They were occupying the only four-top in my section when I arrived. Customers of the happy hour server. This table represented one third of the seats for which I was responsible. Ours is a popular dinner spot. We turn the tables three, four times a night. They’d finished eating. Yet still, they sat.
I’d gone from friendly inquiry (“anything else I can get for ya?”) to obsessive water re-filling, to water withholding, to ignoring them, and finally, to making pointed eye contact whenever possible. No, they didn’t need anything. But they would not leave.
They were professional-looking middle agers. People who should know better. I’m fairly certain they were not stoned. The check was handed off and paid. And still, they sat.
Tables around them came, ate, drank, enjoyed desserts and digestifs, paid, left. One turn, two turns. Three. They sat. They laughed. They side-eyed me when I passed.
Just before the kitchen closed, they picked up their coats and left their empty water glasses behind. My sigh was exaggerated, but my colleagues sympathized. The night was a wash, worse than brunch. Looked like I’d be eating lentils and getting the budget cat food this week.
So I decided to follow them home. Don’t ask me how I found the address. The host is a friend of mine who doesn’t deserve firing.
When I arrived at their spacious bungalow with my tent, I was pleased to find a strip of city land adjacent to their property, an unused thoroughfare previously occupied by a defunct tram line. I made camp on a spot with a view into their kitchen window.
It’s been two weeks. I cook my lentils on my coleman stove and wave when they come out on the deck. The police have been understanding. One of the nice officers’ daughters is a server. No telling how long I’m going to stay–until I feel good and ready to leave, I suppose. I’m not here to extort them. I just want them to get used to my face, the sound of my laughter when I stream movies over their Wifi. To remember these things, when they are tempted to linger in someone else’s space.