Since I could talk I could always remember singing along with my mom Sade or Anita Baker album. All I ever wanted is to be a famous singer. I want the platinum plaques, the adoring fans, the Grammy’s, the chauffeur-driven limos, the stylist, the world tours. And I want the house, the man, and the life –I want it all. All I want is everything, and somehow, someway I’m going to try to make it !”
Kendra Michelle Thomas
As I wiped down the red wood bar my only thought was I couldn’t wait to go home. It had been a long night of serving drinks and I was ready to go. The television was tuned to the evening news with the volume down since no one was paying it any attention. Two rows of assorted liquor lined the mirror wall. Everything from big bottles of Absolut, Grand Marnier, Stoli and Alize, to a small sixteen-ounce carton of orange juice. There were two video machines at the end of the bar. Three women sat down. I placed white paper napkins in front of them. One was tall had big eyes and her hair in a ponytail flipped at the end, the other was like 4’11 petite and had small features and short spiked hair cut with blonde and brown highlights in her hair. The last girl looked like the first two had dragged her out the house. There were bags under her eyes and her body looked malnourished and her hair was limp with a head band pushing it back.
“Ladies what you havin’?” I asked.
“Can I get an apple martini with Grey Goose?” the petite one asked. The other ordered a Bahama Mama, and the other asked for a glass of merlot.
“Kendra, how you doing?” the ponytail lady asked.
“Okay,” I said I didn’t have any idea who she was I squinted a little, trying to remember.
“You don’t remember me? We went to high school together. How you doing? How is your family?”
I still didn’t know who the hell she was but it was obvious she knew me.
“My family is doing okay.”
“I’m Inez! And do you remember Belinda and Tiffany?”
Belinda looked familiar just a little older, and Tiffany I didn’t remember her at all. When I looked the girl Inez again she did start looking familiar. I served them their drinks and then finished straightening up. The group of women flagged me down again and said, “Kendra, can we get another round?”
I made them another round and brought them their drinks. The woman, Inez, said Thank you.” and pulled out her American Express card.
“Y’all running a tab?” I asked.
“Yeah, we can start a tab. Wow, I can’t believe we ran into you. You still look the same — all slim. So what are you doing with yourself?”
“Well, we’re out celebrating. We all had some big things happen. Miss Honey right there got engaged last weekend, and my husband and I just settled on our house in Durham , North Carolina . You want to see a picture?” she asked as she pulled pictures out of her bag. I glanced at the house it was a big house with lots of windows and a huge lawn.
“That’s a nice house,” I said. Then she pointed to the other woman and said, “She just graduated from Rutgers ‘ nursing program that’s why she looks all tired. So yup I have my house, my husband, and two lovely children. Are you married? Do you have any kids? So what else do you do besides this?” she asked, ambushing me with questions.
“No, actually I just do this. I’m still with the same guy since high school, no kids though.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll get married soon and kids will come. Are you still in school?”
“No, I’m not in school.”
She looked at me like she was thinking and it seemed she was about to ask me something else, but then she changed her mind.
“Do you have an astray?” Ms. Tired asked.
I gave her one and then I looked at them like ‘anything else?’ They were starting to get on my nerves minding my business
One of my regulars, Lisa, was at the end of the bar dancing by herself next to jukebox wearing her Miss Piggy blonde wig. She was an old head, about fifty-five, and was good for trying to hook up with young guys. Another regular named Stacey was at the opposite end of the bar running game. She brought a different man into the bar every weekend. She would get them nice and drunk and be all up in their pockets. She would wink at me and make whoever she was with tip me good. I could sit and observe everything from behind the bar. When you don’t drink you get to see everything. Men like drinks that are going to take them there immediately, woman want to get their buzz one sip and a time. I still do feel hypocritical at times, because even though I don’t drink I still pour the drinks, but it pays the bills; what the fuck. Just as I turned the channel on the television a couple walked up to the counter. The woman had big auburn braids going up into a crown forming a bush at the end. She looked like she should be in music video waving incense and holding candles. Her guy was the opposite of her — tall, baldhead and mean. Opposites must attract.
“Can I get a shot of Petron?” the man said. If I didn’t know the customer I would always make sure to place the drinks in front of the woman and asked her what she wanted first. I learned early, a sure way not to get tipped is by flirting with somebody’s man, but he ordered first. I started making his drink and then asked her “What are you having?”
