It’s almost ten in the morning. I wonder if Sophia is watching out the window for me, asking herself why I’m late.
Sophia is our resident ghost. She’s a playful spirit, full of gentle mischief. She’s a touch particular, likes all the coffee mug handles facing to the right, and the potted plants angled in a certain direction. She likes to talk to us and say hello, although only certain staff members can hear her. Sometimes she announces her arrival in a cloud of Pine-Sol, other times by opening locked doors so the alarm system chimes. She likes to hide things from us, move things just slightly to see if we notice.
I think she was happy with the life we brought to that corner. I think she liked letting us know she was there.
Now her footfalls echo in an empty shell.
The alarm remains silent, no jingle early in the morning to let her know I’m there and about to sprint through the restaurant, dodging the obstacle course of tables and chairs to reach the panel on the other end of the room to turn off the system. Did she time me every day, to see if I got faster at it?
After I turned off the alarm and turned on the lights, I would greet her, ask her how her night was, implore her to not do anything to scare the guests or staff.
But not today. Or tomorrow…..or ever. Not from me.
She won’t get to watch the daily real life soap opera of restaurant drama as our characters move onstage in staccato tempo to beat the twelve noon starting bell. She won’t see us play restaurant dodge-ball, as we move at rapid pace in tight quarters without ever bumping into each other, yelling “behind” and “sharp” all the way. She won’t mark the days of the week by which deliveryman shows up. She’ll miss the way our faces light up as we greet regulars, ask them if they’re getting “the usual”.
No more aromas of baking bread, simmering sauces and soups, cheese, basil and garlic. No background humming of refrigerator compressors, no whooshing of the dish machine, no startling kerthunk of ice cubes falling in the ice machine. No hissing of steam as we make lattes, no more heady shots of coffee perfuming the air.
All is sterile and quiet. Bloodless. Lifeless. Joyless.
I wonder if she’s cold, with no heat from the ovens and stove. Does she shiver, with no warmth radiating from the compressors and the espresso machine?
Is she bored, now that she can no longer eavesdrop on the conversations and jokes we shared amongst ourselves. Does she long to hear us try to out-pun each other? Does she crave the sound of our squealing when we see a cute puppy go by, or share stupidly adorable animal videos with each other?
Did she laugh with us? Did she cry with us? Did she giggle every time a furry four-legged neighbor begged for a meatball from us?
“I’m sorry,” I told her, when I left the kitchen for the last time. “I tried, but I need to move on, close this door. I hope you understand.”
Maybe Sophia exists, maybe we made her up because we need to explain things that had no discernible explanation.
No matter. There was a real spirit in that little restaurant, an animated sense of being. It emanated from all of us; it sparked from all of our minds. It was the energy that we put into it, good and bad. It was the intent we had, our driving purpose. It was the collective effort to do what we believed was CORRECT, not always easiest.
And now it’s time to move on, build up in another direction. I hope Sophia won’t be lonely for too long. And that the new residents will place the coffee mugs with the handles facing RIGHT.