My Historic Role

Sometimes, fate can make your words an instrument
of change. So it happened to me at this restaurant.
It was a pricey place with young pretty waitresses,
avant-garde decoration, and just passable food.
Among those pretty waitresses, she stood out like
a diamond among glass. As she passed by my table,
I touched her hand.

“I’d like a minute of your time.”

“This is not my table, your server will be with
you soon.”

“I just want to talk to you for a minute. I’ll
give you a ten for a minute. How does that sound?”

She sat across from me with a bored expression,
as if she had heard a thousand times the pitch I
was about to make. I just looked at her speechless.
Even with a bored, surly face, she was something to
behold. I cleared my throat.

“You’re the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.
No, that’s not right, I have never seen a sunset,
a flower, a work of art, or even a Cadillac
convertible more beautiful than you.” She didn’t
smile. My voice faltered a little when I said,
“With that comes great responsibility, you know? A
beauty like yours is not a gift, it’s a duty. You
most protect it and use it to serve mankind. You
know what I mean?”

“Yeah, you want to get laid for ten bucks.”

“No, no, on the contrary, I want you to become a
priestess, a vestal virgin dedicated to beauty.”

“Too late for that, you should have come by years
ago. Look, I’m not supposed to sit with customers.
I have to go.”

“See here, I’m serious, your looks can be a blessing
or a curse. Use your beauty well.”

“How? By going out with you?”

“No, you make an impression on people. You get their
attention. You could make them happy with a few kind
words, a smile. They’d listen to you if you put
forward an opinion.”

“I want to become a singer. Music makes people happy.”

“Is that your real name in your name tag, Mary? She
nodded. “You’d have to change it. Do you have a good
voice?”

“Not bad. I’m taking singing lessons.”

“You should work to elect Brown governor of Illinois.
You could be a political force.”

She stood up. “I have to go.”

“I work for Brown. I could introduce you.”

“Isn’t Brown black?”

“Yeah, sort of, but he’s a great guy. Let’s meet later.
At what time do you quit?

“Midnight.”

“I’ll be here. OK?”

” OK. Just to talk for a few minutes, you understand.”

“Sure, just to talk.”

“What’s your name?”

“Juan.”

“No good. I’ll call you… Carlos.”

But she never called me Carlos. I met a friend on
leaving the restaurant and he took me to a party where
I met a girl. Well, you know how that goes. I was
otherwise engaged at midnight. Next day, I showed up
at the restaurant all contrite, full of excuses, but
she cut me short.

“No second chances, pal. You stood me up, and I’m not
the forgiving type.”

She turned and walked away.

****

Ten years later, I saw her again at a smaller cheaper
restaurant with no decor, but better food. She was
the only waitress.

“You don’t recognize me, do you?” she said.

“Sorry, no. You are…?”

“Mary, who you said should become a priestess of
beauty, and work for Brown. Do you remember me, now?”

“Yes, I do,” I said, not believing my eyes. A head
of lettuce showing wilting signs had replaced the
perfect rose. “Did you ever become a singer?”

” No, I took your advice, and helped Brown.”

“How did that work out for you?”

“It was the perfect curse, you creep! I had an affair
with Brown. I got pregnant. His opponent or his wife
found out and one or the other called the press.
Brown lost the election and moved to Ohio. I had a
boy, and got postpartum depression. I’m still on
antidepressants and have become this tub of lard.
I’m finished, you bastard.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember now. I had no idea that you
were the femme fatale. How wonderful!”

“Wonderful?” She screamed, waving the heavy menu
above my head as if to strike me as a coconut is
struck with a machete. “You didn’t work for Brown,
you liar. He didn’t even know you.”

“Well, look at the bright side. You changed history.
How many people get to do that? Brown was a shoo in.
God knows what disasters Brown would have caused as
a state governor.”

“Fuck both, you, and history! My singing career is
ruined,my life is finished because of you.”

“I’m very sorry. Look, I think I’d rather have
Chinese across the street, instead,” I said, leaving.

“I quit at eight, in case you are interested in
talking some more,” she yelled.

Wow, I thought, while eating fried rice. I changed
history just by making a suggestion. Words are
dangerous. I better watch my mouth. But I was pretty
impressed by my historical role.

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