Empath Entries – 1
It was nice to get out. The friends were charming, and I loved to try new restaurants. I even felt alright despite the crowd. But when it came time for our table to voice orders, I got locked on the waiter.
A student, pursuing a graduate degree perhaps. Not exactly young. He wanted to do his job well, and therefore kept a straight face and calm manner while waiting for the customers to make up their minds. Desperation oozed from his eyes, frustration flushing up his neck and into his face. These people had been sitting here for thirty minutes already, how could they not know what they wanted to eat?
The couple laughed, cracked jokes, not any closer to a verdict. As his anxiety rose, so did mine. I quickly made a point of preparing my order, so I would not take up much time when it was my turn. My husband followed suit.
“I could come back if you need another moment,” he voiced.
“Oh, no, no we’re ready, let’s see…”
Glance here, glance there. So many tables. It was such a busy night. No one likes a slow waiter, and here he was keeping people waiting. He hoped this wouldn’t affect the tips.
After a few more questions about menu options, he finally had an order from the procrastinators and turned to me. An expression mixed of relief and pain. Hopeful but tired. I ordered quickly and his shoulders eased. My husband was also concise. But the waiter still left briskly, checking in with other diners to make sure all was still going smoothly after the ten minute hiccup he had just escaped. The uniforms were black, camouflaging any evidence of sweat.
I returned my attention to those at my table.
Oh no, I thought. Tainted.
I hated it when this happened. To onlookers the whole exchange of the past fifteen minutes had appeared completely normal. A waiter taking orders while some nice people enjoyed a night out. But they hadn’t felt what the waiter did. They weren’t put on edge by the burning need for efficiency. I was now forced to look on my friends from another’s point of view. One of distaste and annoyance.
I assured myself I was being dramatic. No one was forcing me to feel a particular way.
The waiter returned with our food, placing each plate before it’s recipient with delicacy. His hands clenched, laced together at his chest as he made the customary inquiry of whether we would be needing anything else. His body faced away and feet started moving before receiving a full answer. He could not give them more time than necessary, too much had been wasted, he had to salvage the night.
Conversation continued, whether or not my attention was centered upon it.
“How did you two meet?”
“What do you do for work?”
“Plan to stay in the area long?”
I’d chime in when necessary. Nobody really expects other people to talk much, so I found it usually wasn’t difficult to get away without saying much. Not that I had something to hide, or that I didn’t want to talk with people. I was simply distracted.
There went the waiter again, making rounds throughout the room, checking on customers, hurried pace, the corners of his mouth turned up though his eyes were not smiling. Menus to this table, the check to that one. Food steamed on glistening plates. Someone had stained a tablecloth with their sauce. He made a note to have it sent to laundry as soon as the night was over.
He eventually approached us again, not letting hesitation slow his work.
“Will we be ordering any desert this evening?”
This time they were ready, so he politely answered their dietary queries and ran off to put in their order.
Looking on our company once more, I found though perhaps not completely recovered, hope was not lost. The restaurant cleared out some as the night tarried on and the whole place seemed to relax, heat dissipating with the bodies.
The waiter brought our check with the dessert, so as to be done with us as soon as possible, and we were soon standing up and making our goodbyes.
“We have to do this again sometime,”
“I’m so glad tonight worked out,”
“We’ll see you around.”
We ran back to our car to get out of the cold.
“Well that was fun,” my husband chimed.
“Yeah! Yeah, I guess. I just felt bad for the waiter.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, you know, he was just so anxious with everything going on. At one point I was sure he was going to burst .”
“I guess I didn’t notice.”
And that was the last we’d say about the waiter. Because although I felt I’d spent a whole night with him, no one else had really noticed.
It wasn’t late when we arrived at home, but I immediately made my way to the bed and plopped myself down without so much as taking off my shoes.
“Hey, you alright?”
“Yeah. I’m just drained.”
He came to sit next to me, so he could see my face. “You do look pretty tired.”
Tired of feeling.
Empath was the new buzzword. I guess it fit, I’d just never been one to subscribe to labels. I feel what other people are feeling, and it’s exhausting. Some people understand, most don’t. When I’ve tried to explain it in the past, it’s come off as me claiming some supernatural power. Google even defines it as follows:
(chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
Casting myself as a superhero sounds pretty cool, except that I don’t live in a science fiction novel. I wake up every morning and deal with real life and real people with real problems and worries and emotions. I get a headache when I walk into a room that has too much energy-buzz. That sensation when everything seems to be humming at a higher frequency than normal. It might be a surge of anxiety, or excitement, or even productivity, but it makes me feel like there are bees swarming around my head. My husband makes fun of me when he comes home and finds me sitting happily in the dark, but sometimes lights are just too loud. Sleep is usually a safe place, and in that moment after our couples date, it is all I wanted.
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