The Bucket

cafe tables
Tim Fletcher/Flickr

I’d wanted cider with our dinner, but my friend ordered a bottle of white wine before I could remind her. A bottle of cider on my own I couldn’t manage, and wine would go straight to my head. I ordered bottled water. “Con gas,” I said, sparkling. A moment later the waiter, a young guy, early 20s, set down my bottle. Then he opened and poured my friend’s wine before putting that bottle on the table too. Is this sparkling, I asked of my water. “You wanted sparkling,” the waiter replied, in a tone that sounded to my friend and me as if he were confirming, not questioning. So I said, “Oh, sorry, yes, that’s right.” I felt bad for implying he’d gotten the order wrong. Not that he seemed sensitive to our judgment: before he left our table, my friend asked for a bucket of ice to keep the wine cold, and he nodded, not as if he’d forgotten it, but more like he would indulge the customer’s whim.

A moment later he passed by and switched my bottle for another, this one full of bubbles. Oh, we realized, he had gotten the order wrong. And still he didn’t bring the bucket.

We talked. We watched the other people at other tables. We noted waiters passing, arms laden with food. We endured the occasional rattle of silverware behind our heads. “Your wine’s getting warm,” I remarked, and my friend said she’d remind him when he brought our food.

When I’m with my friend, time never drags for me, whether we’re perfectly in sync or slightly off, as we were that night. What was wrong? Despite our careful plans to arrive at the same time and our updates via text messages about our progress, we’d both waited, first I, and then when I’d wandered away for a look at the ocean, she, because neither did I see her arrive nor did she look around for me. Once inside, it was a table next to the service station, then the waiter and his affected manner. The cider disappointment, the water confusion, the warming wine. Still, I was hardly aware of time passing until our waiter set our plates in front of us, and my friend asked again for a bucket. “¡Hostia!” the waiter exclaimed, clearly taken aback. The hostia is the communion cracker. It’s a common swear word, totally prohibited for children, who will say ostras (oysters) in gleeful, dangerous imitation. For adults, it’s a swear word of surprise, not of anger. The waiter didn’t put his hands to his head, but almost. Then he was gone again.

My friend and I both laughed. “That nearly redeemed him,” I said, and she asked, “Can you imagine a waiter saying in English, ‘Fuck, I forgot!’”

I had a sip of her not-quite-warm wine, and then the bucket appeared. It hardly reversed the warming, but it didn’t matter as we settled down to really enjoy being together.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Clellan Coe, a writer in Spain, is a contributing editor of the Scholar.


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