She knew it was coming and so places her rising panic in the next room. Then she peels off her calamine pink waitress uniform slowly, parks her feet on the table, and balances the unread letter on her skinny knees.
She took the waitress job on a dare, and that remained the official story. Secretly, she hoped it might expose her to new material. She always felt a yearning to write songs about them — the working class. Rubbing shoulders with plumbers, drivers, health care workers she reasoned, might be just the thing. And while her songs sound nothing like Bruce’s, she feels an obligation, in much the same way that actors seek out Shakespeare, to write at least twelve songs — twelve profiles of the people who sit at her counter.
Absolutely, she complains to friends about her work. It’s become her schtick. Friends linger, once she gets on a roll. “First, there’s the feet. My feet. I watch them morph into super feet. Super bad feet.” Then they laugh and it all seems worthwhile.
Initially, she coped with the early morning hours by staying up all nigh. It worked out great. She’d wash down a greasy breakfast with a hit of black coffee, which buoyed her until ten-ish. And then, with two hours remaining on her shift, she’d crash hopelessly. So, she got her act together, renounced her nightlife for what she told herself was a handful of months (surely, you can do that much, Shakira) and went to bed at a reasonable hour. Her bleary party girl routine earned her big tips and granted her free license to chat up her customers. She’d jot down notes, lines of dialogue, story starters on the cardboard back of her checkbook, then tuck it neatly inside her apron.
Her life was purposeful and yet random. During her sober sojourn into the life of the working class, Sharkira and her live-in boyfriend Benjamin, drifted apart. I’m guessing that the glue that held them together was music and the wild freedom that comes with the night. Had they had to work to be together, had he pursued her or she him, they might have stood a chance.
They met through an ad on Craig’s List. He had a spare bedroom in a low rent district, and she was new to the city. First time they slept together was magic. It was a summer of sweat, slippery bodies, the unexpected collision of desire and novelty. Ben didn’t believe in AC.
But now, with Shakira no longer his playmate, Ben thinks hard about ambiguity. Not necessarily the ambiguity of his feelings regarding Shakira, but rather ambiguity in general. Ben is on the look out for themes on which to base new songs. He and his band have booked a regular gig at the new bar down the street and are churning through songs at a stiff pace. Ben has had to up his game, increase his output, get serious about the life he had chosen. The problem is that he and his band mates have renounced songs about love, coupling, uncoupling. He’s bored with the subject. Even though Shakira had once upon a time set his heart on fire and he had walked around feeling like the luckiest guy in the world, he didn’t write songs about that. Instead, he wrote songs about the abuse of irony, the loss of authenticity. And now ambiguity.
In the letter Ben talks about “disambiguation”, removing ambiguity by making things clear. Basically, Ben has been sleeping with someone else, someone special, someone who fills him up, inspiring him to write his first love songs. The guy, the special someone, is moving in tomorrow and so, Ben concludes, Shakira has to be out before midnight.
Shakira changes into civilian clothes and then deliberately connects with the panic she placed in the next room.
Her gut goes into overdrive, alternating between rage and fury, fury and nausea. The friends, from college, from the music scene, rally around her. Someone knows of a self-storage place nearby where the night guard, a woman named Ena, would cut her a deal.