He approached the counter already knowing what he wanted. Rachel, the woman who worked behind the register, greeted him with a sigh. He wasn’t in the mood to make small talk, so he barreled ahead with his order.
“Can I get a Burrito bowl? Oh and no sour cream, mild salsa.”
“Suuure,” she said, dragging the “u” out in a condescending way.
Something was up with her, but he decided he was going to just try and order his food and escape to a table before things got personal. Mercifully, the rest of the exchange went mostly okay. Still he couldn’t help but detect a tone in the young woman’s voice that suggested she was disappointed in him for not even trying to suss out what was bothering her.
He took his placard with the number 64 on it, and sat down in the other room, away as far as he possibly could get from the cash registers. While he waited, he began thinking about the exchange. He was feeling like he’d been judged back there. It was bothering him the way she responded to his business-like order with a disappointed, even angry look in her eyes and facial expression. They were not married, or even friends, he told himself. Surely, it was not his responsibility to make her feel better.
A few minutes later, Rachel came around with his order and planted it before him. Usually she brought him a fork with his burrito bowl, even though it wasn’t restaurant policy to do so. Today, she did not bring him his fork.
So he got up and went over to fish out one from the jar of utensils atop the metallic table that was around the corner, in the room with the registers. He also planned on getting some of that weird, green sauce he liked to smother all over his chips. When he got there, he saw Rachel tidying up the area, running a wet sponge over the table.
“Hi!” he said.
She nodded back.
“Are you mad at me over something?'”
He couldn’t believe the words had sprung from his mouth. It was as if he didn’t have control over what he said. Her eyes grew and she looked taken aback. And then she took a breath.
“I broke up with my boyfriend a few hours ago. I’m not in a good state. And my head is pounding,”
She put her right hand against her brow, and left it there for a few moments.
Suddenly he felt bad for asking. And he put up his hands, to tell her she needn’t explain! He was the one who was sorry!
“I’m sorry if I came across at all rude, though,” she said, her voice going an octave higher and friendly again, similar to the one she used behind the register.
“Can’t be upsetting my customers, can I?”