Vampires and Wild Things

So I’m sitting at Cap’n D’s tonight, staring at a pager, waiting for it to vibrate and fill the room with flashing red lights. I can barely believe my eyes anyway. A pager? At Cap’n D’s? It seems a bit much.

Anyway, I can’t keep my eyes from straying to the booth in the back, which I’m sure annoys the hell out of Charlie.

They look strung out. An impossibly tall, thin man with wild eyes. An older teenager who may have been bitten by a vampire. That, or else he’s been doing too many things that aren’t good for him. You know what I mean: eyes shadowed with a reddish tinge, almost bruised. A young child — girl or boy I have no idea — brown hair streaked with big swatches of blond. A woman with long, stringy hair pulled back, not an ounce of fat on her, but it’s not a fit body. Rather, it’s the body of someone who makes do with whatever she gets.

I wonder. The tall man looks everywhere but at the employee who fetches some straws. I hear him talk and it’s a little slurred. Or is it? I know several straight arrows who talk like they’re drunk. It’s just their way.

I keep looking; I can’t help it. I hope for a glimpse of the teenager’s eyes. Really, are they red or am I just imagining that? I can’t tell. When he leaves the booth to head outside or wherever it is he goes (several times), he seems pretty normal. Like most teens, he doesn’t talk much. But what’s outside? Beer? A joint? Something worse?

The young kid’s being a kid — nothing odd about that — and the dad (I assume he’s the dad, anyway), is pretty attentive, for all his nervous wildness. Watching him puts me in mind of an animal that’s about halfway domesticated, not quite tame. They have that same sort of nervousness, that same sense of scanning the room for danger.

The sparse woman throws on some eyeglasses and begins writing. I imagine, then, that she’s the financial manager of this family.

So I chastise myself. You know, maybe it’s just a hard-knock family. Lord knows, the economy being what it is these days, there are plenty of those around. Maybe they don’t spend much time in restaurants, or around many people. Maybe money’s tight. Or maybe they’re planning to blow up something.

The point is, I don’t know. But I still can’t help my fascination. I’d love to strike up a conversation with them so I could form my own judgments; their skittishness keeps me at my table, minding my own business, for the most part.

I watch. They feed the kid well. Broccoli, not fries. Fish, of course, and shrimp. Somehow, that makes me feel better, and I eventually turn my attention more to my food, and Charlie, than to the booth in the back. Until we leave, that is. Because on our way out we pass an older Bronco that’s just sitting there, waiting. From somewhere, the woman walks up and Vampire Boy steps out to let her in. He’s drinking from a can.

Beer, I think! See?

But I don’t know that; not at all. It’s just a value judgment on my part, and once I think it, I feel a little diminished, a little less human. I’ve just marginalized this family and, you know, it’s not something I’m proud of. And it brings back to the forefront Don Miguel Ruiz’s “Four Agreements,” something I really do believe in.

What’s that one? Oh, yeah, Don’t make assumptions. I think about it for a moment, and then pull back into my mind the other three. I hit the fourth agreement: Always do your best … and your best will vary from day to day.

Ah, there it is. Salvation.

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