Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kitchen singing

There is a tall black man who works in the kitchen at my restaurant. He's got crinkly eyes, a wide smile and one of the most fantastic singing voices I've ever heard.

I made this discovery about a month ago when I worked one night that he was working. I was dumping some dirty dishes off by the dishwasher when I heard a stunningly on-point, a cappella rendition of Usher's "U Remind Me." I turned my head and saw this skyscrape-like figure bopping his head back and forth, his arms elbow-deep in uncooked ribs, serenading them as if it were 2001. He was Usher and the ribs were Chilli from TLC. (Remember, they dated?)

I shoved the dishes in the dishwasher and crept up beside him. He smiled at me and began singing to me, and I responded by harmonizing with him on the chorus. "You remind me of a girl that I once knew," we jammed together. "See her face whenever I, I look at you..." I don't think anyone had every acknowledged his singing before. He seemed so grateful to have someone to sing with.

In the nights that I've worked with him since, he greets me with a high five and a "Hello, angel!" I always ask him, "What are we singing tonight?" Sometimes it's Michael Jackson, other nights it's Rihanna or Beyonce. It's always R&B to get our spirits up in the stress---or tedium---of the dinner shift.

Tonight, as I stood in the back polishing silverware, I asked him, "Where are you from?"

He whipped out that huge smile of his and answered, "Jamaica."

It made so much sense. He's so carefree and easygoing. Of course, he's from the beach. "Oh, wow. I've never been."

"Man, oh man," he said, leaning up against the dishwasher. "It's paradise. The beach." He exploded his fingers, "and the sun."

I imagined him dancing on the beach with long-haired women in hula skirts. "How long have you been in New York?"

"Seven years," he answered. I wondered what his big dreams were. How he came to work in the kitchen. "I'll take you to Jamaica sometime."

"Oh, really!" I laughed. That's how all the kitchen guys are. They flirt with you, tell you they're going to take you home, meet their parents, take you out, give you a good time. "I look forward to that."

Later in the night, when I was about to leave, I bumped into him and he extended his arm for a hug. It was one of those hugs in which the two huggers don't actually touch bodies, they just place their heads in the negative space next to the partner's head, and wrap their one arm around the other, making as little contact as possible, as if they were a ghost. "Goodnight, angel," he said.

"Goodnight," I said to him. As I high-fived him and turned around to turn in my money, he said, "I'd like to take you to church sometime."

"Church!" was all I could say. "Church!"

"I'd like to hear you sing a Christmas song," he confessed. "Joy to the World. I think you have the voice of an angel."

Blushing, I responded, "No way. You're the star here. You have one of the best voices I've ever heard."

He smiled, and I saw him on the beach. "Thanks. Goodnight, angel. I'll see you tomorrow."

No comments:

Post a Comment