I work nights at the restaurant, serving all kinds of food to all kinds of people. I serve drinks to minors, and I hate people who order manhattans. Becky works with me. We don’t clean the bathrooms, but we sign off on the cleaning sheet that they were done.
“I ain’t no Merry Maid,” she says.
One of us vacuums while the other looks for money under the cushions in the booths. We split the change fifty-fifty, that’s the deal. Once we found a small packet of cocaine. We split that fifty-fifty too.
We drink our shift drinks and then put our aprons in our bags and head out the back door into the night. Everything changes when the door closes behind us. Time slows, and we take in large breaths of air.
Becky sits on the back stair to smoke, and I walk through the gravel parking lot to the building next door. I head up the wooden stairs to the rear entrance of the bar.
“Night, Beck,” I say.
“Goodnight, Celia. See you tomorrow.” I see the glow of her cigarette and the outline of her face. She fades into the dark.
The stairs to the bar are rickety, and the heavy door at the top sticks. Red candles glow on the tables. Jane is bartending. She’s tan and pretty, and Rico looks down her shirt when she hands us our drinks. Rico kisses me hard on the lips, then leaves his hand wrapped around the back of my neck.
It’s after hours; the front door is locked. Here we find our absolution. This is the time when the rum is at its sweetest. The music on the jukebox is sultry. Eddie blows smoke rings from his expensive French cigarettes that circle my head and sink into my hair. Rico cooks downstairs in the restaurant that Eddie owns, then comes upstairs to drink Eddie’s rum. Rico’s hair smells like grilled onions.
Jane sits and takes off her shoes. Eddie rubs her feet, and she moans. Frank fills my glass. The rum gets even sweeter. Jane changes feet.
Rico rubs my leg under the table, and I feel my head lifting away from my body. Frank is scribbling on bar coasters.
“What is today?” asks Eddie.
“Today is tomorrow,” Jane says, “which if yesterday was Tuesday and today is Wednesday, then tomorrow is Thursday. Therefore, today is Thursday.”
“I love you, Jane,” Eddie says.
Frank passes around a coaster. On the back he has written, “I will never marry.” We all sign it. I sign under Rico’s name. I see smoke rings above Jane’s head; she looks like a princess.
“Kiss me,” Rico says.
I kiss him hard and taste the rum in his mouth. Eddie makes a toast and we lift our glasses. I see the four-finger bruise on my forearm in the candlelight. The rum gets sweeter, the candles start to go out, one by one, and my head floats out the door, high into the sky, above Becky’s long shadow and into the moonlight.