Thinking I See My Cousin Bussing Tables At An Uptown Restaurant

Ariel Francisco

I order another beer
as he makes another round
just to get another look

but I still can’t decide. It’s been
so long since I’ve seen him
that I’ve forgotten how long it’s been

since I’ve seen him. I try not to stare
as he wipes down table after table,
jotting orders in between. Even when

he takes the empty glasses from us
I can’t look closely enough
to recognize the features of

the kid I once knew. I know he has
a chipped front tooth just like me—
his from a fight at a club, mine

from slipping on a basketball court—
but he doesn’t smile as he works,
shuttling back and forth from

the kitchen to the floor to the bar
in his triangle of servitude.
No nametag on his blue uniform.

How to start that conversation?
I can’t, though I remember
as a kid he had a nasty temper,

short fused and hotheaded,
so after almost two hours
as we leave, I don’t leave

a tip, not a single dollar,
hoping he’ll be so pissed off
he’ll come out to confront me.