My working life came to a full blow as I realized how much it dominated my life. My drive, ambition all good attributes have gotten me into deeper commitments than cared for nor liked. A single young woman there are prejudices that marriage and children limit work production. So opportunities limited and hating the idea I push the envelope. Before I knew it, the envelope sealed around into isolation. I’m still single years later as woman of the hour, no kids or husband for me home at the holidays the jobs yours. The great thing being in another country you don’t notice Thanksgiving but not this year state side. I’ve burned through the hotel menu seldom ventured past hotel or the company. The secret: work and stay at hotels providing the essentials. The new plant opens March eliminating jobs in September no holiday pay. It’s cost savings that’s all I had to shut things down this week as the last closer got dragged by the staff till November.
Black Friday will be black an outside contractor will break down the equipment and it’s all going to a liquidator in Los Angeles the end. I knew this would be my last job cause the fact they botched my round trip return my employer are bastards l know cause I couldn’t close upon landing last Thursday they really hate paying people while theirs more money to be made. Angry at the weighting game till tomorrow, so out the door for once and see the town on foot. Everything closed nothing but window shop at empty stores, watched a police officer drive by me staring me down. That’s when I noticed the restaurant open sign someone probably forgot to turn it off.
The menu on the window looked good too bad It was — — — .”Ahaa!” I screamed. I did not notice the old lady on the other side of the window had come and stare at me. It was unnerving she waved for me to come in. Before I could reach the doorway she was standing in the open door shouting, “Come in you moost be hundgary! Come, come sit.” Her accent answered my question probably not in the U.S. long enough to understand good business practice to close on Thanksgiving with fewer clients. I went in what the heck I thought the tables were all set with mismatching dinning service but looked artistically playful. I sat at a booth close to the kitchen, I did not want to bother them with the logistics of bringing my dinner nor utilize a large table. It was a cozy little booth for two and the corner was dim. If someone did venture out I did not want to be spotted from the window and be attacked by a disgruntle employee losing their job this week.
I placed my order right away the menu options not traditional Thanksgiving all Middle Eastern. But when was the last time I had a traditional Thanksgiving meal not in jeez I thought, nine years, dang-nab-it I’ve been at this too long. I thought to myself looking at the empty plate in front of how long since I was a hot commodity in the dating market. Let’s see I’ve had over fourteen boyfriends since I was thirteen and the last guy was and I was doing what at the time? “Um — Uh?” I pondered out loud. The server a younger woman came out setting down a Naan-o-Paneer-o-Sabzi appetizer. She spoke pleasant English, “I will take this service away, unless you are expecting someone?” “No, no nobody is joining me.” I said as she began taking away the service the elder woman came out and her facial expression changed. She vehemently addressed the younger woman in a language dialect to the Middle East I was not familiar with their heated exchange ended abruptly.
“KISHTA!” I heard a voice behind me in a similar tone of language but sharp hard and definitely a male. The server reset the empty place setting down and smiled and walked back into the kitchen following the older woman. I turned but saw no one around there was a booth behind me but the plants too thick and the lighting too dim to tell if he sat there but I could feel it. And again I drifted back to thoughts of my last date was “Dear father in heaven twenty-one years!” I muttered out aloud. I was yeah nineteen and next month I’ll be thirty-nine so, oh Christ I thought. How did this happen, I’˜ve not noticed? I thought. Well, the rest of my meal came out Tah cheen was delicious and desert Tanginak with Bastani Akbar-Mashti sublime. I asked for the check and paid with a large tip. I walked out it was dark but wandered slowly back to my hotel. I turned the corner and bumped into a rather tall man. Took a deep sigh of relief it was a police officer on foot.
“Ms. why are out this evening?” he questioned his voice resonating in echo of the silent street. “I’m, um, here on business and just came back from dinner and just returning to my hotel it’s just a few blocks away.” I felt like a child in his presence as he clearly towered over me in height; a car passes and I could see his face as the headlights shown momentarily. Gosh, handsome in his uniform did wonders or more like the other way around. “I’ll escort you there to ensure you get back safely.” He turned and stepped beside me. “No, that won’t be necessary, I can walk very well on my own, I’m sure you have more important things pressing.” I stated to him. His reply, “I did not ask, I told you I’m escorting you back to your hotel end of discussion.” I hated his tone I have been around the world even in hostile places my rebuke “And what if I change my mind, about returning to the hotel? Like I said it’s not necessary officer, I’m sure you have more pressing matters to attend to than to walk me back, I’m not a dog nor desire to be on a leash. Now if you would excuse me I would rather like to be alone.”
“Is that so, well you are returning to your hotel cause the staff will be locking it’s doors in fifteen minutes and if I catch you sleeping out in the street your more than welcome to sleep in lockup.” He spoke leaning closer to my face. I silently sulked all the way back to the hotel. The hotel manager was standing at the door “I went in “I glad you returned Ms. Reece shortly from your outing, I have seen to it anything you would need for the evening is arranged in your room and room service will automatically transfer to me at home or to the officer.” The manager stated. I looked puzzled and stared at both of them. ‘˜Excuse me, the officer will be staying in your absence?” knowing I’m the only guest and it was Thanksgiving but to leave an officer in charge?” The manager turned to face me “Yes, maim Matthias once worked here as a kid before his military service and besides there is a death threat against you.” The manager nodded at the officer and handed his keys then briskly walked out as officer Matthias locked the door. I felt ill and walked into the lobby parlor to sit down in front of the bay window seat.
