The Waitress by Laura Sylvester

Printed in the Conscious Creation Journal
June-July 2000, Issue 12

The Waitress
by Laura Sylvester

“Hello, how are you today?” I ask, smiling. “Are you ready to order?” The woman looks down at her placemat. Her shoulder length brown hair hides her face. Her male companion grunts.

“Do you need a few more minutes?” I ask as I study him surreptitiously. Short black hair that looks like it would be curly if given a chance to grow. His fingers on the menu are so thick and swollen they look like something you should prick with a fork before putting in the microwave. The rest of him doesn’t look particularly big.

He says, “I’ll have a double cheese burger, medium well with bacon and tomato. Fries. Make sure they’re crispy. Coffee. She’ll have a tuna sandwich on white.” His voice is low and hard, the words squeezed out from tight lips.

“Would you like something to drink?” I ask the woman. “Water,” says the man. “Sure thing.” I hurry off to the kitchen.

*   *   *

Five hours later, home at last, I fill my plastic bucket with steaming water and Johnson’s Foot Salts, whose package promises to ‘soak away foot misery’. I put on Radiohead’s OK Computer, and slowly ease my feet into the water. I close my eyes.

I am with the placemat-gazing woman from the restaurant. Her eyes are filled with unshed tears. “What is it?” I ask gently.

“He won’t let me finish my degree because he needs me to take care of the house,” she says. “He won’t let me shop for my own clothes or choose what I eat. He says if I really loved him, I would be happy. I do love him, but I’m not happy!” She chokes back a sob.

I take her hand. “You have to leave.”

“I’m too scared,” she says. “He’ll come after me.”

I tell her about the shelter in town and how they will relocate her to a safe place and help her get a job while she goes back to school. “They’ll do everything they can to keep you safe,” I promise. “You don’t have kids?”

She shakes her head no. “Pregnant?” I ask.

“No.  He doesn’t want children.”

“Good,” I say. “That makes it easier.” I repeat the name and address of the shelter and take her other hand in mine. “You are strong enough to do this. Promise me you’ll go tomorrow.”

“I promise,” she says shakily.

“Just because you’re dreaming doesn’t mean this isn’t real,” I say. “You will remember this conversation when you wake up.”

She disappears and I turn to find Joia with me. “How’d I do?” I ask.

“I like the way you helped her feel safe,” she says, “but remember to infuse people with intention, along with your words.”

I am chagrined. “I always forget. I get caught up in their pain.”

“Empathy is necessary for this job,” she says. “But you can learn to be compassionate and detached. Otherwise, they’ll drain you.”

“I’ll work on it,” I promise.

She smiles and hugs me. I am flooded with light and wake up, happy.

I haven’t always been a dreamworker. I have a degree in marketing and was ready to set the corporate world alight, but after graduating I couldn’t find a job. For six months, I went on interview after interview. Inevitably, it would come down to me and one other person, and they would get the job. This got very depressing.

I watched my friends from college land great or at least good jobs, while I had to move back in with my parents.

Finally, desperate for money, I took the waitressing job. Four years of college, dean’s list almost every semester, for this? I abhorred waiting on people, being beneath notice, coming home exhausted and smelling like stale food and cigarettes.

I stopped seeing my old friends. Eventually, I stopped looking for work. I questioned the existence of a God who would allow a smart, eager worker like me to go unused. I thought of all the interviews I had gone on, and how close I had come. If there were a God, it seemed like He was preventing those people from hiring me.

After 18 months, when it felt like I could go no lower, I started having these crazy dreams. In them, people who were in trouble would seek me out. Instead of being dark and depressed, I was wise and compassionate. I said things that helped them. At first I didn’t recognize these dream-mates, but eventually I realized they were all people I had waited on.

I would wake up feeling positively numinous, until I realized I still had to go wait tables.

One night I dreamed a woman came to me. She wasn’t troubled, she radiated serenity. Just looking into her green eyes made me burst into tears. She smiled, and waves of warmth spread through me. I told her how unhappy I’d been.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, “but it’s important that you understand despair in order to help those who come to you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You have a highly developed ability to dream lucidly,” she replied. “Some people are talented in art or sports, but your gifts are more subtle.”

I gaped. “You mean these dreams I’ve been having are real?”

She smiled. “Yes. As is this one. Non-physical reality just vibrates at a finer frequency.”

“Wow,” I said. Then I had a thought. “How can I be sure I’m not just inventing you, and the others, to make myself feel better?”

“You have to trust,” she said. “My name is Joia. I will help you develop your counseling skills and call in aspects of yourself from other realities.”

“Wow,” I said again.

“This is fulfilling work,” she said, “but there are stipulations.”

I knew it. “What?” I sighed.

“You mustn’t tell anyone what you are doing. You must keep waitressing in order to draw in those you will help, and you must try to change your attitude about work. Think of yourself as being in service to humanity.”

“Never tell anyone!” I wailed. “Keep waitressing! What kind of spiritual advice is that? What about my degree?”

“Oh, there’s a reason for everything,” she said. “Think it over. No one is forcing you.”

With that, she disappeared and I woke up. I dressed and raced to the library, where I was unable to find anything on dreamworkers or dream counselors. I did, however, find information on lucid dreams:

Lucid dreaming is the ability to realize one is dreaming, and then to control events within the dream. Not only does lucid dreaming lead one to question the nature of reality, but, for many, it is also a source of transcendent experience. Exalted and ecstatic states are common in lucid dreams.

That didn’t sound too bad. After a few days, I realized that I didn’t want the dreams to end. But the thought of continued waitressing seemed like a prison sentence. And, how could I not tell anyone? Could I really feel good about myself with everyone thinking I was just a food servant?

*   *   *

One night a few months ago, a woman came into the restaurant with her three-year-old daughter. It was 10 o’clock and they were having dinner. “Isn’t it past your bedtime?” I asked the girl. She was adorable, all big blue eyes and blond ringlets. She looked at me and sucked her thumb. Her mother answered, “Ellie is afraid to fall asleep, so she stays up late every night. She has nightmares.”

“Poor sweetie,” I said. “What are your dreams about?”

“Monsters,” she said, around her thumb.

“Well, I’ll tell you what.” I bent down to whisper in her ear. “You look for me in your dreams tonight and I’ll teach you how to turn those monsters into puppies and bunnies.”

She looked at me to see if I was serious. “OK,” she nodded.

Ellie has become my dream buddy. She’s a fast learner and now she can fly, as well as transform monsters. When she comes into the restaurant these days, always before seven, we smile at each other, but don’t talk dreams. Ellie understands, without me needing to explain, that our nighttime adventures are our secret.

As for Mr. Sausage Fingers, he comes in occasionally, by himself. I hear through the grapevine that he had to take an anger management course. Last time I took his order, he actually smiled at me.

Now, that’s progress.

©2000, Laura Sylvester.  Printed in the June-July 2000 Issue of the Conscious Creation Journal. (Feel free to duplicate this article for personal use – please include this copyright notice.)

Laura Sylvester is a freelance writer, editor, trained psychic, and energy healer in Western Massachusetts. She lives with her husband and two daughters. She spends as much time as possible dreaming. You can reach her at [email protected].  “The Waitress” has also been published in a literary magazine called El Ojo Del Lago, the largest English language magazine in Mexico, and Laura won their annual fiction prize!