It was the pre-opening night of a new restaurant. Pre-opening meaning they were serving food as sort of a practice run for the actual opening scheduled for the coming weekend. I was there on a first date with a psychology student named Jory.
We'd met at a party the previous Friday. He joined a group of strangers that included me and introduced himself and told us what he did. One of the guys standing with us said "Oh, you're in psychology! You know I was fundamental in getting Xanax ready for the public." There was something weird in how he said "Fundamental in getting Xanax ready for the public" like they weren't really his words but something he had been told over and over in an attempt to convince him of his importance. I had also been standing there for a few minutes and this person didn't seem all that bright and I think I even saw a little bit of crazy in his eyes. I couldn't figure how he was possibly fundamental. Maybe just mental?
I didn't have to ask because Jory did. "Oh really? what part?" My humor Tourrette's kicked in and as a joke I blurted out "test subject!". My joke was ruined though when the guy we were talking to also said "test subject" at the same time I did. As the other guys standing around started pelting the human lab rat with questions Jory and I shared a sideways glance, a knowing smirk and bonded. He asked me out five minutes later.
The place for dinner was his idea. He explained a friend of a friend worked there, or owned the place or supplied food, I don't really remember, he then continued on to point out it's nice to get to know someone in a place that's not very busy or too loud. The other bonus of a place with few other customers was the fact that you can avoid running into friends or people you've already dated. That way if the date fell apart you could deny it ever happened. A strategy I picked up myself later.
We ordered our drinks and the waitress came over and promptly spilled them on us. We both jumped and moved fast avoiding a crotch dampening. In place of an apology from the server we heard "Oh know, not again!" as she ran off in the direction of the kitchen. Hopefully for a towel.
"Again?!" we both said in unison once we saw the swinging door close behind her scrunchied pony tail. "It's only been open one day!" Jory continued. But we laughed and since a towel or napkins didn't seem forthcoming we moved to one of the many other empty tables. This turned out to be a prudent move since we never saw our server again.
After twenty minutes or so a new waitress came over and introduced herself as Rondell. She was older and a lot more worn out than our first girl. She was a career waitress probably initially passed over for this shift for the cuter and younger model. She was nice though and smiled a lot showing off her bright white tooth. The tooth was up front and framed in gold and stood out both because of its artificial brightness and the fact it was compared to the rest of her full set of teeth which had been plaqued to a deep burnt amber color from what had to be years of chain smoking.
When our food came we asked Rondell what had happened to our first waitress. "Oh Lurlene?" she said and zoned out for a moment, a look of internal conflict on her face. She was debating whether or not it was professional to tell us what happened to Lurlene. I knew this type of woman though. I knew she'd tell us. She was bored was probably needing to release some of the pressure that builds up with a juicy gossip.
Somewhere between one second and two the moral dam broke and she leaned over to our table in conspiracy "Well, I probably shouldn't tell you this but right before work Lurlene got a call from her ex boyfriend or ex husband or whatever he is. Well anyway he got a baby on her about four years ago so whatever you call that. Well I guess he been drinking a lot since he lost his job over to the cabinet company." Rondell started picking up speed now. "Well I think he been beating on her and she got tired of it so she left him to stay with her mom. Anyway he calls up here and tells her that if she don't come back to him and stop being all crazy" She waved her hands in the air to illustrate the crazy part " that he was going to go bring his shotgun down here and shoot her then shoot hisself".
"Is she going to get fired?" Jory asked.
"No I don't think so. Ole Jayjack will probably let her come back when she gets it all squared off at home. That Jayjack is a good ole boy and he knows about crazy love. I'm gonna check on your food"
I always despise it when someone tells a story and names off people like everyone should know who they are. I realized our first waitress, the one with the homicidal boyfriend, or whatever, was probably Lurlene. Hell she even looked like a Lurlene. But I had to guess that Jayjack was a manager or owner.
As I was pondering the names of the players Jory brought up a really good point "We could have been shot!" I thought this was at least a little funny but Jory was genuinely alarmed. So alarmed that when Rondell came back with our food he asked her "So are we safe?"
She gave a confused glance at the food as though he thought she may have poisoned it or it was undercooked pork. Then it dawned on her what he meant. "Oh no that. Lurlene called and it's all fine now. Jakes been picked up by the police and probably gonna be in the jail all night. You know how that goes when you're crazy in love. It's kind of sweet once the craziness settles down and they get back to normal. Love will make you do them kind of things". I think she was actually wistful. Lost in a memory of her her own ex boyfriend (or whatever) and his death threats. "Do it while you're young is what I say" and she actually sighed dreamily.
A week later Jory dumped me. He called up and said it wasn't going to work out. He thought too many weird things happened to us too soon. Our first impressions of each other were ruined and besides he was thinking of transferring to Seattle for school.
I was surprised because I thought things had gone great! That was a great first date story. I replayed what could have gone wrong. Surely he didn't think lab rat guy was my friend. I didn't spill the drink on us and besides nobody got wet. He couldn't be blaming me for the restaurant could he? I didn't even pick the place, he did. It's not like I introduced Jake and Lurlene and started the chain of events up to Jakes arrest. The more I think about it the more I think it was the way Rondell said "crazy in love". When it came down to it Jory thought I would fall in love with him and try to shoot him. Which was crazy. I don't even own a shotgun anymore.