I’d bring the dishes back in wobbling stacks and Alejandro would wash them — eventually. He waited until there were enough dishes to fill the racks; amid the sweat and scalding steam, we’d talk — tho nothing much was ever said. Alejandro spoke little English and I spoke even less Spanish, but there was a kindness exchanged — there in the fog of steam, amid the shouting chefs banging finished plates onto metal shelves for pick up and the servers scurrying and slipping on the slick-spill floors. A few of us got stoned in a forgotten stairway on New Year’s Eve and later that night I spilled two drinks down a woman’s open-back black dress when my tray tipped. She screamed and then she was very quiet. The drink glasses never left my tray. Nights turned to months of long evenings and Alejandro stopped talking when I came back to the kitchen. Even his smiling nod was lost to something dark that pulled his eyes toward a distant point no one else could see. Most nights he was drunk, his eyes red as ancient ire. And then– on an evening like any other, I pushed through the swing-doors with my wobbly stacks of plates and another man was there washing the dishes, a stout fellow with wide shoulders and a sparse mustache. He had pocks denting his cheeks and dimpling his forehead. I suppose he had a name, but I didn’t inquire. I slipped out back for a smoke. The stars were there, where they always were, pearl-head pins pushed through vast swaths of black velvet, and I’d no sense of any angels, or of any gods, watching over us.

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