It’s a busy Sunday night. Louis and I are by the pick up window waiting for our food to come up. The line cooks are struggling to keep up with the orders. The sink’s piled high with plates waiting for a spin in the dishwasher. Above the convection oven’s roar the song “Hips Don’t Lie” beats steadily out of the kitchen’s grease encrusted boom box.
“How many times is Eduardo gonna play that fucking song?” Louis asks.
“How many times has he played it already?” I reply.
“Nine times in the past hour.”
“Every time I’m in here that song’s on.”
Over the radio a man ebulliently shouts Shakira! Shakira! Shakira! I punch my fist lamely in the air.
“But it’s Shakira, yo.”
“Don’t tell me you like that song,” Louis says.
“It’s not my cup of tea,” I reply. “But the singer’s hot. No wonder Eduardo likes her.”
“He’s probably got a poster of her above his bed,” Louis snorts.
“I wouldn’t doubt it.”
“But does he have to play it all the time?” Louis says.
“‘Hips Don’t Lie’ is gonna be the Colombian version of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ Just you watch.”
“Oh that song,” Louis says. “When was that? 1983?”
“I think so.”
“Remember how the DJ’s played it to death?”
“Who could forget? That was the first time I remember thinking a song had been overplayed.”
Suddenly Louis looks at me covertly.
“Did you buy the album like I did?”
“I had the cassette single,” I reply. “I burned it.”
“Well I’m gonna drop Eduardo’s CD into the deep fryer if he plays that song again,” Louis grouses. ‘Hips Don�t Lie’ my ass.
“Shakira�s got a great set of hips,” I say wistfully.
“I don’t care,” Louis replies.
“I guess it’s a straight guy thing.”
“You guessed right.”
Louis walks out of the kitchen just as Shakira’s song ends. Eduardo reaches above the dishwasher, grabs the boom box’s remote, and turns the song on – again. Eduardo, our dishwasher, is eighteen years old. Hailing from the Iztapalapa section of Mexico City, he’s been with us five months. Every morning he pops his Shakira CD into the boom box. Every night he takes it out, wipes it off with Windex, and places back into its jewel case. He treats that CD the way some people treat the Scriptures.
“Hey Eduardo,” I call out. “How about giving us a break from Shakira?”
“Shakira?” Eduardo says, looking confused. English is still new to him.
“No mas Shakira por favor,” I say.
Eduardo’s face breaks into a big grin. “Shakira! Shakira!” he shouts.
“Oh brother,” I say, shaking my head.
“Te amo Shakira,” Eduardo says, placing his hand over his heart.
“Esa es la cancion de el Diablo,” I say, covering my ears.
Eduardo replies by turning up the volume. The kitchen guys start laughing at me.
“Armando,” I say to the chef, “You gonna let this kid run the music in your kitchen?”
“Yes,” he says, refusing to take the bait. “Now get the fuck out of here. I’m busy.”
“I’ll leave as soon as I get my filet mignon” I shoot back.
“What Filet Mignon?” Armando asks.
“Table twelve!” I say, panic rising in my voice. “I fired it twenty minutes ago!”
“Oh that table…. ” Armando says, flipping me the bird.
The rest of the conversation is unprintable. The night finally ends. The customers and staff go home. I’m waiting for Eduardo to finish his closing chores up so I can lock up.
“Almost done” I ask.
“Veinte minutos”, he replies.
I sigh and look at my watch. These late nights are starting to get to me. Twenty minutes later Eduardo finishes cleaning up and changes into his street clothes. He takes his CD out of boom box and cleans it off.
“Man, you really like that girl,” I say.
“Shakira! Shakira!” Eduardo says smiling.
“Buenas noches Eduardo,” I say. “See you mañana.”
The young dishwasher clocks out and walks out the door. He looks tired. I call up his timecard on the computer and do a double take. Eduardo worked 92 hours this week. I didn’t even think that was possible. Suddenly I wonder how the eighteen year old me would have fared being a stranger in a strange land working ninety hours a week. Probably not too well. I recall I was safely enrolled in seminary at that age. Eduardo’s a lot tougher than I ever was. And if he wants to play Shakira all day, well, I guess he deserves that small luxury.
Maybe I could get him headphones…