“You know what, I’m gonna go ahead and give you a few more minutes to decide.” Kevin flashed a feral smile at her and walked away before she could protest. Three drinks needed refilling, and the elderly couple at table twelve were looking around, ready to order. The old lady made eye contact with him, and he quickly turned away, headed toward the kitchen. They can wait.
Kevin walked past Kati at the drink station and shoved the kitchen door open. He spared a glance at Chef and the line cooks before stomping through the back door into the alleyway. The smell of cigarette smoke hung in the air, overpowering the smell of week-old food gone rotten.
“Hey, Marcus,” he said. “Could I bum one of those off of you?”
“Aren’t you, like, fifteen, or some shit?”
Kevin sighed. “Yeah.
“One of those days, huh, amigo?” Marcus fished a soft pack out of his breast pocket and shook one out. “Just don’ tell nobody, alright? Here, lemme get that for you.” He flicked his lighter and held it in front of Kevin’s face.
After his first drag Kevin coughed, but quickly recovered. It was his first cigarette, but it quickly became more natural. His tongue and throat felt scorched, but almost immediately his head started to swim, and he didn’t notice as much. “Thanks.”
“Hey, no problem,” Marcus said, looking up and down the alley, and back again. All signs of relaxation gone. “So, are you gon’ tell me what’s got you so pissed off today, or what?”
“Uh, no, it’s really stupid. I just need a breather.”
“Ain’t gonna get a good breath with a cancer stick. You might as well just tell me what’s going on with you.”
Kevin took a deep drag on his cigarette and choked on it.
Marcus laughed and patted his back. “Good shit, huh?” He lit another and watched Kevin with his eyebrows raised, waiting.
“Well, I’ve been wanting to ask out this girl that comes in a lot.”
“Yeah,” Kevin looked at him questioningly, but received no answer. “Well, anyway, I’ve been carrying this note in my pocket for her for over a week, now, and she hasn’t come in during my shift.”
“A note? Give it to me.”
“Give it to me.”
Kevin huffed, but relented. He fished it out of his pocket and handed it over.
“Now we’re talking. Lemme see,” Marcus’s eyes scanned the page. “Think you’re pretty … was hoping maybe …” Marcus tore the sheet in half.
“Hey! What did you do that for?” Kevin threw himself at Marcus, who pushed him off easily.
“You can’t talk to a woman like that. As a man, I can’t let you.”
“Well, then how the hell am I supposed to talk to her?”
“You gotta show her you want her, not just with your heart, but with your nuts.” Marcus squeezed the groin of his pants for effect. “This limp-dick shit ain’t gonna fly with her, or any other woman you ever want to take out. You feel me? She gotta feel you wanting her from across the room; you gotta make her forget where she left her breath, make her feel that she’s waist-deep in a swimming pool. Only after you’ve did that can you ask her out, you dig?”
“I’ll be honest, I have no idea what that means. What does a swimming pool have to do with her feelings?”
Marcus stared at him until he started to squirm. He swore in Spanish. “What do they teach you in school, these days? Well, kid, I ain’t gonna ruin the surprise for you. Bring it in, lemme give you a real education about women.” He ejected another cigarette from the softpack and lit it.
Kevin walked back through the kitchen, his head swimming, both from the nicotine and Marcus’s advice – most of which he didn’t fully understand. It was hot, but it affected him just as little as the music playing, or the obscene jokes being told back and forth by the line cooks. It didn't so much as register in his mind that He washed his hands and nudged the door open, surveyed the floor, and his heart stopped. Three tables needed their orders taken, a handful of drinks needed refilled, and about a dozen other things needed done, but none of that mattered. She was in the restaurant, seated with her friends.
Sweat sprang to his palms and the back of his neck, his breath quickened, and his pants stirred – Kevin hoped not noticeably. He now understood what Marcus meant about wanting her from across the room. He took a step toward her, all regard for his job forgotten. She wasn’t even sitting in his section.
Some of the people at his tables tried to get his attention, but they might as well have been trying to talk to a sea sponge.
He didn’t know how Marcus could be so confident when talking to women, but Kevin tried to channel it, to put off the Essence of Marcus. The journey toward Sandra’s table seemed to take forever, it felt like he was walking through a swimming pool full of pudding. Kevin shook his head, that couldn’t have been how Marcus meant it.
“Hey, Sandra,” He’d started speaking several steps before he reached her table. “You’re … stunning … today. I like what you, um, did with your hair. Would, um, you like to have dinner with me next Friday? Please.” Kevin cringed, and before he knew it, his body was turning away. His mind screamed at him to stop and turn around, but there was nothing for it. Confused mutters reached his ears from Sandra and his friends before … .
“I’d love to.”
Again, without his mind’s consent, Kevin pumped his fist into the air and hollered a triumphant Woop, drawing every eye to him. He didn’t care one bit.