I’ve started working at a ramen shop.
At my old bar job, the bartender used to say I was the best at sweeping. I considered putting it on my resume, with his phone number – only for sweeping endorsement purposes.
I realized later that he said that so he wouldn’t have to sweep later.
But I like sweeping. It may not appear that way, if you were to glance at my front walk or kitchen floor, but I’ve always been drawn to very mundane, tedious tasks.
That’s why a shift plucking cilantro, wiping down tables, and carefully putting orders actually made me feel really good.
I’ve only started working at the ramen shop, and it’s one of a few different jobs I’m trying out.
I’ve felt really tense for the past couple of weeks. Physically, tense I mean. This whole big life transition has helped a lot in easing that.
I feel like I’m on the right track, a road that I’m secretly referring to “Bourdainy”.
Peach ginger tumeric kombucha. A bearded man named Phoenix. Kitchy bowls full of steaming rice and spices.
“Keep feeding me,” I tell him, after he surprises me with some leftovers.
The job is quiet, and when I’m not watching one of the chefs cooking or tending to customers, I’m on my phone. I’m reading an article about Jane Goodall one evening when I hear the familiar buzz of a trumpet.
The chef that evening, a dreadlocked, bohemian man named Craig, has switched on his Spotify playlist.
“Do you mind?” he asks, over the sound of Luther Vandross.
“Nope,” I say, shaking my head and going back to my phone.
For a moment, I’m transported back to La Caveau de la Huchette. The dim, romantic twinkle of the string lights, the vibrant red walls of the ramen shop have the same essence of that dark, crowded Parisian club.
“You hungry?” Craig asks.
The words sound like they’re mixed with gravel.
“A little,” I reply.
He fires up the stove.
The pan cracks and pops with oil. The song switches to Barry White, and perk up.
“Egg?” Craig calls.
“Obviously,” I say. “Over easy.”
He nods, and goes back to cooking.
As the evening goes on, I rave about the music. At some point, Craig comes out of the kitchen and starts dancing along to The Delfonics, to a song that Craig demands to understand how I know.
I shrug and give him a little smile, taking a bite of steaming hot tinga chicken rice.
“You have children?” Craig asks. I don’t. He tells me about his niece, who loves to play baseball, and about his family, who mostly live in North Carolina.
He’s divorced. I am, too.
“How old are you?” he asks suspiciously.
I’m 30. He’s floored.
“You’re going to be real grateful for that one day,” he laughs.
“I’m grateful for it now,” I laugh back.
The slow spell continues, so I offer to sweep. The shop made pretzels earlier for Octoberfest, an endeavor that resulted in piles of salt scattered across the floor. I run the broom under the stove and shelves, trying to get every little piece.
“Can I play you a song, Craig?” I request.
He cautiously agrees.
The familiar tune cues up, and I start to swing my hips a little, broom in hand.
Craig belly laughs, a deep, genuine type of laughter.
“Come see about me, huh?” He shakes his head.
I shrug again.
At one point, I glance out one of the small windows and watch the people walking up and down Front Street. Occasionally, they look back – at the tiny, pixie-esque Tinkerbelle, and the tall chef with the stature of Morgan Freeman.
Both of us awkwardly dancing, moving, to the blasting sounds of Barry White, Louis Armstrong, and Diana Ross.
The salt is gone.