Dead Fish Eyes

June 29, 2017


Dear Dominique,

It’s been seven years. Thank you for hiring us.

I wanted to say thank you for giving me a job in my mid-to-late twenties that allowed me to make some quick cash to spend at that shit bar down the road from the restaurant. I learned a lot from those nights of Rumple Minze shots to cleanse the palate before making out with selfish, type-A, pilot wannabes.

Also, thank you for teaching me about Serge Gainsbourg. I recently visited his house and grave in Paris. I took a picture of an old, balding, overweight Frenchman who reminded me of you pretending to ring his doorbell on his flip phone.

You were my hero for turning up the song called “Love on the Beat,” an audio recorded rape scene, to mess with customers. You also taught me about Les Rita Mitsouko.

I really enjoyed the food you made and your menu. It was all comfort food. I always thought it was French cuisine because you are French. Now I know that this is not the case. You served surf and turf. I think about the potato puffs often.  You served four per order. When people did not eat all of them I got excited. I would take the ones that did not look like they had been touched and stuff them in my face when nobody was looking.

My heart would start racing, sweat forming on my forehead. If I had been caught I know I would at the very least be fired, if not murdered in cold blood. Something excruciatingly humiliating being screamed at me was also a possible outcome.  I would crouch near the trash can, pretending to dump the remaining contents into the trash but really, I was dumping the contents into my mouth. Many of us did that. One time I was so desperate to eat that I ate a potato puff that had was partially eaten by a customer.

Eating during a shift would create a grave consequence. That is another reason I drank. We were worked like coal miners (the fabric of what makes America great)  and I have a really high metabolism. Had I not had anything at all, I would start to feel like I was going to faint. Paul Rueben’s cousin used to bring granola bars and sandwiches to work and eat them secretly. I loathed him for eating his food. First, because I was starving. And second, because I was worried it would bring attention to us and I was terrified of you. I never knew how you would react.

You never let Paul Reuben’s cousin work on the busy side. He seemed okay with that, but he secretly was not. Paul Rueben’s cousin was the only one of us that had a child. Other than Tom and that woman with the red hair that worked the lunch shift. They weren’t as good at bringing their own lunch, however.

You always wore a t-shirt and khaki shorts. This makes sense in South Texas. Plain colored t-shirts with stains on them. Your belly stuck out of your shirt sometimes. You wore socks that came halfway up your calf. I cannot remember if you were balding, but I am fairly certain you had brown hair speckled on your skull. You seemed fairly disheveled ninety-eight percent of the time.

It’s impressive you lost so much weight.

One time when you passed me in the hall you screamed at me, “You smell like fish!” I did not know how to respond to that.

But most importantly, why all of the cream in the tomato basil soup? Is it because you’re French? It seems that you are obsessed with your Frenchness. It is so clear that when you speak English, you are not even trying to pronounce the words as they are spoken in America. Flavien said you were lazy. I think, maybe, you are just uninterested. What is it that you ran away from? Why is it that you don’t like Corpus Christi? Are you stuck in the middle? A dual citizen purgatory. Did you not pass the immigration exam? I know it is difficult, but I feel if you just trust in the Statue of Liberty, as your fellow Frenchmen do, you will be much happier in South Texas.

I have been curious over the years, what is your big deal with dead fish eyes?

You lurked around the restaurant like a grim reaper ready to impose a painful and slow death on each of us. It was a constant game for you to notice me working, but to not have any interaction with you whatsoever. The hair on the back of my neck would raise when I could feel your beady eyes judging me from a distance. We knew you were watching every one of us.

I got the feeling you thought I was putting on a façade when I pretended to care about working for you. I want to let you know you were correct about that. I was doing it for the money and because I could hang out with my friends and drink at work.

Often, or maybe every shift working there, I would come to work with a Diet Hansen’s soda can. I would dump it out and fill it up with booze when people were not looking. Sometimes I would bring the booze in the can beforehand. Simone and I became quick friends because of the Absinthe I put in the Diet Hansen’s Root Beer. She was very surprised at my take on Root Beer. This may make me seem like an alcoholic thing to do, which is something you may be able to relate to, but really, I just have trouble dealing with people in the context of serving food. I generally think people are not grateful. I suppose that I was not as grateful as I should or could have been for having that job.

