Despite the daytime hours the cafe was as gloomy as ever inside, even on such a bright morning. It was my first time working the day-waitress position, a change made because of a shift in my class schedule that semester. The previous day-waitress assured me that business was slow mornings, and the manager frequently had to pay her straight out of the register to help her make her daily minimum of thirty dollars in tips. This was a rule that kept the owner out of trouble with the labor board for underpaying his workers. The cafe was struggling , another future casualty of New York's fickle dining industry.

During the day, there were only three of us working; a waitress, a cook, and a manager. The cook was an illegal from Mexico who didn't speak much English but was a very nice guy. The manager was a young, petite Argentine woman who's eighteen-month-old son looked like he outweighed his mother. She was seldom around during the mornings, leaving the waitress to take care of things while she ran more important aspects of the business. These included going to the bank to make change and chatting with the hair stylists in the salon next-door. I had to constantly look busy , the owner and his wife had a habit of catching me in the two seconds of rest I took every five hours. They had nasty tempers particular to owners of a future failure. On this morning, I decided to clean the glass.

Polishing the all-glass storefront was my way of having a ringside seat to the rush hour madness, a way to connect myself to the city's pulse. Traffic flew by at a murderous pace between stoplights situated every few hundred feet, especially during the morning commute. There were no customers, so I passed time speculating as I wiped the smeared glass, trying to guess details about the anonymous passers-by. A man, tight jeans and sunglasses, beaten-up valise swinging from muscular arms. Must be a struggling actor, on his way to another audition downtown, then to wait tables at a more upscale establishment somewhere on the Upper East side, way across town from the sub-let studio apartment he was slaving to keep. A child, obviously in the company of her nanny, rolled by in a stroller. Her sticky face turned toward me and our eyes met as I was kneeling to reach the finger smears left by little ones such as she. The nanny paused to answer a tiny cell phone, most likely issued to her by the mother - a direct line linkup to the exhausted Philippine woman raising her child. The mother was no doubt off bettering the world through editing a fashion magazine or getting prepared to lunch with others of her kind, where they could exchange charming stories about their children that the nannies told them. "Conseuela told me Jasper did the most amusing thing the other day! He learned to walk! Isn't that clever?" As the nanny received her instructions for the morning I made monkey faces at the little girl. Nanny tossed the phone in the bag hanging from the stroller, rolling her big brown eyes. She made a quick inspection of her cargo, who was making faces back at me, and rolled away down Broadway toward Seventy-fifth street.

The glass was as clear as it would ever be under the constant of fumes and fingertips. I walked to the back of the small room, navigating tiny spaces between crammed tables. Lonely morning, no prospects for tips, and straight to class after work until ten that night. I stowed the glass cleaner under the wait-station and stayed crouching for a moment, resting my head on my palms. When I stood up Kevin Bacon was standing by the register, eying the gelato case.

He was much more handsome, and taller, in person. That was the first thing I noticed. He was wearing fitted jeans and cowboy boots, topped by a white crew neck tee and a soft leather jacket. His boyish hair was rumpled and hung over his left eye in a most charming manner. Most charming, yes. Oh wow, a real live famous person. I'd seen them from afar, lots of them lived in New York, but this was the closest I'd ever been to a celebrity in my life.

He must have spoken to me, because I know I brought him a few scoops of gelato and a coffee, but I can't remember a thing he said. He was one of my favorite actors, and the shock to my system must be the reason why I can't recall a thing. That's not entirely true, because I do recall the way his jeans hugged his butt, the way his jacket framed his square shoulders, and the way he tipped me. He handed the tip to me himself, came to the back of the room special to do it. I looked up into his warm blue eyes and he smiled and thanked me by name. He left like a cowboy, swaggering into the golden sunlight bouncing from the glass walls above the street bathing him in a hero's glow . I tore my eyes away and looked at the bill crumpled into my sweaty palm. A fifty. He was the only customer I has at the tables all morning and well into the afternoon, but I took home more tips that day than I ever would again. Kevin Bacon, he sure has class.

Since then, I have created many scenarios of how that meeting could have went. In one I tell him I am in acting school and he offers me a part in his next film on the spot. Another has us setting fires of passion in the kitchen. It burns me that I don't recall what was actually said between us that day, probably the usual charming-waitress charming -guest routine. I imagine I was calm and routine with him, but warm enough to win his trust. And his tip. Kevin Bacon was the first celebrity I ever touched, back when touching celebrity was important.

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Editor's Note



Carrie Bennett was born and raised in Upstate New York. She is currently writing from a log cabin situated among the mountains of Alaska's Matanuska Valley. Her work has appeared in Wild Violet Magazine and Long Story Short.

Copyright 2004, Carrie Bennett. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.