While he was setting up the steam table, Lexi came into the kitchen and walked around the line to say hello. She was already in her uniform but still she was gorgeous in ways that none of the other waitresses were. Bill was immediately turned on, this despite having just been with Bea and having spent the night with Mary. She smelled like lavender and he wanted to lick behind her ears. He knew that would start her off like she had just done to him by simply approaching him. He wanted to lick a lot of stuff.
“Hey babe,” she said.
“Want a beer?”
“Bring two, one for Mary.”
“You go it.”
“You working tonight?”
“Naw. I’m off.”
“I’m free. Want some late company?”
“Wish I could. Gonna be out.”
“Come back home. Won’t be till about twelve-thirty.”
“Let you know later.” She turned and left the line the same way she’d come on.
Bill was finished with the liners and inserts when Mary came back up. First thing, he noticed she had those far-away eyes and she was totally messed up. He couldn’t remember ever having seen her like this and while on one level it was kind of funny and even cute, on another level he was immediately concerned and even worried.
“Maybe you better take that upper,” he said.
“Cause I can see in your face you’re all messed up.”
“I’m all right.”
“Lexi bringing in some beers.”
“You gonna do her too?”
Bill looked into Mary’s face. “Why you going there?”
“Going where? Maybe you could do Lorraine and Norma at the same time as Lexi.”
“Ah, shit,” Bill said.
“Yeah. Ah shit.” Mary went around back to her station and asked from back there what Bill was ready for.
Bill did not answer. He went around back to where Mary was and found her simply leaning up against her counter looking down at her feet. He stood himself next to her, leaned against the counter the same way she was.
“Garbage head,” he said. “Truth is I was a garbage head. Maybe I still am. If it would make me high, I’d take it. If I didn’t know whether it would make me high or not, I’d try it. I didn’t give it a thought. Something would take me out of my own head and put me in a different place, I’d take it.”
“Why you telling me this? I ain’t your mother.”
“Nope. You aren’t my mother, that’s for sure. I told you I’d give you the truth. Well, that’s one part of my truth.”
“Give you the rest after you tell my why you’re mad. But I already know.”
“Yeah, what you think you know Mr. College Graduate?”
“I think you got a bad head is all. You just aren’t used to the drugs. You’re not used to being up all night. And you’re not used to caring about someone.”
“Fuck you,” Mary said.
“Yeah, that’s what I mean. We had a great time and we’re gonna have another one, and I know you want to mess it up so you don’t have to deal with it. Wanna know how I know? Cause I want to do the same thing and everywhere else in my life I do that same goddamn thing. But I ain’t doing it here and I ain’t letting you do it either. I’m going to set those baked potatoes into a pan and I’m putting them on the line. Take the upper with your beer.”
Bill only wished that the distance between where Mary was and where the convection oven was was a whole lot greater. But he couldn’t do anything about that. So he opened the glass doors and started taking the potatoes, two at a time in each hand, and placing them in the steam table pan he’d set there. Every now and then he’d look toward Mary. Finally she came over by him.
“You care about me?” she asked.