Is it because they can’t tell the Casa Grecque
from the Cabane Grecque?
Because they drown in buckets of oversalted feta,
or they have lost their ways through white tablecloths
and folded napkins returning from the restrooms?
The hostesses stand out on the empty cobbles with smiles
about to break into back-rent tears
while the owners hunch over wineglasses
watching the Food Network, their shifty eyes darting to the street
accusing pedestrians passing to the metro,
“It’s your fault, you ungrateful, hungry bastards;
my calamari never hurt an esophagus or soul.”
The bartenders plant their palms on their polished bars
and wipe away their fingerprints,
afraid to besmirch the pristine towels on their shoulders
under the boss’s cost-cutting glares.
No one goes to Prince Arthur anymore,
not unless there’s a show at Café Campus,
not unless Pizza Exquise is still open.
Kalamatas grow fuzzy in their metal inserts,
red onions soften and stain quizzical fingertips,
the lamb meat sighs as it goes grey on its skewer.
Anna goes home early. Her section’s seats are up already.
No one will come now.
The bartender has his glass, two hours to closing time.
She brushes through the ghosts of that couple
who spoke like they were in a library,
who didn’t laugh once, though they split a baklava
and brought their own wine. She doesn’t envy date nighters
who come in and look like they are splurging.
She wishes they would go somewhere else,
somewhere people laugh
and drink stupid cocktails and eat Korean tacos.
She hates when families come for birthday parties.
Wouldn’t it be more fun to put on ties
and order St-Hubert chicken with a two-four of Bud
than make her stick sparklers into complimentary lava cake
and sing “Bonne fête” in her kindergarten voice?
She only wants to serve those businessmen at lunch
who drink too much wine for one hour
and like how fast the place serves brochettes on rice.
They don’t seem to really care where they are.
They don’t expect anything to be fun, or romantic or edible.
The last busker smiles at her with a smoke at his lips.
He rubs his arms and shivers instead of saying that it’s too cold
that the sidewalk terrasses will go inside before Monday
and they won’t see each other until May, or ever.
Everyone knows there won’t be any turnaround.
Restaurants don’t resurrect themselves, not monsters like these.
They burn down two days before the last busboy is fired,
they burn down and they never come back.
Anna rides the metro to Beaubien.
She opens up Kijiji to the food/bev/hosp pages
and types in “Vieux Port.” She needs a new job,
before her landlord hears she’s home.