Monday, December 15, 2008


Two and a half years ago, I had a job working in the kitchen of the Black Cat Bistro in Cambria. It was a dream job.

I was paid to cook and drink wine, something I typically give away for free at home.

And every night I was able to flirt and joke and talk trash with Luis, the busboy.

I'm not sure how old Luis is, but he seems to be about my age. He is about 5'6" and has a happy round face. And his smile is sincere and playful.

I once jokingly told him "How can you have such a beautiful wife when you are so feo?"

Luis mocked prayer, looked skyward, and said "I think God every day".

I love Luis.

One of my many jobs at the restaurant was to make the bread. Luis would always tell me -- very honestly -- what he thought of the bread.

"Oh honey it needs more salt"

"Honey it's not very good today"

"Hmm maybe just a little bit too wet"

On the rare occasions my bread met his impossible standards, I would feel like I had accomplished something truly great.

Every now and then Luis would playfully slap me on the butt and said "If you want a nice you-know (indicating my butt), you need to eat potatoes. That's what they do in Columbia and they all have nice butts".

I always liked when Luis did that.

He always did that when I wore this pair of green pants I bought at Ross for about $5. They were a touch too small, but I always felt good when I wore them and his playfully slapping me on the butt meant I had met his impossible standards.

Luis is married and his wife is named Daisy. His daughter is also named Daisy -- we call her poquita Daisy -- and she is always dressed better than anyone else I know.

On Saturdays we'd pool our tips and order Mexican food from this place in town that would deliver. Luis would always be impressed when I put extra chile on my food. He's the one who introduced me to the idea of Lay's potato chips with lime and chile on top. It's amazing.

One night my mom came in and after many weeks of my telling Luis I was Mexican, he took one look at my almost-6' tall mom and said "You must be Oaxacan".

We all laughed and Luis would ask about my Mexican mom all the time.

Sometimes we'd run out of bread and I'd have to make biscuits. He loved my biscuits and would request that I make them all the time. I relished the idea of making them because I knew Luis would approve every time. Actually, one time he didn't approve. I liked the chives, but he let me know that he did not.

I quit working at the Black Cat after Labor Day because I never got to see Geoff, and that meant we wouldn't have the chance to get engaged. We got engaged that November.

I was sad to leave, but I had the opportunity to work a shift here and there for someone who wanted the night off.

A little while after I stopped working there, Luis's son David fell into a pond in the backyard and nobody noticed for a long time.

David was 2 years old.

The little boy spent about a week in the hospital when Luis and Daisy determined that God was calling him home and would not continue to keep him on life support.

To understand the immense sadness felt by everyone you would have to know Luis. He is one of the most proud men I have ever met. Proud of his family. Proud of his beautiful wife. Proud of the job he does at the restaurant. He always takes care of everyone else and he does such a good job of it that we often would comment that the restaurant simply couldn't run if Luis was not there. He is an integral part of the restaurant, and everyone who works there falls in love with Luis.

I have never been good at expressing how I feel in these kind of horribly sad situations. While I have an almost debilitating amount of empathy, I just don't know how to say the right thing without feeling like what I said will come across as insincere.

I'm working on it.

Geoff and I misunderstood the funeral information and showed up at the funeral home after everyone had gone.

We were devastated.

That night we met Stillman at Hoppes for a glass of wine in honor of Luis and we all just sat there quiet, thinking about the weight of what had happened to Luis and his family.

A few weeks after the funeral service, I had the chance to work at the Black Cat to cover a shift for someone.

I knew Luis was back at work and I was having anxiety, worried about what I was going to say. Worried about how to tell him how much hurt I felt in my heart for him and his family. I wanted him to know that I loved him and thought so highly of him and that this shouldn't have happened to him. I wanted him to know that we wanted to be there at the funeral -- that we were at the home! We were just late. I wanted him to know that we were here for him if he needed anything at all.

The drive to work was about 30 miles or so, I prayed the entire time.

God please let me know what to say.

God please let me not be uncomfortable in my silence.

God let me be a good friend to Luis.

Let me do what's right for him.

I wore my green pants -- Luis' favorite. I was hoping he might slap my butt and joke with me.

He did.

We laughed and we hugged and I told him how much I loved him and how happy I was to see him again.

It had been a long time.

At the end of the night, Luis came up to me and said "Honey I have to tell you something, you answered my prayers. I was praying to God all the time to try to feel better and tonight you made me laugh and I am so happy. Thank you, honey."

Do you ever get that feeling like life is a big dream sequence? When things happen that align just so, and you realize in an instant your purpose, and that maybe something you considered a negative trait maybe isn't so negative. Maybe you have a different role in life than what you had thought.

I gave him a big hug.

And I said "You're welcome".

And I tried to hide the tears as I turned around, got into my car and drove home.

A few weeks after announcing I was pregnant, I found out that Daisy was also pregnant. She was about a month ahead of me. I went to her baby shower and she glowed.

They were having a boy.

Their son was born about a month before Phoebe and I have already told Luis he is betrothed to Phoebe.

On Wednesday night we are going to their house to celebrate poquita Daisy's 6th birthday.

I'm thinking about wearing my green pants.

1 comment:

Annie said...

You always do a good job at making the pregnant lady tear up! Anyone who knows Luis would agree with every word you posted here. He is such an amazing person. I remember when you left and I took over bread making duties - man was I nervous!! Any time I go in there for dinner now, I ask him, "Who made the bread tonight? How is it?" and he laughs.

Please give him and his family a big hug for me at the birthday party!