The Italian Restaurant -- Part 3
He brought us water in a wine bottle, and a plate loaded with the most delicious bread I've ever tasted. I smiled widely at him, simply jazzed to still be in New York.
"You aren't...from here," he said to me, and hesitantly refilled our waters.
"Is it that obvious?" I asked.
"Yes, it is."
"Fine, so what should I do to fit in?" I asked.
"Well, for one," the waiter said, glancing from me to Mike, "you shouldn't smile--at everyone. And you shouldn't make eye contact--with many people."
"Don't people smile in New York?"
"Yeah, but not like you do, honey. They'd have to smear vaseline on their teeth, just to remember to smile that big." He stared at me and suddenly laughed. "God, doesn't your face get tired?"
"She smiles a lot. Practice makes perfect," Mike said and winked at me.
As the waiter walked away I thought about something I've been dealing with lately. A couple of years ago, my parents, brother, sister, and all of our spouses sat at dinner. My dad always thinks of the best topics, and that night he said we should go around the table and say which animals we represent. Well, someone was a mountain lion, a powerful moose, and a wild mustang. When everyone got to my sister they said how she's a leader, someone who everyone looks up to--SHE is a lioness. I got so excited at this point--I could hardly wait to see what they thought I was. And soon it was my turn. I nearly shook with excitement when my brother said, "Elisa, you're a cute little otter."
"What?! An otter?"
"Yeah!" everyone agreed.
"I can see it," even Mike said.
"Otters are awesome! They're so happy and fun. They make everyone around them happy," my brother said.
And as Mike and I sat in the Italian restaurant in New York, I kept thinking about the waiter's words. I didn't fit into New York because I'm such an otter.
When the waiter came back, Mike asked him about his past and his city dreams. He'd lived in California, but went out to New York to pursue a singing career.
"I suddenly felt so compelled to tell him how he was there for a reason. That if he was doubting himself, he didn't need to. It would all work out."
He looked down at me as he cleared our plates--and he actually wore one of those vaseline smiles. "I needed to hear that more than you know."
As he began walking away, he turned back. "I used to smile like you do--really. I guess I just stopped because I've gone through life exhausting so much energy getting from point A to point B. I hire a cab just to get to work every day because the Subway is such a mess of construction right now. Anyway, what you said to me--don't change. Don't ever make it so you need vaseline just to smile."
Mike and I both gave him odds looks.
"You know what I mean." He laughed.
When Mike and I got back to the room I looked up what otters mean. It said otters help give people what they need to discover their true selves--and that's what makes people happy.
I might not be an amazing lioness, or a bear, or someone epic who fits in at The City--but being myself comes so naturally. I guess if that means I'm an otter--I'll try to be the best damn otter you've ever seen!
Which animal are you most like?