Table for One

I enter the restaurant alone. It is just before the onslaught of dinner-hour diners. I’ve come here on an impulse because I am famished. I have not eaten since I scarfed a bowl of Bran Flakes with prunes while the “fake news” co-anchors of Good Morning, America fawned over a one-hit pop sensation who is younger than my grandchildren. I spent the remainder of the day writing my revealing tell-all memoir and periodically flipping between cable news networks searching for D.C. updates.

The restaurant is a short five-minute walk from my casa in Ajijic and a twenty-minute stumble home after I have drunk my dinner. The Stew Pot is my fallback eatery when I dine out on an impulse.  It is owned by Stewart Stuart, a 40-something ex-pat from Steubenville, Ohio. The specialty of the house is, obviously, stew. But I don’t go to The Stew Pot for stew. I go because of its convenient location; the generous bartender; and the soul-bearing conversations with Stewart regarding cars we’ve owned, pro-football, John Wayne movies, and The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I also go for the menu. It is an Ohio-Oaxaca fusion. The chicken fried steak molé is the best I’ve ever had.

Oh, and I go to ogle the waiters. Stewart has hired the handsomest wait staff in town. I find this intriguing because Stewart is straight. “It’s a good business plan,” he says. “Attractive waiters draw women, gay men, and, believe it or not, older straight men. They want to relive their younger days when they hung out with guys who allegedly looked like my waiters.”

“Hola, seňor,” the slender greeter—maître d’ would be too fancy a term—says as I step into the restaurant. He appears to be 17, 18, 20 tops. He looks over my shoulder. “How many?”

“Just me.”

His face registers disappointment as if he is calculating potential tips. Don’t worry, kid, I think. I’m a big tipper. Sometimes I go as high as twenty percent. And sometimes I even tip without sexual expectations. The greeter seats me at a small table near the bathrooms. He has probably been trained to seat singles out of the way, where their assumed depressing loneliness will not be noticed. The table, however, is a perfect vantage point from which I can observe the handsome servers. And young greeter.

As I secretly set up my camera to take photos and record videos of the young men working around me, which I will download to my website, Perv-Pics, later, a waiter surprises me on my blind side. It is Ricardo. He lays a menu on the table, jostling the camera, unnoticeable because it is hidden inside the crown of my red “Make America Great Again” trucker cap. “Hello, sir. It’s nice to see you again,” he says without conviction. He smiles as if it were an obligation. “Can I get you something to drink?” he asks in perfect English. He is, I have been told, 25 and a panicked Dreamer whose justified threatened deportation from the USA has forced him to return to the homeland he never should have left. Even if he was only four. Ricardo left his American wife and two-year-old son in Arizona three months ago, unsure what the future would bring. But I don’t care. All I care about is that Ricardo is hottt, with three tees. He looks like Enrique Iglesias. He is built like Mario Lopez. “The Happy Hour special is two-for-one margaritas,” he says. “But it’ll be over in ten minutes.”

“I’ll have two.” I clarify. “I’ll have two sets. A total of four. For the price of two.”

“Your usual,” he responds with a snicker and walks away.

That smile, that laugh, I think. He wants me. He isn’t totally straight.

While I await my drinks, I turn my cap and camera toward a waiter, Carlos, a thirty-year-old with a futbol player’s butt. I activate the camera with a subtle, strategically-placed tap on the cap’s brim. Carlos is taking an order from an elderly couple at a nearby table. The gray-haired man’s eyes dance back and forth from the menu to Carlos’ face. They seem to spend more time staring at the striking visage. “You look like my college fraternity brother Hank,” he says. “Anyway, we’ll have two beef  stews and two red wines.” The woman, whose artificial black hair and cosmetic-covered face fails to mask her status as a septuagenarian, focuses on Carlos’ ass. So does my camera. The waiter leaves, exposing a busboy behind the couple. His back is to the camera as he clears a table. The camera zooms in on his back’s V-shape and pans up to his head as he turns around. The busboy’s face comes into view.

