100 Waitresses–The Keg
It’s a Friday night just before Christmas and The Keg Mansion is insanely busy.
Upstairs at the bar there’s an unrelenting press of people. So many of them. Jostling together excitedly, they’re all hopeful on this festive night out, each one wanting to feel special in some regard, each one waiting for their life to pivot. Unshaven Bros in sports toques and ball caps, beta predators who only move in packs of two and threes, are looking over at a cluster of Friday night women worrying their phones. Men are pushed up against the bar three deep, each one competing for something.
The bartender is at the centre of it all.
Although completely overwhelmed, she’s working calmly through the chaos. Surrounded on all sides by some sort of want, she makes a millions subtle calculations with each one of her actions. Each person is a problem that must be solved, a fire that must be extinguished. Her face determined, she moves fluidly and with purpose, and all the men encircling her at the bar with their steaks and Keg-sized glasses of red wine, are watching.
A man around 60 leans in. Everyone is leaning in, trying to flag her attention. This man, he’s lived his life handsome, and the confident residue of that lingers within him still, “Can I be next?” he asks in a salesman’s voice. The bartender forces a smile and takes his order, and all the other men waiting stiffen a little, jealous.
He is pleased with himself, this man. He feels special.
When she returns, he leans in yet further, “That tattoo on your right forearm, the roman numerals, are they from your favourite Shakespeare passage? Are you an actress?”
It is not clear that she is flattered by this attention, but she gives a partial, evasive answer.
“It’s a date,” she says, giving the man a polite, discouraging smile. Gesturing to how busy she is, she moves to disengage and tend to other preening, signalling men, but this man was not finished. “This is my favourite passage,” he began, and then in his best Shakespearian accent:
“If music be the food of love, play on.
Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die…”
And she is trapped, so trapped she is almost suspended in air.
Her eyes close for just a moment, as if it is all too much, and then she reanimates herself and begins to applaud robustly, cutting the man’s recitation short. It was as if a battle had been won, and she got to keep the secret of the tattoo– something so important, so crucial to who she wanted to be, that she had it written into her flesh–for herself.