Michael was a handsome man, even though he was old. He had been waiting tables off and on for thirty years, because initially it suited his peripatetic lifestyle; but now it just suited him. He had, in fact, recently moved back to his hometown, a smallish, touristy city with a lively restaurant life. Handsome waiters strike up conversations more easily and get larger tips, but Michael’s biggest asset was the fact that he was psychic.
He was not infallibly psychic, but he was privy to other people’s thoughts in ways that were sometimes helpful, sometimes alarming. Yesterday, for example, a couple came in and Michael heard their thoughts quite clearly. They were thinking of selling their children. Like people getting google ads on their phones for products they had only desired or joked about out loud, Michael’s brain often posted thoughts that did not emanate directly from him, but from what he encountered. He had tried a therapy called Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics, a program devoted to help sufferers of Tourette’s stop ticcing, but it was only a little successful, because he did not suffer from Tourette’s.
On this very evening, for example, the cave wall of his brain was awash in images of young women from his middle school years, dorky, pudgy, ill at ease, with outmoded hairdos. He was able to quell the urge to speak their names out loud by using the CBIT breathing technique, and he was able to quell the panic that his brain was not fencing itself off from unwanted stimuli by holding each image in a tender place of his heart. His gift did not always leave him privy to enough context to do anything but convert the intrusion into a thing of comfort. The couple that he had heard thinking about selling their children, for example, turned out to be selling their chickens. He heard them explain their situation to another couple who came to join them.
Early one Thursday evening a married couple came in, Bohemian careless, their screaming yellow bike jackets sporting odd bits of grease. The hostess had passed them menus five minutes ago, which they had focused silently upon for the whole five. As Michael approached, he immediately realized that one of them was allergic to pine nuts.
“In case,” hmmm, “in case anyone here is allergic to pignoli…” Michael started.
“Yes!” the woman said, startling, “I am.”
“Don’t even look at the beef braciole, then,” Michael said. “Might I suggest the pizza di patate?”
A little later, in comes a big group – five older women, obviously sisters. Michael wonders if it’s a wedding, a funeral, a family reunion, what? The first four plates are easy. He has written down their orders even before they get it all the way out of their mouths. He writes what his brain says they want, and as he writes it they say the words he’s writing. None of them want wine! There’s a personal-size, deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza, there’s a ricotta gnocchi, there’s a spaghetti vongole, there’s the fried eel. Those are the four who are sitting one across from the other. They seem to be the younger sisters. The fifth one, not a lot older, but surely older, he wonders if she’d like a beer? Just then she says, “I’ll have the Birra Amiata Contessa.” She is slender in the arms and wrists, elegant, lithe, with slim hips and smoky eyes, soft lined skin. He who never had a problem with alcohol, wonders if she does, and as his mind wanders he starts hearing very insistently “Palermo, Palermo.” He makes strong eye contact with her, or she does with him. In any case, there is a moment of silence and some kind of energy transfer between them.
“Pamela,” one of the younger sisters asks.
“OK,” she says, “Make that a San Pellegrino.”
Pamela! Suddenly it was clear to him! “I wonder if you remember me from Glen Hills School,” he says to her. “We were in the 7th and 8th grades together, then you moved away.”
Her eyes, her aura, the very follicles of her hair say yes; his brain screams yes, He sees the dorky 8th grade image of her again in his mind, but now she has turned her eyes away.
“No. You must be mistaken,” she says. And she flashes her eyes at the younger sisters.
“I haven't been that girl for a long time” she thinks at him, amazed, and a little flattered by her own ability to deflect.