“You shouldn’t sit near open windows it’s a good shot and a lot of the locals are good hunters. Besides your better off in your room it’s more secure I’ve checked it out all ready.” He said as leaning past me to look out the window. “I have training in these things considering my work officer my company has shelled some six figures in weaponry, self-defense and defensive driving tactics training. I have opened facilities in the Gulf, South America, Africa, Kashmir and closed places more hostile than this.” I thought of the last major threat and knew they were exaggerated cause the company did not even send a security detail on this assignment. “Well this is my jurisdiction and I don’t want any trouble that you might have brought with you besides your company called me to deal with your security and notify you that I’m to escort you to the airport after the plants move is completed.” He looked at me blankly. “Just as I thought, it figures your doing the dirty work for nothing and they get to save an extra buck great company I work for don’t you think?”
I get up to walk past him, “What do you mean for nothing?” he questioned. “I mean isn’t it apparent I snapped at you earlier cause instead of my company calling me they called you. I’ve been fired this is my last assignment and if I’m not injured or killed this saves the company money in insurance. I’m more familiar with my company providing a security detail to all these closings and openings always this is the first time I’m on my own but truly I’ve always been alone on these jobs. So you’re the one in the rock and a hard place not me I’m free of years of crap for nothing.” He looked at me sadly, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be It’s the politics of greed that I bought into for years, I’ve made them a lot of money it’s time to hire a new kid for less money and too dumb to know any better. I needed to get out anyway too many years dinning alone staring at an empty plate across from mine for too many years.” I turned and walked out of the room. I settled into my room after a hot shower and changed into something more comfortable. I turned on the computer to work and looked at the clock I had usually scheduled a hot tea and nibbles at this time oh well that won’t happen this night, when I heard a knock at the door. I opened the door and there was my security detail with a loaded room service cart. “Adam the manager told be you schedule an evening tea I’ll set it up for you on in the sitting area.” I couldn’t help but notice it is more than what usually comes with my regular tea service for one. He set two place settings a mistake on his part I didn’t say a thing just walked into the bedroom area to retrieve my laptop.
He was seated at the table “It’s rude to have a laptop at the table when you have company at the table.” Now, he invites himself to the room of a single woman that’s rude I thought to myself who does this arrogant man think he is? I place down my laptop to the side and sat in front of him planning my verbal attack. “You did not dine alone tonight you know I was in Sahi restaurant with you. I assume you rather not look at an empty plate this time across from you besides I need to talk about the details of this weekends move.” So, this was the voice that said to leave it the plate, looking at him closely I guessed ex-marines either in Afghanistan no Iraqi war. “I don’t mind the empty plate really, it’s when it is taken away I feel at a loss officer Matthias.” He only nodded at my reply. “As for the details it’s all set I have a crew in as early as 4 am to break everything down and load into trucks the plant is scheduled to be emptied out tomorrow by 3 or no later than 6 in the evening. Everything will be shipped to our Los Angeles warehouse to either be liquidated or packed for India. So, I can be out of your hair by tomorrow evening if I can get a flight back.”
He stopped stirring his coffee, “Your quick aren’t you? I assumed you would be here for at least several weeks.” I sighed “Well, I’m not paid to be slow there is a reason they hired me, I’m fast efficient and a workaholic that have wasted no time not even my personal time to get even the ugly things done without the waste to the bottom line. I’ve done this too long and pursuing the wrong thing only to get burned liked the rest of the people in this community.” Sipping my tea he only looked back at me puzzled. “So, you have been with the company 21 years, if that’s what you expressed in the restaurant?” I felt flushed, dear god he heard that retort he was sitting right behind me. “No, that was something different entirely other areas I’m working out.” We ended up talking well into the night at nine o’clock when my yawn gave it away I was beat he cleared the setting and said he will be waiting to escort me out to the factory at 3:45 am. I nodded and retired for the evening.
I slept uneasy at first but finally nodded off after 11:43, I could not help it. It was the first time I had a real conversation that wasn’t about business. I did not realize how much I missed something as simple as a conversation for pleasure about things and nothing at all. Upon waking at 2:45 am, I geared into action the trucks were on the road and will be on time. Two semi-trucks already at the site now and the equipment operators on route in separate vans. The food truck/cater was setting up had just arrived for the workers meals. I got dressed as checking on everything on speaker phone packed my suit case, business bag and checked the room for anything I’ve missed. After, my last call to the security guard at the factory I proceeded to finish up in the bathroom. I was down stairs by 3:25 ready to go. Matthias was nowhere to be found in the lobby. I sat to wait it out then in the silence I heard a radio on in the back towards the dinning room and kitchen. I followed it to find my personal security detail in the kitchen wearing an apron, I admire men who cook and he cracked the eggs each in one hand. A feat I can’t do, since my life is spent on the road.
