Freedom at last!
I glance at my watch, well...almost.
Thirty more minutes on the clock until my shift is over. I quit this waitress job, and my self-approval is quite high. It’s about damn time I take this step and finally follow my dreams.
This restaurant reminds me of Mexico. Its walls display colorful murals that show scenes of a desert landscape with tall green cacti, agaves, and other native plants. Couples smile as they celebrate and enjoy a dance. The men in their tight black suits and oversized sombreros hold their partner’s hand, and the women twirl their rainbow color dresses.
The raw wood tables and chairs match the ones painted in the mural and give the vibe of being part of the outdoor celebration. The life-like scenery makes me feel like I’m in Mexico, but I desperately want to be there in person. I peel my eyes away from the mural and realize it’s time to go. Feeling like a badass, I push through the wooden saloon doors and strut towards the breakroom with a smile.
My co-worker Samantha exits the breakroom and ties her blond hair up in a high ponytail. She ties her apron around her waist, and I patiently stare at her and wait for her to look up at me so I can say hi.
Sometimes she doesn’t hear me. This time I make sure I speak louder, “Oh, hi, Samantha.”
She walks toward me and sarcastically smiles. Ok? I don’t know what her problem is. We never really got along. She’s the type of person who thinks they are perfect and never makes any mistakes.
“I’m going to miss you too,” I keep my eyes on her as she passes by. I’m sure she can hear me, but she doesn’t turn around or say anything. She just continues on her way. The breakroom is small, but it was my zen space. I remove my apron and throw it into the linen bin next to the lockers. I take my bag out of my locker and slam the door.
I drop my bag on the breakroom table and wait for the seconds to go by. My co-worker Nate made it bearable to work this waitressing job. His silly jokes and friendly smile always made my workday fun. Since high school, he’s been my best friend and always has my back. We’ve been there for each other throughout the years, during good and bad moments.
I sit down on a chair to wait for Nate to arrive, and I scroll through my phone and look at pictures of what will be my first destination, Mexico. That’s where my family is from. My parents become uncomfortable and change the subject when I ask them about our family. I only know that my grandmother Esperanza lives there in the countryside.
My dream is to travel around the world by myself. Nate supports me one hundred percent. On the other hand, my family tells me not to waste my money. They don’t understand that it’s something I yearn to do. To experience places I’ve never been to will give my life a different pace and help break everyday life’s vicious cycle. I can’t wait to meet other people, learn about their cultures, and eat delicious foods. The reflection on my phone mirrors the goofy grin I have on my face, and I’m glad the break room is empty, and nobody is here to witness it.
It has taken me three years to save up cash and plan my trips. My living situation has been beneficial. In a Mexican household, grown children can live at home until we marry, and I admit that I’ve taken advantage of that. I pay rent and help with bills, but it has helped me towards my goal.
This place was my first job out of High school, Nate’s family’s restaurant. It taught me how to deal with men and their hungry gazes, and I don’t mean food hungry. I mean the dirty thinking kind of gazes and the occasional comments about my ass.
I am not saying I’m gorgeous either, but I try to stay in shape. I’m naturally curvy, not too thin, too heavy, not too short, or too tall-I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. I have my mother’s dark brown, long hair and dark brown almond-shaped eyes. I have olive skin that tans easily, just like my father.
My appearance never bothered me, and nobody bothered me about it. I was a daydreamer, shy, and clumsy, which sometimes got me into trouble. My brothers were my shield against any bully, which might be why I had a hard time coping with uncomfortable situations.
Slowly, I built defenses. I knew these drunk bastards were encouraged by alcohol. At the end of most shifts, I found myself physically and mentally exhausted but thankful for the extra cash I would receive. The tips were the reason I kept coming back.
Since then, I have grown so much because now, sometimes, these interactions hardly affect me. I play along. I smile and wink at them, make jokes, and sometimes even swing my hips as I walk away. I find that I get bigger tips when I act this way. It makes my humiliation worthwhile. Maybe I should feel shame, but these tips did help me reach my goal, so I’m grateful. Nate frowns down on my behavior because he thinks it encourages them. But this is how I cope in these situations. Also, he can’t tell me what to do; he’s not my boyfriend.
I lean back in my chair. I must say It’s a bittersweet feeling. Oh, Nathan, I’m going to miss you. He has tried to be my boyfriend throughout the years, but I always refuse. I can’t risk losing him if it doesn’t work out.
Nate is a good person, and I love him as my friend. But the physical attraction is strong, and I can’t deny that it has also grown throughout the years. Because now, when Nate’s attractive amber eyes look at me and his sexy lips curve upwards, I get lost in a daydream. I touch his sunkissed face in my mind, my hands travel up to his black hair, and I run my fingers through his messy short hair. His strong arms wrap around me, and we kiss like there’s no tomorrow. But every time I lose myself in this daydream, I quickly snap out of it, and my mind shames me.
Even just thinking about my daydream now gives me butterflies in my stomach. Maybe when I come back, I will tell him how I feel about him. But for now, I plan to travel, and I doubt he will wait for me.
Footsteps approach the breakroom, and I look towards the door. Oh, speaking of the handsome devil, here he comes.