“You coming out on Saturday with us, Tan-man?” Ruairi asks. We’re sitting on the balcony after work, a few glasses of wine and beer bottles on the wooden table. The crew is sitting outside with our staff drinks, the balcony doors opening into an empty restaurant behind us. Ruairi and Ben have their standard Heinikens; Sinéad, Jenna, and I opted for wine. Ruairi drops his finished cigarette in his now empty bottle.
“After the busy weekend that’s coming up? Maybe, I imagine I’ll be super tired. What’s the occasion?” I ask, finishing the last bit of wine in my glass. I am looking down the lakefront street of Wanaka, admiring the silhouettes of the mountains set against a starry backdrop. Small noises from other restaurants and bars downtown barely reach our ears, the soft glow of the lights from inside dimly illuminating the people outside smoking. I zip my jacket up against the wind, it is finally starting to cool off at night now in early March.
“It’s Sinéad’s birthday, eh?” Ruairi says excitedly. “We’re going out to celebrate eh?” He nudges her in the side with his elbow a couple times.
“Oh yeah? Guess I’ll have to come out for that. How old are you going to be?”
“Twenty-seven” Sinéad says. I slight bit of existential horror creeps up my spine.
“Wait, I’m older than you? Gods, I feel so fucking old,” I say, groaning, . “It was a weird feeling when it happened at my last job, I can’t believe it happened again.”
“How old did you think we were?” She asks.
“I don’t know, closer to thirty than that. Twenty-nine maybe?”
“Ruairi’s grey hair tends to fool some people,” Sinéad says, running her hands through his hair with a familiar touch. His hair has a faded color, a dull, slate gray that is noticeably faded. A few silver hairs poke through. “But yeah, a night out after a busy week does the opposite for me, I need it, it gives me energy, a release, ya know?” She drops her
“No, not really, I’ll probably just want to sleep after the busy weekend.”
“Nah, nothing like a good night out to help with the stressful week,” Ruairi says. Ruairi looks confused when I shrug and make a hand gesture. “What, you don’t think you’ll want to blow off some steam after the weekend?”
“Not really, I don’t get stressed out about things.”
“Nah, you will this weekend. It’s going to be a madhouse Friday and Saturday.”
A knowing smile spreads across my face unwillingly. People never understand the first time I tell them. “No,” I say, explaining further. “I don’t stress about things. Ever. I literally don’t know what it is like to feel stress.”
“No, you’re shitting me.”
“I shit you not.”
“Can you teach me how to do that?” Sinéad asks.
I shift in my seat a bit. I have never been able to explain it well. “Anything that you would stress over is just a problem, and you can solve it or you can’t. Either way, no use worrying about it.” I say, and I shrug half-heartedly. “But you can’t really teach someone to not worry, can you? I wish I could, I would write a book and be rich.”
Sinéad coughs. “I need to stop smoking,” she says to no one in particular, a hand holding her chest. I look back over the town. As nice as Wanaka is, I know I will leave come October. I have no idea where I will go after. But, there is no need to be concerned about that now.
Saturday night, The Landing is packed, noise presses into every corner of our small space. The clattering of dishes and glasses, the knives and forks are musical against the loud, dull roar of conversation, occasionally punctuated by the sharp ring of the bell from the kitchen, signaling food ready to be run. Jenna and Sinéad and I dance between tables and people, following the frantic pace of the music the restaurant plays.
A loud, harsh shattering of a plate on the tile floor briefly interrupts sound of the restaurant, a short but deep silence for a brief moment before resuming. A plate fell from the pass, I was trying to pick up several at once. At least there was no food on it. I quickly put the other plates back down and retrieve the dustpan, efficiently sweeping the pieces and tossing them away into the bin. I pick the other plates back up and return to the rhythm of the restaurant, the plate already forgotten as I move with haste once more.
“Are you alright?” Sinéad asks me. I am only half listening. I make a questioning sound while my attention is still on the till as I punch in an order. “Are you doing ok?” she asks again. I finally look up as I punch the last item in and faintly hear the docket print out in the kitchen.
“Yeah?” I half-answer, half-ask in reply, not truly understanding.
Sinéad gives me an amused look. “You really never lose your cool, do you?”
“Oh,” I say, stretching out the syllable for a few seconds as understanding comes to me. I laugh. “No, I really don’t.”
“It’s an absolute madhouse in here. If I just broke a plate, I think I’d be crying. But you, you just sweep it up like its nothing and move on. You’re so good, how do you do it?” This brings another bout of laughter, from both of us this time.
“Cool as a cucumber. Hand me a couple of glasses, will you?” I ask. She passes them over. “Just do what you gotta do,” I say over my shoulder as I float back off between the tables.