I peer over the counter into the searing eyes of Fuming Falafel Woman, the Cruella Deville of a customer who has been rapping her nails on the counter for ten excruciating minutes.
I glide into my best Soothing Therapist voice, grateful that I was trained as an actor before I stumbled into the restaurant industry. “No, the falafel appetizer isn’t here yet. Just a few more minutes. I’ll let you know as soon as your pickup order is ready.”
She grunts. I’m certain that I can see steam curling out of her nostrils.
I gingerly step around Falafel Woman to the other side of the counter where I begin pouring soup into cardboard cups, imagining my customer in a hideous fur coat sewn from the spotted puppy hides. It seems appropriate. I’m so caught up in my mental description of an imagined cigarette holder between her tap, tap, tapping nails that I just barely catch the tail end of some typical customer commentary nearby.
“I thought it was a guy from behind…” Laughter ensues.
The commentator is a snickering cisguy within a crew of dudebros. They could only be talking about me, the sole “waitress” on staff with an intentionally flat chest and hair like stegosaurus spikes with a runaway Elvis curl. I expected these kinds of comments when I stopped femming-out for work. I ignore them.
“Aqui, aqui!” The cook hands me a container of falafel and jerks his head in my impatient customer’s direction.
“Finalmente! Muchas gracias.” I shove the package across the counter with a receipt. “Here—it’s ready.”
Falafel Woman/Cruella Deville stares me down. The fury in her eyes has melted into something manic.
“I see you.” The words fall flat on the countertop with comical sincerity. I think she’s raving mad.
“Um, yes you do. Your total is…”
“I see you.” She cuts me off—her voice is more insistent this time. “Don’t let anybody rain on your parade.” A decorative scarf engulfs her shaven head and gem stone rings adorn her hands—I conclude that this woman must supplement her day job earnings with professional tarot card readings. She pulls off the creepy fortune teller voice too well.
“Ok…” I reach for her crumpled dollar bills (fortune telling tips, I’m sure) and direct my attention elsewhere.
“No, you’re not listening.” She reaches a frantic hand across the counter; gem stones grate against the granite. Her voice dips into a deep whisper. “I heard what those men were saying about you. Don’t let them rain on your parade. I see you. I look at you and I see me. Do you understand?” Her eyes latch onto mine like iron hooks and her Falafel Fury falls away into desperation. I finally realize that Falafel Woman isn’t crazy—she recognizes the ragged thread that connects us, the thread of outlaws. Her previous disposition suddenly makes sense. Falafel Woman’s fury is the product of a necessarily combative existence, a defense against those who contribute to her perpetual struggle. Yes, she definitely sees me.
I nod, watching a smile crinkle in the corners of her somber eyes. “I understand.”
“I like your personality. Stay the way you are. And don’t you ever let them rain on your parade.”
My Outlaw Sister swipes her falafel off the counter with a wink and a split second grin. She’s out the door before I can say, “I see you, too.”