There is the way you hold it and then the way you push down on it, the amount of pressure but also where the pressure is coming from. I can polish the plates by making tight circles with my fingertips underneath the polishing cloth or I can push hard with my palm and make circles like that. The plates are small, plain and white. With my left hand I can hold the plate between my thumb and pointer finger or I can cup it from behind, all my fingers appearing around the edge of the lip. The satisfaction is in the circling. I try to direct the satisfaction down in me and into the clay of the plate so we can share it. When I slept with the guy who had the foot fetish he told me about his first time and the surprise element. He was in a college dorm room and he gave a foot massage to a girl he liked and he came right there in his pants. He didn’t tell her because he was embarrassed. It was his own private moment with her feet and even though he hid it he had found a new something all of his own. I try to have my own private moments with the plates while polishing but I want to give back to them too. Still, it becomes our shared privacy when the waiters come in fast and complaining and dumping bones and shells and paper into the trash and the rest of the food into the garbage disposal bin. The satisfaction is not about completion but about staying alert. It is best when the dishes are just out of the dishwasher because then they are warm and wet. The wet pools and the cloth absorbs it and then the wet makes the cloth’s circles slick and fluid. The movement together with the enlarging stack of polished plates becomes lyrical. Lyrical is a word another guy used when describing his own paintings to me and it made me so nauseous that I never saw him again.
I have to stay until eleven even though nights like tonight my work is done by 9:30 ish, all the vegetables cut for tomorrow and stored in clear quart containers I’ve arranged in the walk-in with the date written out on the blue tape. The tape is an inch and a quarter wide which is the only size allowed. I’ve made the stock and trays of bread pudding and put it away to cool so we can cut it tomorrow. I stuffed the fat Castelvetrano olives with spicy sausage and arranged them in bags of ten, ten to an order. At home I have ramen, a book I can’t get into but also the Internet. My friend isn’t working at his bar tonight and I don’t like going out alone so at home I will have a stiff drink or two, the ramen with a few packets of seasoning and binge something online until my eyes close. The other sous chef is listening to headphones which isn’t allowed and the servers have stopped coming back here because everything is dead slow and the customers are just doing drinks. There’s this hour-and-a-half void and so I turn to the walls. The walls are brick painted first white and then salmon but the pink has peeled and there was water damage at some point so nothing is ever going to look clean. The paint is matte and as the dishwasher pointed out, things would be better if the paint were some slippery variety of latex. This particular dishwasher keeps his station so sparkling it feels wrong to see dishes pile up in the plastic tub on the rolling cart and especially bad when servers don’t knock the verde sauce or paprika encrusted almonds out of the silver ramekins like they’re supposed to before leaving him with them. With latex paint a sponge would glide over the wall, grease and bits of food would slide right off. We could wet it by wringing the sponge and run our fingers up and down the slickness. The bumps from paint-on-paint would make the feeling like grass and dirt under a slip ‘n slide except this would be felt with hands instead of legs and butt. I fill a green bucket with Sani, an extra squirt in the hot water because my hands are tough, and I get a bar mop wet in the bucket then ring it to damp. I am the tallest one here but I still need a rubber-footed stool to get at the dusty part where wall meets ceiling. Grease has got up there too and all the unnamable flecks of things as well. I push hard into the wall, and concentrate on the areas where I can see the mess before soaping over the whole thing. You have to really get at a specific spot if you want anything to happen then go wide and broad from there. I want to push my whole body against the wall and make the circles my size but I’m not actually alone. I sing under my breath because Chef says no radio here, it would leak out into the restaurant and disturb the guests’ experience. The time spreads because I get lost in the grease moments that are tough to dislodge. I can’t see the stains beneath the bar mop so I have to trust the slight difference in touch, keep at it until the wall goes flat and the grease is gone. When it is over I feel it in my wrist and bicep and know that I’ll be sore there tomorrow, all in my right arm. It is good to have something to remember the hour by.
