The first time he came into Maxine’s he sat alone at a small corner table close to the bar. He was in his early thirties, just less than six feet tall, a little on the thin side, although he looked like he worked out on a regular basis. He was wearing black jeans, sneakers, and a navy blue tee shirt. With his dark wavy hair and charismatic smile, he would have been impossible not to notice no matter how hard he tried to blend in.
The tables in the dining room were almost full with customers who were there for the evening entertainment. A few seats were left at the bar. Sunday night was beginning to jump. One cocktail waitress had called out sick. Only two of us were left to handle the whole house. I knew I’d have to hustle. On Saturdays I could make decent tips, but Sunday was Karaoke night. Most of the crowd went there to sing, not drink. Since the mystery man arrived shortly before the end of the first round of singers. I wasn’t sure which category of customers he fell into. I hoped it was the latter as I headed toward him.
He was watching a middle-aged woman who was on stage. She was singing ‘I Will Survive,’ a popular number I heard at least once a week back then. Four of her rowdy friends sang from their seats. He seemed amused. I was thankful they weren’t in my section.
“What can I get you?” I asked.
“I’ll have a Bud Light.”
“I’ll be right back,” I replied. Good. He’s here to drink.
When I returned a few minutes later, I found him thumbing through a songbook. He was there for Karaoke. My image of him was shattered along with my hope for a big tip. He closed the book and pushed it aside to make room for his beer. I slid a cocktail napkin in front of him and carefully set down the familiar brown bottle.
“Planning to sing for us?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe,” he said, flashing me an innocent smile. He looked a little embarrassed.
He paid for the drink and gave me a generous tip. Surprised, I thanked him, wished him luck and moved along to my next table. He seemed so quiet and reserved. I couldn’t help wondering what he was going to sing. He didn’t strike me as a guy who would get up and make a spectacle of himself. Not that they were paying close attention to the singers. Most were too busy talking, looking at the books, and figuring out what they were going to sing to care about the person on stage.
© 2016, Lina Rehal. All rights reserved.
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