Fri 21 Dec 2007 10:39 PM
Slow night at the restaurant so it’s easy to accommodate the out of town party. Two couples, a little girl and her grandfather cluster around the table. Easy to seat, you should say, as they send a bottle of sparkling water back for being flat– you taste it and there’s nothing wrong with it at all. Great, slow night and the biggest party are a bunch of yuppie fucks, but that’s part of the job.
The two couples occupy one another leaving the little girl to be entertained by her grandfather. There’s something off about him, you notice, something inherently creepy in his face or bearing. “He looks like a child molester” you tell a co-worker, and it’s true that he does. The little girl, on the other hand, is pretty and precocious and better behaved than the adults who brought her here.
It’s a little surprising when she suddenly comes up to the counter, boxed in by the creepy grandfather. She holds a plate of bread out and the old man says, “Ask the nice lady for some butter”. The girl, obviously articulate enough to ask for butter on her own repeats as she has been told. “Of course, sweetheart,” you say, and pass a dish of butter over. The grandfather, meanwhile, stands behind the girl rubbing her face and hair;
not in an affectionate caress along the cheek as might be expected, but across the face entirely. “Ask the nice lady to spread the butter on the bread” he insists to his grand-daughter. It makes your guts churn, the way he dictates, but worse still is the suffocating pawing. Still, you focus on the girl who deserves the attention, “Of course, sweetheart, I’ll do that for you.” You adorn the bread but all the while you’re distracted by his hands on her face, rubbing. You pass the bread back and the little girl is let down from the counter stool. “That’s a nice lady,” he tells the girl and they return to their table where the couples conversation consumes them.
They don’t stay long. Without any notice being taken by the other adults the grandfather leads the little girl outside. Normal behavior to pacify a fussy child when the food is long in arriving but the little girl’s an angel. Your stomach takes a dive as you see them leave view of the front window. You get shaky, and you can’t swallow. You take the phone and step outside, to make it look like you’re making a call. They aren’t in view anymore, corners equal distance away from the front door. You follow what you hope are their steps, to the corner overlooking a vacant lot, and follow the sidewalk down the dimly-lit street of warehouses and trash and old cars either abandoned or parked and forgotten. Down the block, cast in shadow, you see them. It’s far away and they’re indistinct but it looks as tho the little girl is standing face-first against the wall of a crumbling building, partially obscured by her grandfather and his long coat. It’s too dark and they’re too far away but you’d swear he’s pushing her into the building, pressing her face against the bricks. You’re standing with a phone to your ear straining to see what exactly is happening when the grandfather frees the little girl from the building, and she stands now clear of his body and long coat. He bends down to her height and removes a handkerchief from the recesses of some pocket which he uses to wipe her face. Then he stands upright and propels her further down the street, away from the restaurant. You could swear he’s crossing himself as they walk, forehead, mouth and heart, like when they read the gospel in church.
You go back to work and wait, guts churning, unsure but filled with a horrible sensation and certainty. When the grandfather returns with the little girl she walks in and seats herself at the table, once again consumed by the conversation which has continued unabated. You catch the grandfather’s eye as he walks past and he looks right back at you, then continues on to the bathroom. You tell the waitress that you’re going to the office but to call you when the table’s check is ready. You sit and you don’t know what has happened but you know deep inside exactly what has happened, what is happening, what will happen. You take a drink, you call a trusted friend, you implore them for advice and as you’re talking the office phone rings. The waitress tells you that the table is paying now, and you stand to
return. So what do you do?
Completely unrelated is this clip of CNN mania from a year or so ago. A story on Richard Cohen, a formerly gay and now converted straight psychotherapist (of sorts) who aids gay men in reclaiming their straightness through unconventional means to say the least. It caps off at almost seven minutes but you should really watch all the way through because the action at the end is really worth it.