Holy shit, he’s young, I think. He could be Dora the Explorer’s boyfriend.

A waiter, perhaps in his early twenties, meanders between tables, carrying a small salad and an ample sandwich, contents unknown. He stops at a window table where two middle-aged women sit. They are talking, but look up when he arrives. They, however, pay no attention to his Oscar de la Hoya  face and body-builder biceps. They focus, in stead, on their food.

Obvious lesbians, I tell myself.

The waiter turns, walks toward me, and smiles as he passes, unaware that my camera is filming the entire scene.

Ricardo returns with my four drinks and lays them on the table. “Have you decided, sir?”

“I’m not ‘sir.’ My name is Chuck,” I lie. “I’ve told you that before, Ricardo. Chuck. It rhymes with fuck.”

“I know.” He smiles as if he is amused. But he repeats in a business-like tone, “Have you decided, sir?”

“Chicken fried steak molé.” Ricardo nods as he gazes past me. At first I think he is avoiding eye contact, afraid to expose his feelings, his attraction to me. But then I realize the only thing behind me is the door to the men’s room. He wants to meet me in there, I theorize. That’ll have to wait, though, until after I eat. He turns away. My insides giggle with glee and anticipation. I suck down half of my first margarita before he places my order in the kitchen.

Three young Mexican men, each handsome enough to work at The Stew Pot or in Hollywood or porn, laugh at a mid-room table. The one facing me makes quick eye-contact, looks away, and whispers something. Another, with his back to me, begins to turn as if he were instructed to check me out, but he’s stopped by his neighbor. They laugh again. The stud who had attempted to turn, drops his napkin with obvious purpose. It wafts behind him, landing on the floor. He spins around, reaches for it, and smiles at me and the hidden camera.

I finish my first margarita as an older gringo, probably in his 80s, enters the restaurant. He is accompanied by a 30-something Mexican man. They are led to a corner table. As soon as they are seated, the younger man, who is facing me, takes the older man’s hand. They sit like that, hands spanning the table, until Carlos arrives and places two menus in front of them. As he turns away, Carlos looks skyward with disapproval. The younger man looks at me for a nanosecond. His lips twitch into a momentary smile. The older man adjusts his glasses, toys with the hearing aid in his right ear, picks up his menu, and holds it at arm’s length.

I take a sip of my second margarita, then another, longer drink. The alcohol is beginning to take effect on my empty stomach. I probably should have eaten something substantial today, I tell myself. A single man, perhaps 50, dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase, enters the restaurant, looks around, and steps toward the two women I have assessed are lesbians. He sits with a frustrated flop next to one, kisses her cheek, and drops the briefcase with a thud. I can hear him say “sorry” and “couldn’t get rid of” before he bolts to the bar and roars with impatience “Dos Equis.” He drums his fingers as the bartender grabs the beer from the refrigerator and uncaps it. “Grass-ee-ass, Benito,” he says to the handsome bartender, takes his drink, and returns to the table. He kisses the woman’s cheek again. She has finished her salad. He strokes her hand.

I finish my second margarita. My lips begin to tingle. My eyelids pulse. I sip my third drink as a beautiful woman enters the restaurant. Her clothes are stylish, but, perhaps, a bit too short and tight. Her lovely face, however, is over painted. Her make-up has crossed the line from tasteful to trashy. Her wavy raven hair cascades sexily over her shoulders to mid-back. She appears to be 35 or so. She stops at the greeter’s post and kisses the young man on the lips. She says something. Her facial expression is serious. His is more so. He pulls from his pants pocket a thick wad of Mexican money and hands the cash to the woman. There is a sudden lull in the conversations around me and I can hear him say in Spanish, “This is all I have. I didn’t make very much last night.”