She looked me up and down and said, “Give me a minute.”
“Kendra, can you make me a A Crimson Tide, Hurricane, Sex on the Beach, and a Long Island Iced Tea?” Tia asked as she tried to organize her money.
“A Crimson Tide. I never heard of that. I have to look that up. And Tia, you gonna have to ring your drinks up. I don’t want to hear Julius’ mouth.”
She walked over to the computer and began typing her drinks.
“It’s not enough liquor in this daiquiri,” a woman yelled from the other end of the bar. I told her I would be right there. I poured the man his shot and asked his lady if she was ready yet. She shook her head no. I went to the end of the bar and I dumped the daiquiri and made a fresh one. I don’t know why it took her half the drink to realize that there wasn’t enough alcohol.
“And baby, can you make it a little sweeter?” she asked.
I added more strawberries and cherry grenadine mix, and added double the alcohol and reblended it and poured in her glass. She sipped it once again and gave me the thumbs up. Everybody was waited on so I decided to start cleaning up for the evening. My manager, Julius, came out from the back to see how we were making out for the night. The couple left and I started washing the dishes by dipping the glasses in the blue disinfectant. The trio of women flagged me over them to again.
“Another round please, girl? These drinks are good. Keep them coming.” They were laughing and joking, and being very loud.
“Kendra what happen?” Tiffany the short hair cut woman said.
“What happen to what?” I asked with an attitude.
“You know like with your life. You are supposed to be famous. What are you doing here bartending? You suppose to be somewhere singing being rich by now. You was like going to be like the next Mariah Carey.” Her friend interrupted and said,
“She is a drunk don’t mind her. Damn two drinks and you trippin. Shut up Tiffany.” Inez said. I acted like I didn’t hear what she said and ignored her.
“No, this shit ain’t funny.” The woman slurred.
“You drunk. Shut up dumb ass.” Inez said to her friend.
“You shut up Inez. I’m not drunk. I know what I’m talking about. I know how much I had to drink,” she said as she stopped talking and turned her attention to me.
“Kendra I am so sad and sorry to see you here, I can’t believe you wasted your voice and all your talent. Like, you was a real good singer, Kendra. I remember you singing at school. You used to sound like Mariah Carey. What happened, for real? I’m not being funny? I mean this is all you did with your life?” she asked again. This time I couldn’t even act like I didn’t understand or hear what she was talking about.
“Let’s go, your ass is drunk.” Inez screamed at her friend as she pulled her away from the bar.
“Inez get off of me. Why are you fronting when you just said the same thing when she walked away?”
“No, I didn’t! Get your stuff,” she said as she looked to me to see if I heard what she said.
They went back and forth amongst each other as I walked away to the other end of the bar. I could still hear them talking.
“Tell your girl to shut up,” Inez told the tired one. “Carry your girlfriend out. She always ruining shit.” Inez said as she help to pull the petite drunk girl out of the bar door. As soon as they left I went and removed there glasses. I was trying to block the woman I didn’t remember words out my head. But I couldn’t. All I could hear her say was What happen you were suppose to be the next Mariah Carey.
They tipped me twenty dollars. Any other night I would have been glad someone was being generous, but tonight it felt like they pitied me and thought I needed the extra cash. Fuck them I thought. I was called away again by There’s-Not-Enough-Liquor-in-My-Daiquiri. She had found some old man to sponsor her and her friend’s drinks. The old man peeled his money out of wallet, one twenty at a time, and they began ordering.
Finally the last customer walked out of the restaurant. I locked the door, and counted my register and then my tips. I had made one fifty for the night — that wasn’t bad. I wiped down the counter and turned the television off. I mopped the floor and put each stool on top of the counter. I said good bye to Julius and the other waitresses.
The entire way home I kept thinking about that girl from high school’s one comment. It kept echoing in my head. I don’t even remember her name and probably won’t see her again, but she just don’t know she fucked up my whole night. I thought I had my life together, but not like theirs. Damn, they the same age as me. They only twenty-five. How do they have their shit together already? How are they so on point? God damn. Especially Ms. Two-Kids-Great-Husband-and–Big-House. I bet that other one can get any man she wants, and she is nurse. I bet she has a big house or condo and just is living the life too! How did my life get so fucked up? How did I end up in this dead end ass job? And how did she remember my dreams when I’d forgotten them? I’ve always wanted to sing. I’ve been singing since I could remember and now I don’t sing at all.