I stood silently watching as he prepared and omelet, he can even flip eggs in a pan like the chefs on the food network. I’m impressed along with the singing nice voice. Who is this man, I’m thinking to myself cooks, police officer, and ex-soldier, speaks fluent languages, a law degree and yet returns to this small town. There is a story here but what and why such a talent decides to be limited back to a small town that is slowly dying out. He turns and notices me standing and watching “I didn’t know I had an audience, I hope a simple omelet, fresh baked brioche and fresh berries are to your liking.” Like, I’m falling in love but of course he probably returned for a sweetheart. “It sounds wonderful, can I help with anything.” He nodded no and we sat down at the bar to eat he had coffee ready. We left a few minutes earlier than scheduled he even help carried my luggage out to the office before leaving. “I’ll be back at around 3:00 later to see if you need a ride.”
The day went off without a hitch but my travel plans out were nowhere in sight all I could do is find a cheapo motel in the adjacent county till something opened up for air travel next Wednesday. The headquarters office exchange already listed me as not having corporate access to travel arrangements. The question where would I go since I had no real address, I lived in hotels and my home address was my office. I just booked the hotel and would figure it out later. He showed up at 3:00 and the crew almost finished. “The airport he asked?” I answered “No, they failed to arrange any travel plans so it’s the lodge on route 1, till I make arrangements to go somewhere on Wednesday?” He looked puzzled “Somewhere you mean home right?” I looked past him “Well I live out of the suitcase so, I will be most likely looking to return back to Arlington to turn in my laptop, empty my office and find an apartment and change my address on identification from my business’s dormitories address. It’s a nice burn notice, I’ve seen them do worse it’s not like I’m overseas.” I down played the issue.
Well not knowing the area I just rode around and came upon a dirt road then a white farmhouse. “Um, this isn’t the lodge? Where have you taken me exactly?” He opened the car door and leaned forward “My place you’ll stay here cause till you leave you can still get shot by any local this is a small community and they will find you, it’s not a five-star accommodations your looking at but it will do?” Now I’ve seen everything a man with intention for chivalry or something else, I tried not to expect the worst. The house small yet cozy and I could smell something wonderful cooking and we were alone. I noticed there were all pictures of him and his parents but no girlfriend no wedding pictures. Well, I freshened up and began to make a call on my cell when I received a message this phone service has been canceled, great the contractors must have parlayed that they were on route and all things squared. So, the rest of my business gadgets gone. I checked the laptop I have e-mail, sent my sister a message to ask to stay with her. She replied back: I’ve made arrangements for you to stay at Mom and Dad’s house cause the house hasn’t sold yet. The old neighbor Maggie will have a key and the house will have everything you need to stay there.
Our conversations were pleasant and his company wonderful then the day arrived for him to drop me off at the airport. He refused any offer to have me compensate him for my stay. I saw on the local news cause of the plant shutdown that the community was becoming a ghost town as everyone had moved away or found jobs several counties away leaving it down to only to 12 residents in town all planning to leave soon. The entire town and surrounding areas had been purchased by a developer it will become a golf resort. Matthias was the legal attorney brokering the deal for the towns’ people. After about a week at home and dead ends for jobs I reluctantly went out to dinner. The waiter wanted to take away the place setting in front of me. I stated leave it I admitted that I wasn’t expecting any one but hope it may change. He looked at me strange and walked away to place my order in the kitchen. I found a dead end job sufficient to keep me in my parents old home but nothing else.
The strange thing about an empty plate growing up it was something done if in case you had an extra visitor. You also leave a place setting out of years of habit for a relative recently deceased or family member newly absent by war, work or leaving the nest. Not taking it away gives you a sense of a presence that someone is missing in your life might be coming. Till the meal is eaten and time that the table is cleared then the truth of that empty plate being unserved becomes a reality. Something I explained to Matthias when he pressed me about why not having an empty plate was so unnerving to me. So, on Thanksgiving Day a year later at Denny’s I’m sitting all of a sudden the waitress returns to place a plate setting in front of me. I’m confused and then I heard a familiar voice “I hope you don’t mind the company I’m in town for a job interview and they don’t place empty plates to look at in this establishment.” I look up it was Matthias I smiled at him. Hope is an empty plate you just have to make a place setting for it to happen.
Writer’s note: This is a fictional story the means of lucrative travel opportunities are real and offer some potential risk as you deal with independent foreign companies that may have contract agreements that pose some hazards. May it serves as a warning travel jobs offer great deal of money but are so due to the nature and risks with the jobs they offer. My worst experience the brakes cut on my car.
Balochi language reference in story (a Kurdish dialect spoken in the middle east)
Kishta ‘” leave it
Sahi ‘” room to breath (The name of the Kurdish Restaurant)
Naan-o-Paneer-o-Sabzi ‘” Iranian thin bread, feta cheese and herbs
Tah Cheen ‘” Dish made with chicken, rice, egg, yogurt and saffron
Tanginak ‘” fried wheatflour, sugar, dates, walnuts, pistachios, cinnamon and cardomon.
Bastani Akbar-mashti ‘” Vanilla Ice-cream with thick cream and rosewater.