August 19, 2018: A day in Norcross that couldn’t decide if it felt like being overcast or sunny.
We started the day off with Bailey’s and bourbon in lidded coffee cups. You know, the kind that keep in the heat or the cold of your beverage so you can stroll around sipping all morning. And that’s what we did. My roommate Jennifer and I pulled up at Conni’s house, and within ten minutes they’d whipped up a concoction of cold coffee and liquor–“Ooof, try that, girl; it’s strong!”–and I’d filled a cup with a sweet red wine, lidded it and added a straw for good measure. I couldn’t figure out how the lid worked—why do they keep making these things more and more complicated?—and Jennifer showed me how over the kitchen sink, teasingly stroking my shoulder and saying, “You’re so pretty. It’s okay because you’re pretty.” We laughed.
We headed out to the Saturday outdoor market in downtown Norcross, a suburb of Atlanta. Really, it was less of an outdoor market and more of a 12-tent set-up with folks peddling everything from fresh, home-grown vegetables to advice on how to check your fire detector at home. I smiled at every vendor we passed but shook my head at the offering of their wares. I wasn’t interested, but Jennifer and Conni partook in the offerings from various tents.
We strolled away from the tent setup and toward the next street over where a tidy row of boutique jewelry stores and restaurants and other shops made up the small block that serves as downtown. It’s like our Southern version of a Thomas Kinkade painting. By now we were feeling warm and fuzzy at the edges, sauntering through downtown suburbia with our bourbon-laced coffee and red wine liquid breakfast. We strolled—getting our steps in, we called it—and chatted all the things that 30-something women chat about. You know the things. What can I say, it was a Southern kind of morning; isn’t that what we do?
We walked up to Mojitos and claimed the outdoor table for ourselves, settling in under the umbrella as Jennifer went in to tell the waiter that we’d chosen that table. Not that it mattered, like they couldn’t see us. The restaurant had just opened and had no patrons inside. Only black-and-white-clad servers in casual getups sitting around at the bar talking shit with one another. We told them they should turn their sign around; it still read closed.
There were two young men sitting at the only other outdoor table next to us, pouring over a laptop. I remember thinking, I hope we don’t get too loud and disturb them. But Jennifer is usually loud and there’s no stopping that. They didn’t seem to mind. This place, Mojitos, is known for their—you got it!—mojitos, so we ordered a pitcher of strawberry. It came out a beautiful blend of pastel, springtime colors, sweating down the side of the plastic pitcher already slick with condensation. Our server with the gorgeous Latina name poured for us as Conni chatted about a new role at her job. But she said something that struck me as she was describing it, something to the effect of, “But, I don’t know if I really want it, but I feel like I should take it.”
I stopped her and asked her why she felt that way. She said she wasn’t really sure if she wanted to take on such responsibilities. She was happy not doing so but felt like she should take them. Like, isn’t that the next logical step? Isn’t that what we work for? I told her she should only take it if she wants to take it. If she prefers her stable home life, taking care of her kids and letting her husband be the breadwinner, then that’s what she should do. As far as I could tell, he didn’t mind either way what she decided to do, so it was up to her. I told her: “This ‘Bad Bitch, Independent Feminist Woman’ craze has swept the nation. I love it; I am it, but it’s become a trend that everyone wants to claim, whether it’s true for them or not. If you want to be that woman, then be her! You’ll be great at it! But don’t try to force yourself into a category or caricature or role that you don’t want just because Instagram and Facebook say it’s cool now. Half the women out here putting on airs like they’re that woman are fronting for the cameras anyway. Don’t let them make you feel that you should do something to be like them, if that’s not what you feel in your heart.” Then I grinned, “But if you do wanna be her, you’d be the baddest one out there with the way you grab the bull by the balls!” We all laughed, then ordered a platter of empanadas, ham croquettes, yucca fries and stuffed plantains. The empanadas were good; the filling reminded me of those homemade beef tacos my mama used to make for dinner. The croquettes were salty and spicy, mildly inflaming those parts of my tongue that sense those flavors and textures. Watch out for the red hot sauce; it has kick!
It was over this platter of food that we noticed our server storm out of the restaurant, hurrying right past our table with her purse slung over her shoulder. We were her only table, but she didn’t stop to ask how we were doing or to say that she would return soon. She just hurried to her white Jeep, threw her purse in and got in after it, cranked up and drove away. She must have quit right there on the spot, because another server came out to ask after us a few minutes later. The girls and I looked at each other and grinned, knowingly.
Restaurant life, you know?