I’m writing from a hotel restaurant. I remember once when Nina came to San Jose for business, she invited Mommy and I to dinner at the hotel restaurant. We were such scared little country mice. My mom dressed me in my best Sunday dress and we drove the fifty miles from the country into the city. We drove into the pay lot and turned around when they told us it was ten dollars. We parked very far away, it was cold and I remember holding my mothers hand and feeling like I might be blown away by the wind.
When we got there I had to pee and I asked my mama where the bathroom was and she said to go ask the lady at the front desk but to make sure I said “Can you please tell me where I can find the ladies room?” She said to say it that way and make sure I didn’t say bathroom because it was crass.
We met Nina for dinner in the restaurant and we were very nervous because it was a fancy restaurant. Nina wore a white linen shirt and tight old blue jeans and slipped off her sandals under the table and crossed her legs like they taught us to do in school. Nina had bare feet right there in the restaurant! That’s how I learned that rich people can go to dinner dressed any old way they want.
Last week Linda said we should dress up and go to the ballet and pretend we are rich and I told Linda that if we want to pretend we are rich than we should wear rags, carry designer purses and fart in our seats. Rich people don’t seem to give a fuck about anything, at least that is what I’ve always thought.
There is a latin family sitting in the table in the corner. It is Saturday and there is a special Saturday brunch buffet. I wonder if the family is the family of the waitstaff. I am so unaccustomed to seeing latin people with money. Is that racism classism or intimate knowledge of my own culture? I find with greater and greater frequency that I am unable to tell the difference.
Now that I am a grownup, sitting here in this crappy hotel restaurant, I know that it is not fancy. If the children at the table next to me are self-conscious, which they don’t appear to be, I’d like to go let them know that they don’t have to worry, that the hotel is not fancy at all. My heart aches for the little country mice who thought that they were not good enough to be here, that they didn’t belong. I want to take that little girl and tell her she is better than this place, that she is better than multi-billion dollar corporate hotel chains, better than key cards, and nylon ferns in cement containers. She should not worry about velvet ropes or using her best manners because when she grows up she’ll take her long distance girlfriend places like this so that they can stay in the bathtub all day without worrying about her roommate needing to use the toilet.
The chef comes out of the kitchen and smiles at the family seated at the largest table. He introduces the waitress’s to his mother and for some reason this makes my heart happy. Why is that? Why did I want them to be poor too? I think it is because I am lonely and I want to feel closer to them and not far away.
The maitre’de leaves the kitchen, buttoning up his jacket. He is carrying sweating pitchers of ice water and a silver carafe full of coffee and creamer balanced on a silver tray. He sets them down on the buffet table and checks his watch.
Looking into the kitchen it like seeing everyone with their pants down. From here I can see every headache, every hangover, every missed period, and aching tooth and it is beautiful.