by Annie Quintano
“I am so sick and tired of this,” Rosemary blurted out, slamming the plate on the counter and spilling the galloping, wild meatballs off the spaghetti so they were sent racing along the Formica counter. She knew such outbursts were bound to get her in trouble. She had run into that before – Sam Feeter had almost fired her. But she had glared at him with her sharp blue eyes narrowed to a slit defying his power and authority. He had backed off mumbling and equivocating and she had thrown her dirty dish rag toward him when she turned and walked away.
But there were more and more mo0ments like this for Rosemary: the pressure of readying plates of food, or taking orders or having to be courteous to those aloof, arrogant and rude customers. Their air of superiority and entitlement left her spent and angry. Her strength was wearing thin.
She had taken to stepping away from the counter, away from the din of the lower level food court where now even the smell of foods sickened her and had begun walking up the rap by the Oyster Bar to circle around into the center of the terminal. She would walk toward the famous Grand Central clock, one of the dishtowels still hanging around rom her left hand, her hair net clinging tenaciously to her sweaty forehead and there she would lean her head far back and raise her eyes to the ceiling.
There the sky would reveal itself: the blues, the tiny lights of the constellations, the life of stars made real, come alive on a painted ceiling.
When she first began these excursions from the food court to the blue sky of Grand central, they were brief and infrequent. But now the smell of garlic and hot oil, or the smell of simmering spices or the stale smell of beer from the nearby bar all began to nauseate her. They rose as such violently offensive odors that they often triggered a migraine. She began to flee to the upper level now just to avoid becoming sick. But it wasn’t just the smells that began to repulse her, but also the sights. The soft whiteness of Junior’s cheesecake, the glossy bright red of the strawberries dripping a thick red syrup from the top down its sides, or the plump round or oblong loaves of bread at Zaro’s… any of the colors and textures began to disturb her, left her feeling off balance and distressed.
But mostly, it was the people. Short tempered, sometimes impatient and belligerent customers. Demanding, dictating, dismissive. She felt a revolution inside her. A refusal to put up with this shit any longer.
So her treks to the upper level became more frequent, abandoning customers un-served, ranting down there for service, agitated, swearing, disagreeable customers. Rosemary simply thought: ‘to hell with them.’
She began now to traipse up the stairs to the main rotunda before Sam Feeter could find her, come after her to fire her. Once there in the rotunda, she would lie down on the floor in the center of Grand Central so that she might better view the sky, count the stars, set her mind and heart to dance upon the constellations.
The always came, of course. The Grand Central Police. The same ones who drove the people who were homeless from the terminal’s warmth to the violent cold of the streets. The same ones puffed up in blue uniforms as if in Halloween costumes making believe they were people of consequence, people of power. They would circle her. One red haired, plump-faced cop tapping his baton against his left palm impatiently as if indicating the enormous restraint eh was exercising in not smacking her with it instead. They would help her to her feet as the demanded but she would pull her arm away from them angrily. Who were they, after all, to own the sky, the stars, the dancing constellations? Who were they to cast her back down into the dungeon of bowls of spaghetti and tight-assed blonds in grey suits or stuffy white men with fanciful silk ties racing in and out of the city in their commute and demanding her to attend to their needs?
She knew she had to walk away from it all. Take that dirty towel of hers and roll up that soiled apron and matted hair net and toss it all into the dungeon and leave while she still had her sanity, still had her soul intact.
She walked with purpose and intent and speed. And she just kept walking. Away from the smells, the sights, the sounds, the people of that infernal terminal.
She walked until the lowering afternoon sun cast long shadows from the buildings and from her own body. Until the day’s dampness built up into the chill of an early evening, the air sharp and cold but clear. The city darkened as she walked and wove her way through the small pathways of Central park. Now the darkness was thick and palpable and it was the night of no moon when it had run its course in the heavens and would return tomorrow in the slim silver of a new moon. Nothing now but darkness. How perfect, Rosemary thought. She lay herself down on the soft grass of the park in the night chill and gazed lovingly skyward. No ceiling. No tiny lights – just pure sky. And there they came one after another. The glow of the stars sent off on their way thousands and thousands of years ago arriving here before her eyes now. That starlight, those dancing constellations and she, able to be alone with them at last.