Lovers pride themselves in who saw the other first. It is almost like winning the race when you are seated on the benches. Walter says he saw Ruth first. Ruth says that she chose him before he even spoke to her.
I say they are delusional.
Walter waited tables at The Grill. He walked in at seven and left at nine every day. He took his first break at eleven. He would walk out and go stand beside the garbage bin and smoke two cigarettes then wash his hands and face and walk back into the restaurant to take his tea and mandazi. He took pride in how well groomed he was for a smoker. No one talked about it because he knew the customers and could easily get in and out of a verbal altercation with a smile and piece of cake.
He was having a bad day when Ruth walked in. It was on Tuesday and he got stuck with Mr. Undecided. The man often ate there but he took centuries to decide on what to eat. He would order and then shout “tsk!tsk!” at Walter as though the phrase “excuse me” was foreign to him. Walter hated him. He took up all his time and did not have the courtesy to tip. There were so many people like him in the city who did not tip. They paid for the food and left complaining about the lighting, music, the waiters and some would say they would not come back, but he would see them walk in at four to get a cup of coffee before going home.
So, the fact that Ruth walked into The Grill on that day and at that exact moment is what Walter calls love.
She walked straight up to him and smiled. He took a step back and looked around before he ushered her to the best table they had. He presented her with a copy of the menu and told her he would be with her shortly. He went back to Mr. Undecided who was still torn between fried beef and grilled beef. As he waited on Mr. Undecided, his eyes took in the new girl that he had just met. She could probably be five feet and six inches tall, or less depending on the shoes. He took in her braids. He loved black braids on women. They did not scream attention or failed fashion sense; rather they were beautiful and neatly done and could be styled in any way to compliment a look.
He excused himself and walked back to her table.
“May I take your order?”
“I will have the lunch special, but instead of sukuma wiki could you get me some spinach? I love spinach, it is way better than sukuma wiki.”
“Sure. What about the drink?”
“I’ll have the passion juice. Mango juice is too thick and I want to be able to stay focused at work.”
“I’ll get it right away. Karibu.”
Once her order was ready, he presented it to her and left her to it. He waited on three other customers before he went behind the counter to watch her eat. There was so much he could tell about people based on what they ordered and how they ate.
Some chicks were not adventurous when it came to eating out and would always play safe by eating chips. He hated it. Why would anyone dress up to eat out and order chips? There were so many fast food joints in Nairobi and three were right up in their lane, why would they walk all the way to a restaurant just to eat chips? Walter could never eat out. He knew more about the stress and drama involved in restaurant management that he would rather stay home and cook.
He started out as a Waiter but he wanted to be a Chef.
He loved pastry but could never raise enough money to cover the tuition costs and so he had to settle for what he had. He told himself that he’d open his own Pastry shop every day that he walked through the doors of The Grill.
And he would go home telling himself the same thing.
He made cupcakes and mandazis back at the estate where he lived. He delivered them to his neighbors’ doorsteps every morning before he left for work. He would collect his money every Wednesday and that was how he managed to stay in that estate let alone pay his rent. The women loved his cupcakes. The men loved his mandazis and his landlord loved to receive the rent on time.
“We! Wacha kuota hapa! Table seven amemaliza!”
He winked at Saddam as he approached her. Saddam was the best Supervisor he had ever worked with. He never yelled at them, but when he fired someone, everyone steered clear of him for three days. He also hated it when they called him by his first name because he believed that it reminded people of a terrorist but he was a law abiding citizen.
Walter handed Ruth her bill as her cleared her table.
“Hey, what is your name?”
“Okay, it was nice meeting you and aki thanks for serving me so well!”
“You are welcome…”
“Ruth. You can call me Ruth and I will call you Walter. See you tomorrow, then. Have a good day.”
Walter looked at the bill as she stood to leave. He placed the tray on the table and caught up with her. “Excuse me…Ruth, will you please wait for your change. It will just take a minute.”
“Keep the change Walter. Maybe next time you’ll get me that mango juice.”
“Um…okay, thank you…”
He looked at the bill and the money she had paid and smiled. She turned and smiled then waved at him before walking into the car that was waiting right outside.
He waved back for it was just another day at the restaurant and he was in love.