I stare slack-jawed. My god, I think, she’s his pimp. That kid hustles.I then realize what I had thought. I smile. He hustles on the side? How very advantageous for me.

But before I can form a plan how to approach the hustling greeter, a short laugh interrupts my thoughts. “You like that, sir?” Ricardo asks as he places my chicken fried steak molé in front of me. “Omar’s mother is one hot MILF.”

“Who?”

“Omar. The kid. The greeter.”

“That’s his mother?

“Yes. Everything Omar makes here goes to supporting the family.”

“And she’s a MILF? What’s a MILF, Ricardo?”

Ricardo chuckles. “A mother I’d like to…you know…it rhymes with Chuck.”

“Oh.” I look puzzled.” But you have a wife in the States. Right?”

“Yes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need sex.”

“I hear ya,” I say picking up on what I interpret as a hint. I peek at the greeter’s post. The MILF has disappeared. I look back at Ricardo as I say, “So you wanna meet in the ba. . .” Ricardo, too, has disappeared.

I finish my third margarita with one long swig and begin to eat my dinner. Two bites in, I perceive movement. Why is my plate moving in circles? And getting so out of focus?  Focus. Now there is a funny word. I giggle. I look up at the bustling, and now blurry, waiter activity around me. I finish my meal and guzzle margarita number four. Ricardo swoops in and takes my dirty dishes. As I turn to watch his butt as he walks away, my head bobbles and I lose my balance. I fall from the chair onto the floor. I land hard, in a semi-sitting position.

“Sir, are you OK?” I hear Ricardo say as I try to lift myself.

“Yes,” I slur. “I’m OK. And stop calling me ‘sir.’  My name is Chuck. I told you that.” I fail to raise myself. “Chuck, like in…” I can’t remember my usual rhyming word…“upchuck.” I tip over, falling flat on the floor, my vibrating lips practically kissing it.

The word upchuck must have triggered what happened next. I threw up. Well, down, actually, since I already was prone on the floor. I fade out for a moment, but come to.

I hear Ricardo, Stewart, and some other male voices talking near me. But I can’t move my head enough to see them. “He lives on my block,” one of the unfamiliar voices says. “We’ll get him home.” My vomit is uncomfortably close to my face, its stench violating my nose.

The next thing I’m aware of is I am being lead to my casa’s door which is spinning like a raft caught in a white-water eddy. I am being supported by two men, one on each side. They are speaking Spanish. A third man is reaching into my pants pocket and pulls out the house key. He says something about the malecon that causes the others to laugh and lose their grip on me. I teeter, but they catch me. I wonder, Were these nice guys at the restaurant?

When I awake at dawn, I find myself face down atop my bed. No sheets or blankets cover me. I try to turn over, but can’t. It is then I realize that while I still have on last night’s shirt, I am not wearing any pants.  I also am aware of rectal sensations I have not felt since the Karl Rove presidency. I force myself up and sit on the bed’s edge. My pants are hanging over my dresser like overcooked spaghetti. I grab them and feel for my cell phone. It is not there. “Shit,” I grumble. I pat my pants again, feeling for my wallet. It is there. I reach into the pocket and pull out my wallet to check its contents. But as I do that, I notice my watch is missing from my wrist. “Oh, not my Rolex!” I whine knowing it is a faux-Rolex. I open my billfold and discover the money gone, all 600 pesos. I find my debit card, then my other cards. They only took the money, thank God.

               That evening, just before the onslaught of dinner-hour diners, I enter The Stew Pot again. I try once more to lure one of the handsome staff, Ricardo, Carlos, Benito, even young Omar, home. You’d think I’d give up. You’d think I would have learned my lesson. You’d think I would have wised up in my 76 years. You’d think I would have gotten the message when the “fake news” reported my alleged sexual involvement with those male congressional aides and hot high school and college-age pages. You know, the alleged incidents that forced me from my long-held Republican congressional seat representing the State of…oh, I can’t say that. Then you’d know my real name.

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