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Not Bananas

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Man, I'm absolutely bushed! My one and only summer is almost over, but there's still a little more time left, and the customers are coming in like crazy tonight. The humidity makes the fabric of their clothes stick to their skin like thin sheets of paper, and they all seem really relieved to come into the cool and dim air-conditioned basement. Well, even if it's hot, I'm going to give it my all and try to have as much fun as I can. I'm working right now, but that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy myself. It's tiring, but I'm always happy at the end of the day.

Everybody is getting pushed to the limits tonight. Hiroshi is remaining calm and professional - pretty cool coming from him! - even as he's struggling to keep up with the cocktail orders. The only tell that he has is a bead of sweat on his forehead, but he's managing to talk to all the customers and make them feel at ease. A couple of pretty girls lean in and listen to his every word. Hiroshi is a shy and kind man, so he has issues asking girls out, but keep going on, Piroshi! You will have a cute wife someday, probably sooner rather than later. Some girls love a cute virgin. Ryu is hosting, eyes that are cold towards me soft and warm towards a group of regulars that come in, fanning themselves. He takes it upon himself to pull out the chairs for the ladies and gets some cold towels for them and glasses of cold water. Pretty impressive stuff. Renren is Renren - he takes his orders and cleans and does his job pretty well, even if he's glaring at me the entire time. Well, nothing I can do about that. Pops isn't here tonight, but that's not that weird. I'm running around cleaning tables and sweeping the floors and restocking and cleaning the bathroom, and my blood is pumping! I'm excited! I'm a little tired, but I'm also excited!

And, as it always is, Maki-chan is hiding in the kitchen. It's hard to tell with him at times, but I do think that he does genuinely enjoy cooking, but sometimes I wonder if he coops himself up in there because dealing with other people is too bothersome. Not many people talk to him throughout the night, usually just Ryu or Renren and maybe Pops if he stops in, and me if I want to bug him. Maki-chan can be frustrating sometimes, but I feel like I understand him a little better after the past few months. Maybe. It's easier to tell when he's actually annoyed or when he's bored, at least. Some people are just like that, I guess. At the very least, he doesn't seem annoyed when I go in to bother him most of the time anymore, or when I follow him to his apartment. I'm a little happy, even though sometimes I feel like I don't understand him at all. I feel that less and less as time goes by. In other ways, I feel like Maki-chan is the only one who can understand me... for some reason.

I've been sweeping these few crumbs of food around this corner for about two minutes. Some customers are looking at me funny. I quickly finish what I'm doing and check my watch. Hm... I guess it's time for my break? It seems to be slowing down, but I think I ask Ryu just in case when he's done charming this older lady. He gives me a look like "What are you, stupid", sighs through his nose, and closes his eyes, before going back to work. Okay! I'll take that as a yes!

The employee lounge feels quieter than ever, because it's just me on break right now. We can't really afford to go on break in pairs on a night like tonight. I sit down, twiddling my thumbs. I don't have a book to read, not that I like doing that a lot anyway, and I left my phone at home again. I should probably attach it to my butt because Pops keeps getting sad when I leave it and home and miss out on important stuff that's happening, and it's been interesting here lately, to say the least. It's been a busy summer, a memorable one. I hope these memories stay with me for a long time. Memories of the bar, of Eyebrows, of all the fun times I've had... of Maki-chan. As if my thoughts summoned him, I hear the doors to the kitchen open and Maki-chan comes out with... I blink. Are my eyes playing tricks on me? A tray with two plates of food and two glasses of a pink liquid. To my complete surprise, he sits down next to me, putting one plate in front of me and holding the other plate for himself. Giving me a vague, blank stare, he jerks his chin as if to say "Eat it." I pick up my fork and look at what Maki-chan made today...

It always amazes me how dainty Maki-chan can be with his food. I never would have expected this huge foreigner who looks like he could kill most people to make something like this. Can I really eat this? It looks really pretty, and maybe it's just because I haven't eaten a lot of really good food in my life, but I'm not sure if this is edible. Not really in a bad way, but I'm not sure if you're supposed to eat flowers. "Maki-chan, can I eat all of this?" I pick up a flower that is in the salad. It is lightly dressed with some sort of citrusy vinaigrette and has some chicken in it and regular salad stuff like red onions and arugula, but the main thing that I keep staring at are the flowers in it. I'm not really good with names, but even I know that this one is called hibiscus, and there's this kind of orange spiky one in there too. To prove his point, he stabs one of the orange things with his fork and bites it, chewing slowly before gulping. Well, okay. I try it too... it blends well with the other flavors in the salad, slightly grassy but more like a light lemony flavor. It's pretty good! I'm a little thirsty, so I have some of the drink that he brought in without even asking him what it is. It smells like lemonade, but different somehow. I can tell what it is when I take my first sip - it's infused with roses. Everything tastes really good together. Even with stuff like this, Maki-chan knows what he's doing!

"This is delicious~!" It's so pretty, but I am chowing down like a maniac because it tastes so good. It's simple in some ways, but kind of unexpected too. If only I had my phone on me, so I could take a picture... well, I guess pictures don't last forever anyway. I'm glad to have this moment. "You're really precise and are passionate about your food, but I didn't think you were the kind of guy to put really beautiful things like this on your plate."

He shrugs noncommittally. "It's not bananas."

I can't help but laugh. A few months ago, that blunt and seemingly random statement probably would have annoyed me, but I think I understand what he means now. He's eating with me, and his food tastes really good. His effort shines through - this salad tastes fresh, and clean, and I think I probably don't get everything exactly but I know that he was trying to do something nice for me. It makes me really happy! I'm so glad that I've decided to be persistent with Maki-chan. I bury my face into his strong arm and hug him.

He doesn't react, as he normally does, but Maki-chan feels warm and reliable in my arms. And my chest feels a little warm too, maybe.