I’ve never served a serial killer before, or at least not that I know of. I suppose it is possible that somewhere in my 40+ year career of slinging food, it could have happened, but last week I’m pretty sure that I did.
The restaurant is very slow tonight due to the weather and the fact that word has gotten out that the server always has Chardonnay breath. A single man steps in and glances about the restaurant nervously. I expect that he is meeting someone so I approach him and ask him if he’d like a table. He steps towards me, much too close, and in a soft throaty whisper says, ‘It’s just me.” He is only inches away from my face, breathing directly into my nostrils. My Chardonnay is fighting a battle with his corn nuts.
“It’s just me,” he repeats.
“Alright, sir, follow me,” I tell him.
I seat him at table 14 and hand him a menu. He stares at me with an intense gaze that makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. His eyes are a steely blue, but not in that handsome kind of way way, but in that “I can see right through you” kind of way. I shiver and walk away. The other server goes to his table with a pitcher of water and then comes directly to me.
“What the fuck is up with Table 14?” she asks. “He’s creepy and wouldn’t make eye contact with me.”
“Really?” I say. “All I got was eye contact.” Back to the table I go.
“Sir, can I tell you our specials?”
The man looks up from his hands which are clasped together and then rests his chin on his hands with his elbows on the table. After a dramatic pause, finally, “Yes.” He holds on to the “s” sound for about a fraction of second too long.
“Our soup tonight is a Golden Squash garnished with thyme. Our appetizer tonight is fried pickles served with a buttermilk and scallion aioli and our entree is a grass-fed ribeye steak served with sugar snap peas-”
“I’ll have the steak,” he says slowly and deliberately.
“Okay, how would you like that-”
“Rare,” he says making a one syllable word sound like it is three times longer than it is.
He doesn’t care for anything to drink, so I pull his menu away from his table as swiftly as possible. When I get to the computer to ring in his food, he is signaling for me to come back to his table.
“I’ve decided I would like some wine. May I see the wine list?” Again, he is staring right into my soul.
I hand him a wine list, all the while thinking, “Please don’t order Chianti, please don’t order Chianti, please don’t order a side of fava beans.”
“Yessss, I will have the Merlot. And I did order the steak rare, didn’t I? I do like my steak rare.”
Of course he likes his steak rare. He probably likes it raw and is settling for a grass-fed ribeye steak rather than the liver of a 20-year old blond hooker or a 46-year old waiter. I watch him from afar and see that he never sets his eyes on anything for more than a couple of seconds. They shift around, continuously searching for something, anything to satisfy his prying need to stare. He catches me looking at him and he smiles a half-smile that is neither friendly nor comforting. His food is ready very quickly since a rare steak on a slow night only takes a few minutes. I also typed into the computer, “Rush this food, this guy is creeping me the fuck out.”
He eats his steak in a matter of minutes. I’m not sure that he even chewed it. The other server has steered clear of him all night because she gets “a bad vibe” from him, so I go to clear his table. The juices from the rare steak have settled into a pool on the plate and he is staring at it, mesmerized, like it’s work of art. I hesitantly ask if I may remove it and he seems somewhat sad to see it go. Of course he wants dessert. After I rattle off our dessert selections he decides upon the chocolate mouse, probably because it’s creamy like his last victim was after he pureed him in a Vitamix with half and half. Never before have I gotten a dessert out to a table so quickly.
“That was verrry fasssst,” he whispers. “And it looks delicioussss.” He moves his hand to his chin and pulls at whiskers in a beard that isn’t there. “I sssimply can’t wait to eat thisssss.”
“Yeah, “ I say.
I print his check so that it can be ready as soon as he asks for it. Mercifully, he soon signals that he wants it. He uses that hand gesture that we all know so well that looks like someone is writing on an imaginary wall but in his case he moves his hand very slowly like he is conducting an orchestra that consists solely of xylophones made out skeleton bones.
His check is $60. I run his credit card and I am surprised that the name on the card is not Hannibal Lector. He gets up to leave and wishes me a “fond good evening.”
“I’ll see you soon,” he tells me. Again, the hairs on my neck stand up. His glance moves down my body and back up to my eyes and I feel that he is looking at me like grade A prime beef and wondering if wants to grind me up or use me in a stir fry.
“Have a good night,” I tell him.
When he is gone, it feels like the temperature of the restaurant is not as icy as it had been only moments before. He has left me $15. I am happy for the great tip but can’t help but wonder if he is always so generous with his future victims.