Cuts Like A Knife

It is cold. Again. Not cold like the 40-inches-on-the-ground-cold in D.C. Not cold like the 4 to 8 inches about to fall in Atlanta tonight. But Keys cold: 40s at night, 60s during the day. Cold enough to make the tourists happy not to be anywhere north, but disappointed enough that it’s not warm enough to be hot.

As I mix up drinks I have never made before and brand them my own concoctions because I make up the ingredients, I tell the tourists where to go, and they go there. I know this because I see them later when I am off and out. After a first day on a job with no training, I am pleased that my drinks and advice have garnered smiles from a few. Hell, vodka’s vodka. Rum is rum. Add pink or green, and voila–that’s how we make it in the Keys.

It’s cold. Again. I am tired of it, but how can you complain given all that is going on in the much, much colder north? You don’t. You wear a sweatshirt over two other layers and tell the tourists it won’t last long. Even though it will. Me bad. I lie.

I am broke. Totally. Done. I have been a month without one dollar coming in, compared to so much being paid out. I am three months without anything close to what I used to make because my two Key West employers were so full of shit. I am waiting for back pay from my second Key West job, hoping it includes retroactive back pay for the difference in what I was told I’d be paid and what actually appeared in my paycheck during the one month I held my second job. I am not holding my breath. But I still hope, even as I marvel that at my age I had two jobs back-to-back that never paid me a promised wage.

My great guy is cooking a great meal, as he always does. Rouletta is hovering about, hoping for a treat, which my great guy always gives her. We bought a zillion pounds of meat at Winn Dixie last week, because it was buy-one-get-one-free. Our freezer is full. So are our stomachs each night. I may be broke, but I am well fed. My great guy makes sure that I am, even though some days I’d rather nibble rice crackers and cheese slices, but I never tell him this. Even though he already knows this.

My great guy’s current job pays him the correct amount, as it always did before we ventured south to Key West. His tips are good, except when the weather is cold, as it is now, and the tourists reconsider eating at his outdoor place.

In our cold apartment, which is huge and beautiful compared to the Key West hovel, we enjoy two-for-one rib eyes and stupid-cheap baked potatoes. “I made a salad, if you want one,” my great guy offers. I just smile and shake my head.

It is cold. We are so broke after the Key West disaster. Since I’ve been back, I have tended bar one day at an outdoor place with a view to die for. I have three days off before I go back to that view. I have another job waiting in the wings. Seven days of work a week will be just fine. Gotta bank it during season in order to live when it’s off. Hell, just to catch up, although I am not sure I ever will.

I think I might even have fun at work again, even though that is very far down the list of must-haves–second, third, and twentieth after money, money, money.

In the two weeks since we moved back to an area we love, I have had no work whatsoever until yesterday, I have transformed this little apartment that seems quite large into a very tiny bit of a home. I have designated shelves to various photos of those we love. My kids. My friends. Our grandmothers, including mine who now plays with the angels and my great guy’s grandma who still makes a mean buttermilk biscuit. Such photos on a shelf make a place feel like home. Touching each framed face every morning reminds me that I am home. For now.

“How was the steak?” my great guys asks.

“Wonderful, as always,” I tell him. I am not lying.

He cooks. I wash the dishes, taking extra care with the mother-of-pearl-handled, vintage-1958 steak knives I never used until I found myself in South Florida two-and-a-half years ago and a million miles from anything resembling my former life.

“Never put these in the dishwasher,” admonished my grandmother when she set the table with them for so many years.

“She wanted you to have these,” my aunt told me when she was breaking up my grandmother’s house after her death three years ago.

“You know about these knives, right?” I ask my great guy as we savor every last bite of his perfectly cooked steaks.

“Yeah, sure,” he smiles.

“I mean, you know they were my grandmother’s, right?” I ask, wanting to be maudlin and cry and tell him how much I miss her, but I don’t because it is cold and we are broke and it’s just not the right time to have a 750th meltdown.

“I know,” he says, caressing my hand. “And they never go in the dishwasher.”

It is cold. We are broke. But Rouletta is content to bundle up in her hideous sweater, as are we in our multiple sweatshirt layers. We have jobs. We are happy. We will make it work as we work through season.

It is cold. I am broke. If I were to allow it, the reality would cut neatly and cleanly, like any and every knife. Instead, I gently hand-wash the pearl-handled blades we used tonight. I look to the ceiling and will my grandmother to touch my shoulder one more time, to tell me it will all be okay because I have a great guy, a cute dog, wonderful kids, and a job that overlooks a sandy beach.

I wipe a tear my great guy doesn’t see. I snap a funny photo of Rouletta in her hideous sweater. I carefully dry the pearl-handled steak knives.

It is cold. I am broke. Some days it all just cuts like a knife.

It’ll be okay.

sweater rou.jpg






14 responses to “Cuts Like A Knife”

  1. L Avatar

    But you are “home” and safe now. Away from the bitter disappointment. (((( )))) Thanks for the update, it was a good post.

  2. Jennifer Avatar

    Your positive attitude (and your great guy’s positive attitude) is what’s going to get you through this. You’re going to be fine.

    PS Are you SURE Rouletta likes her sweater??? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Kate Avatar

    February always feels like a perpetual winter — literally and figuratively. I’m sending lots of happy karma your way, RG, you absolutely deserve it.

    AND money making karma. ๐Ÿ˜‰ chin up, buttercup!

  4. Laundramatic Avatar

    You deserve lots of good things happening to you. Maybe moving away from Key West will bring you good luck financially (it sounds like in your personal life you don’t need any luck though – your guy sounds great!)

  5. okcmermaid Avatar

    Totally understand the being broke scenario. Although I have a full-time job in a law office, I have worked Friday and Saturday nights as a waitress for 10 years. Just recently I have picked up Tuesday and Thursday shifts. Yet, more seems to go out then comes in. I feel your pain.

  6. Binx Avatar

    Your days are as rich as your writing. Just keep waking up each day.

  7. Ex-Restaurant Manager Avatar

    Many warm thoughts go out to you RG, although warmth is in short supply here in the Panhandle. There were snowflakes mixed in with the rain today. But just like bad jobs and broken promises, this too shall pass. Can’t wait for March to get here!

  8. Mary Avatar

    Yes, Rouletta doesn’t look all that appreciative ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope the wage agreements were in some sort of written form…

  9. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Rouletta finally got out of her sweater herself about three in the morning. And, thankfully, the second job made good on the back pay! Tomorrow is another first day at another bar. This one should be a nice beginning.

  10. savannah Avatar

    xoxoxox sugar.

  11. Connie Avatar

    She is just the sweetest thing. I just want to squeeze her. So glad the second job made good on the back pay! How today went well at the new bar!

  12. joeinvegas Avatar

    I think Rouletta looks devine in that sweater

  13. Nick Avatar

    RG, I enjoy your writing, but this cycle of feeling sorry for yourself is not good for you or healthy. Let’s see what you have;

    A great guy that loves you. Wow. How many people have that?
    You have children that love you and you are proud of. There are many people who have never been able to have children or have bad relationships with their kids
    It is a cold 60 degrees. You are not worried about freezing to death
    You have food to fill your belly.

    It is easy to complain about what you don’t have. Happiness is knowing that what you have is always more than what you don’t have.