It is imperative behind the bar that the silver surfaces are clean and shiny. It is imperative too that surfaces that should be dry stay dry and that the surface of the water counter station is constantly wiped with a clean bar mop so that water doesn’t pool and make the linen that is left under the water pitchers get wet. Then sink behind the bar is used to wash hands but it is important the inside is sprayed with degreaser and cleaned when bad with a scrub sponge and when not with a rag. That thing gets disgusting, it is disgusting to have it sitting there with residue from beer and iced tea and the lemons from iced tea which everyone is always throwing in there even though they should be putting the lemons and cocktail traws in the trash and pouring the beverages out under the taps where there is a drain and where we have to be using liquid to clean up the sticky beer anyway. The grill under the taps is my favorite silver thing. I like to neatly fold a bar mop so it is a soft rectangle, wet it in cleanser and send it through the glass washer where it gets hot and gets a second dose of clean – the glass washer has three types of chemicals, blue, red, and green. If I run the bar mop through the glass washer two times it will be steaming hot and almost burn when I cup my hand over it. I like to do this and ring the steaming cloth while casually chatting with a bar guest about wild yeast strains. This is when the bar mop is ready for the grill under the taps and I run it over the whole thing right to left, long arm like in the cartoon when the piano player strokes the keys and they all undulate, seamless, to make a note. I come back for a second go and get at the sticky bits. This is satisfying because it removes grime but I like the first part most so I run the bar mop through the glass washer again, tending to other silver things while it runs it’s cycle. One of the Russians I like to read, he said a fool thinks how to spend time, a sage how to use it. If I had the movement of time my way I would be all up in the flow of pouring drinks and serving drinks and moving aside for food to be placed in front of a guest and then I would freeze everything, organize and polish back to the way things are in the morning before letting everyone get things all out of whack once again.
Here is the way the knives go: they slide between both sets of fingers like long elegant bullets and propel themselves out into the tub of polished silver. The polishing cloth keeps me from committing skin to metal but I pinch the blade between two fingers and stroke back, forth, before attending to the handle which is a method of small circles and using my nail, clothed, to tend to the decorative moments where food can get stuck inside an arabesque. The knives shoot out quickly and land flat and solid in the gray plastic tubs. The tubs themselves sometimes accumulate little bits of fur and dust and I like to rub the soft and rounded corners clean before filling them with silver. The forks take more time, the tines tangle when I release them out from my polishing hand and I lose my rhythm in arranging, making them fit one into the other. I like the forks to spoon. The spoons themselves are almost too easy, you make your circles within a similar shape and then they nestle into stacks that are soft even though made of metal. Still I save them for last because it is nice to end in the easy before the next task. The silver has to go through the wash two times, this is standard. It is either the double chemicals or something about the interaction of the chemicals with the metal that does a number on my skin. Even though I only touch the silver with my fingers or with the polishing cloth I get red lines like scratching reaching up the insides of my wrists. The lines on my wrists last for at least a few hours. The silver makes the tub heavy so that I stop en route to the basement and rest the tub on my hip. On my hip and heavy I feel the weight as a small body. If the tub becomes skin to the silver that makes the meat of this body then things dwindle as they get outside – the silver shines from my polishing and the gray tub is the same tone as the silver but dull and marked from running into corners. When I told the biter that he had left marks all over my body he said in a very sentimental way, next time you have to show me your marks. In the basement I pinch a knife and fork together, fork on top, and place them at the base of a white linen folded into a triangle. I fold in the corners of the triangle and roll up the silver, my hands in the air. I like the pinching and the folding and the rolling but each as an isolated event. They are necessary elements in making the rollup but as parts they are incongruous and clunky. Still, if I roll the triangle tight I can feel the forms of fork and knife beneath the cloth and the tight rolls fit into the wicker baskets so well that they are pretty enough to go upstairs.