by Grant Ziegler
“Sundays are always the same. All of the other days of the week are a little bit different but not Sunday. Sundays are always the same,” said Blake to Kenny. Kenny had just started running food at the worst Sunday brunch buffet in Jacksonville, Florida.
“That sounds like the beginning of a story,” said Kenny.
Blake doesn’t respond to that. He starts asking personal questions instead. Not really out of interest but more out of boredom. “Do you guys ever think about suicide?”
There is a collective murmur. Most people say they had thought about it. You can’t work at a restaurant without wanting to kill yourself at least once or twice a month.
“Why are you so quiet today, Greg?” Kenny was talking to me. My name is actually Grant, not Greg. I don’t correct him. I never do.
“I don’t feel good yet”
“What do you mean yet?”
“I mean I haven’t had my coffee yet.”
“You’re drinking coffee right now…”
I don’t really know how to tell Kenny that my “coffee” is a bit different than most people’s. I say nothing and walk away.
I walk around with a look of purpose for a bit until my relief was to show up. About 30 minutes or so. If you walk like you are going somewhere most people assume you are working when you work in a restaurant. The only problem here is that this is the worst Sunday brunch buffet in Jacksonville, Florida. Most employees only know how to do the same thing every week. Factory line style.
I usually decorate the desserts. When I’ve had my coffee, it is done to where it doesn’t look too bad. It’s never anything to write home about, but nothing at this buffet ever is. If I haven’t had my coffee they look really bad and the whole process makes me want to throw up. Sometimes I do.
I go to the bathroom to hide for a little while and maybe throw up a few times. It’s really gross in there like it hasn’t been cleaned in a month or so and it smells really bad. I end up throwing up a few times. Sundays are always the same.
I check my call history. It had been 42 minutes since we talked. He said 30 minutes. This is almost 50 percent more time than anticipated. Twelve more minutes than planned. Twelve lifetimes. Twelve 24-year-failed lifetimes. Twelve whole fucking minutes.
My phone rings. It’s a guy who goes by ‘Solo.’ He is a big fat black guy who I’ve never seen eat but I’ve seen smoke a ton of crack. He also likes the same kind of coffee that I do.
I was never really sure how he stayed so big doing what he did. Normally what I would do when I saw Solo (which was at least once per day) is I would pretend to be a talk show host and pretended that he was my guest. I asked him all sorts of questions about his day to day life and enjoyed hearing his perspective on things like political issues and controversies that were going on at the moment. Sometimes he offered some incredibly insightful answers to my questions. Other times not so much. I enjoy my imaginary talk show. I think Solo does too.
His life both fascinated and disgusted me. One time we were having our coffee in his kitchen, the set for our show during that session. There were maggots in his sink and an old pot with uneaten ramen noodles, or that is what Solo said it was. Flies were buzzing around the sink judging us as we indulged. Despite our stage for the day I enjoyed myself. I think Solo did too.
I don’t have time to ask Solo any questions today. I leave his car wondering what he might do throughout the day. He probably drinks coffee all day.
I walk back in through the beaten backdoor of the restaurant. I immediately go toward the bathroom. Locked.
Holy fuck get out of there right now I will seriously fucking hurt you.
Another whole minute goes by. Another lifetime. The door swings open. I go inside.
I close the door to my sanctuary. “It’s so nice in here,” I think to myself. There’s no real bad odor or anything. Just a good ol’ sanctuary.
I quickly start my ritual. No good day ever starts without a ritual. A flame. Some bubbles. A mouth-watering vinegar smell. A crimson cloud of liquid rushes out and flows back in. Bliss.
I walk out toward the dining room. Lee Logan is telling Alex and Blake something about “the circle of life.” This makes me smile. Alex and Blake look bored and disappointed. I enjoy the moment for them. Briefly, I pause and enjoy that very moment on behalf of every person in the restaurant. Bliss.
The restaurant is slow. Partly because it is rainy and partly because the food is terrible. There isn’t much to do for servers when it is slow especially when the mean manager isn’t there. Sunday is the mean manager’s only designated day off. Sometimes Mean Manager still shows up. She is usually sporting a mean face, albeit dressed a bit more casual on her days off. If she is not there she gets all reviews, food/beverage comps and other various restaurant reports sent to her phone. Mean Manager is a little bit nutty.
I’m standing by myself thinking about Mean Manager and a few other things about the restaurant. Alex, Blake, Kenny, and one of the high-school food runners are standing around talking about nothing in particular.
I don’t join the conversation but instead eavesdrop a bit. My thoughts are mostly about the restaurant and I fucking hate this place, so eavesdropping seems better.
I get bored with this and decide it is time for more coffee. More relief. I head to the bathroom. Sundays are always the same.
I still have so much coffee. If I enjoy all of it at once it would surely kill me. I fantasize about that for a moment. Maybe after one last relief. One last ritual. It begins again. Vinegar on the stove. Red clouds in the brown sky. Bliss.
I look down at what I have left and smile. A thought crosses the back of my mind. “I have it good now, but soon I won’t.”