Abigail Rasminsky | Longreads | August 2018| 14 minutes (3,400 words)
When the two stragglers let the door clatter shut behind them, I turn the lights in the restaurant’s dining room all the way up and zip over to the stereo. For the past few months, we’ve been blasting the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” while closing. We all sing You may ask yourself, my God, what have I done? while manning brooms and mops and rags, none of us aware that we are singing of our own lives. At the chorus, we give in, drop what we’re doing and dance: Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down…
I stack the chairs and tables as I’ve been taught, sweep crusts of bread and remnants of lettuce off the tiled floor, grab the register drawer with the remaining cash — 200, 300 bucks tops, since I’ve been emptying it steadily all night — while, behind the counter, Emily cleans the cappuccino machine and stashes the whipped cream, milk, and pie in the fridge. Tom drags the mop over the floor I just swept, the bucket for dunking sitting at the lip of the kitchen.
During the day, the place is bustling with people — upstairs, downstairs, out front, gates open all summer long. But now it’s 12 a.m. at The Grey Dog on Carmine Street in the West Village, and everyone else has gone home.
I leave Emily and Tom singing in the dining room, and carry the money from the register, platter-like in one hand, through the swinging doors of the upstairs kitchen, down the narrow, slippery staircase, past the dishwashing station and the baker’s area, where the croissants and scones are warmed at 5:30 a.m., past the catering department, where two Irishmen make platters of Caesar salad and triangular-cut sandwiches all morning to the sounds of NY1, and get to the restaurant’s windowless, corner office. I unhook the mass of keys from the loop of my jeans and let myself in. Sammy, the resident cat, slips past my ankles. The office reeks of cigarettes and pot.
Up on the desk, I count the cash, separating crisp bills from soft ones, count it again, and add it to the change drawer under the desk, which is always stacked with rows of 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s, and a couple of 50s — $1,000 or $2,000 total. Much of that night’s profits — but not all — have already been rolled up, wrapped in elastic bands, and dropped into a heavy metal drop box in the corner of the room.
When I’m done, I switch off the lights and lock the door behind me, making sure that Sammy is inside. If I forget — as I have before — the cat wandering the restaurant will set off the alarm at 3 a.m. and my boss will get a call from the police: There’s been a break-in.
Just as I turn around to walk through the unlit basement and bound back up the stairs, I see Emily in the semi-darkness. There is a gun by her right ear, its barrel pointing at me. Her body is bigger than usual these days — she’s 27 and six months pregnant with her second child, a mistake courtesy of a quick fuck in the restaurant’s downstairs bathroom with one of the cooks. They broke the sink off the wall, and now here she is, shuffling along the slick floor, belly first, with a man at her back, pushing her slowly into me, toward the office door at my back. I can barely see his face; it is nuzzled behind Emily’s hair and concealed by the panic on her own face.
Emily and I stand frozen in the underground quiet, looking at each other.
Then it hits me: The door.
I didn’t lock the front door.
Emily whispers, “Open the office.”