the wailing sirens.
Hey little girl is your daddy home
Did he go away and leave you all alone
I got a bad desire
I’m on fire
Tell me now baby is he good to you
Can he do to you the things that I do
I can take you higher
I’m on fire
I shake my head and go back inside the Bistro. What a waste.