The Remainder

by marinashifrin

I’m running. I could hear whistles and cat-calls as I sprinted down 7th avenue. My short dress was flying up exposing my pink and black-checkered underwear, but I didn’t care because I was late.

I pulled my crumpled resume from my purse and intercepted a drop of sweat from trickling down my neck. The restaurant was dark and empty except for one guy sitting at the bar: Mike. I put on my biggest smile and reached out to shake his hand, “Hi, you must be Mike. I’m Marina, nice to meet you.”

At this moment I didn’t know that:

  • in three days I’d get hired there as a waitress.
  • in two weeks I would find out Mike was also a brilliant music engineer that had gotten a Grammy Nomination for his work on Death Cab for Cutie’s song Long Division.
  • in four weeks I would learn I was stronger than I thought.
  • in six weeks Mike and I would drunkenly kiss, which would lead to a month long relationship.
  • in twelve weeks I would leave the restaurant, and Mike, for good.

All I knew – at this moment in time – was that Mike had a firm handshake.

For three months, every Saturday and Sunday morning I would quietly slip into my black pants, black shirt and head to 7th avenue. Not-surprisingly, Korean-themed brunch is not popular. At all. So I spent most of my weekends alone at the restaurant watching the door. It’s strange spending so much time by yourself in a public place. It’s lonely but it’s safe.

I love people, just not the headache that comes with letting them into my life. This is why waitressing is such an attractive occupation to me. You have about 45 minutes with a table. The best part of the relationship! In the first 45 minutes things are still intriguing and charming. It was almost as if my tables were bite-sized, individually-wrapped relationships. I’d wait on my bestfriend, my boyfriend, husband, and so on, but they never lasted more than hour.

The customers who came to see me never got mad that I was too tired to go out, or that I didn’t like who they were dating. They never got annoyed at how neurotic I actually am or that I get insecure too much. Instead they laughed at my jokes, complemented my Korean, “You want the bulgoki bi bim bop?” and even tipped me when they were done. Waitressing brought me human interaction without the involvement.

I guess this brings me back to Manager Mike (as I called him). The Death Cab song he worked on has a line that says, “And they carried on like long division and it was clearer and clearer with every page that they were further away from a solution that would play without a remain, remain, remain, remainder.” Relationships are not simple math problems and sometimes they end, but there is always a remainder, like in long division – one person who gets left behind. I have spent so much of my time avoiding being the remainder in the relationship that I have become the only one remaining.

No one at the restaurant knew Mike and I were dating, and quite honestly I hadn’t realized how serious it had gotten until it was too late and he was gone. My problem is that as soon as I feel like someone breaks from the convenient bite-sized wrapping and spills into my life, I get uncomfortable and run. I run from boyfriends to friends, I run from friends to job interviews at Korean restaurants, I run from Korean restaurants to…I’m running.

Lesson 5: Even restaurant relationships end, leaving you watching the door.