Sometimes I cannot sleep at night because questions are drifting through my mind that I cannot answer. Why didn’t you take me to Paris? Only Shasta? Are you in love with Shasta? I guess her dead fish eyes are acceptable to you. Did Shasta give you a blow job? I am curious sometimes about how many blowjobs Shasta has given to older men. Not because I’m judging her, I’m just curious about it, just like I am curious about alien life form. Has she given three blow jobs to men over sixty years of age? Or two? Was she sober? Was she drunk?

I remember when you fired me. It’s a memory that sticks out from most of the memories in my life. I remember when you fired Frankie as well. I guess slapping your ass when she was mild-to-severely drunk from the homemade sangria put you over the top. I was there for that moment and I thought you were into her ass slap; apparently, you were not.

That day when I came into work, the chef met me in the parking lot and warned me of what was to come. I was astonished, I showed up on time, did my job, and did not complain. Sure, I could be blamed for having dead fish eyes a day or two (or twenty-seven) of my employment.  I found this to be hypocritical when you had me run to the store to get you handles of Canadian Club on several occasions that you very often imbibed and shared with us.

She told me I was being fired because I said I did not like the manager at the time. I told her discreetly; when we were drunk the night before. Then she told you and you decided to fire me. Or that is your lame reasoning. I didn’t like the manager, Tom. The reason wasn’t that she was a bad person or a manager, but because while she served people food, she had a huge cold sore on her face for almost two weeks. It made me lose my appetite, which was helpful because we were not allowed to eat the delicious food that we served all day. The sore was not enticing to the customers either.

I think you wanted a fresh start. You were sick of seeing my face. I sat in my car and wrote a rebuttal to the reason you were firing me, took a deep breath to compose myself and walked into the impending storm to sit and talk with you. We sat at the back table on the side of the restaurant that people went to if the other side was full. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but you said you were letting me go. I remember trying to defend myself with all of the reasons why you should not do this. Your reaction was to start screaming at me “to get the fuck out,” and a few other choice words.

You weren’t into my choice of words.

Turns out that firing me was the best thing to ever happen to me. I had just graduated from college and, instead of wasting my time serving plates of food, I was forced me to look for a job in my field of Psychology. I ended up working for a program that helps homeless people who are mentally ill find housing and other important services. I really liked my job and I made a difference in my community. I like to think you fired me because you knew I was too smart for that job, but I really think you did not like me at the time. I want to thank you for all of the unemployment money you sent my way.

But, that’s neither here nor there; I always thought you were an interesting person and I would have loved to go to Paris with you.

I do appreciate that day I came into your new location a few years ago for dinner and you came clean about how you treated all of us girls, Paul Reuben’s cousin, and Rico Suave. We talked about how the girls you had working for you at that time were subpar compared to the staff you had the years we worked for you. You said you didn’t realize how great you had it until it was gone. This is the beauty of metacognition and the release it can bring to uncomfortable memories.

Honestly, our relationship was pretty low key. I avoided the fuck out of you. When we did cross paths, you usually said something condescending. For example, my first night, I wore a yellow shirt that I bought at Old Navy. You told me I looked like “a fucking dead canary.” I would smile and laugh and walk off. I learned to do this because I was sexually harassed by my boss and his boy’s club members at a gym in my early twenties.

You never did mention to me the one time I had a see-through dress on. I had never worn this dress before. I was cleaning up doing pre-shift duties and I went to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and realized my dress was see through. I had no idea what to do. There was nothing to do than to ride it out. Thankfully, you did not notice or, if you did, you did not say anything and the manager at the time, Charles, shut the shades omitting the light so I was not as slutty looking.

I did really get mad at you though when you would let the Portuguese come in two minutes before we closed. I understand cultural customs, but shouldn’t that work both ways? At least, most of the time, you would let us take shots of your Canadian Club from to-go sauce cups. A head start to the night. And the Portuguese were pretty hot. Go Islanders Tennis!

Thank God we got jobs as professionals after working for you and are never forced to live our lives in the service industry again. Or with French men.


sig 2   sig 1

Simone and Marjolaine


Leave a Reply