By Sebastien Muiel
A young man named Antonio immigrated from Colombia to the United States in search of starting a new life. Nothing seemed quite extraordinary about this awkward fellow, for he had a gentle obliqueness to his demeanor, and spoke with a softness that resonated weakly with his skewed eyebrows. His first job was as a busboy in an extremely prestigious hotel within an extremely pretentious city. There was no requirement to his occupation other than wiping down the crusts of wealth left behind by society’s elites and occasionally saying, “Good morning—afternoon—evening” which was, in lieu of Antonio’s cultural and linguistic ineptitude, a grand relief. He tapped his feet at the motion of a nonchalant business man, and he held his chin low at the nod of an aristocrat; there was never more than a word, breath, or glance exchanged between Antonio and his clientele.
The napkins scrunched at the leisure of the hungry wealthy, and the tables waited for the care of Antonio. After several days of maintaining the divine cleanliness of the restaurant’s tables, the quirky busboy was now prolific in executing his duty—it was as if he had miraculously found a suitable profession for himself. Plates clattered and tips wavered as the restaurant began to receive more and more guests; however, no matter how many customers were present, Antonio still fluttered gaily at the sight of a table marred with leftovers, and he happily gave customers the occasional fork and knife upon request. On one particular day, Antonio was cleaning a table left by a German family when he was gently approached by sharply-faced man, dressed in long layers of a fine fabric embroidered with colorful jewels. Antonio looked at the man politely and said softly, in his broken English,
“Can I help you, sir?”
This was, undoubtedly, the most prolonged interaction Antonio has ever had with a customer. His hands grew sweaty with a Spanish moisture that mercilessly reminded him of his very limited set of responses that halted at forks and knifes. The ornately dressed man asked him, in an eloquent European accent,
“Where is the toilette?”
Petrified, mortified, and terrified—Antonio could barely subdue his fear. With a painfully benign tone, he softly responded,
“One moment please.”
The ornately dressed man smiled benevolently and closed his eyes for a quick moment, as if absorbing the leisure that accompanies his reception of service. When he opened his eyes, however, he saw that Antonio was nowhere to be found. He purred at his abandonment, and lazily searched for Antonio.
Dashing through the crust-tainted tables, and dodging monstrous purses and grease-stained chefs—Antonio crashed into the kitchen and hastily scoured for what the ornately dressed man requested. He violently opened and closed cabinets, and clumsily dropped and broke plates—all in search for something that he did not know existed; furthermore, he had not the smallest idea as to what it was. The employees in the kitchen watched him curiously as he was tearing down the kitchen while muttering angrily to himself, “Toilette, toilette, toilette!” The chefs began to laugh as their food cooked, and the waiters cackled as their plates toppled; however, Antonio saw no humor in his panic, and he simply yelled back at everyone, gesticulating with frustration, “Toilette! Where the toilette!” Everyone was far too engulfed in their laughter to actually attend to Antonio’s needs—the sense of sympathy was suspended as the humor that presented itself in an unknowing foreigner was exceedingly satisfying. Antonio cursed under his breath in Spanish and stormed out of the kitchen.
Antonio needed a solution. He saw the fancy man searching for him, so he went into the bathroom to hide. The shame that was beginning to pollute Antonio’s heart was far too great for him to approach the fancy man with no answer to his request. While in the bathroom, Antonio ceaselessly muttered to himself “toilette, toilette, toilette” while gripping the sink’s counter in a deep frustration. A young European boy exited the stall behind Antonio and witnessed the busboy’s madness. Antonio, not aware of the boy behind him, begin to pound his fists on the counter with great fury, shouting “TOILETTE! TOILETTE! TOILETTE!” The European boy screamed in terror and scurried out of the bathroom, shouting about a strange man who needed a toilette in the bathroom. Antonio realized what he had done, and he fearfully fixes his gaze upon the bathroom door, expecting at any moment his manager to carry out his demise. The door swings open, and he sees his manager, the fancy man, and the European child, who appears to be the fancy man’s son.
It was not until Antonio’s manager showed him where the notorious “toilette” was that he understood clearly why he could not find it in the kitchen. The ornately dressed man witnessed this imprudence, and he closed his eyes momentarily, absorbing the pleasure found in his comprehension of the matters at hand. Antonio held his chin low, as the ornately dressed man acknowledged him with a nonchalant—nevertheless grateful—nod of appreciation.
Originally published 12/09/15