Just To Be Needed

“Just to be needed is more sweet,” says she,
“Than any freedom in this world could be.”

Once upon a time, I had this sous chef that I really cared about, but with whom I didn’t think it would ever be possible to be friends. I never thought I’d be able to get to a point where I stopped exasperating him with my every move, and be able to start actually making him proud of me.

The Holy Spirit works in such interesting ways. It feels like an age since I was working full-time in a kitchen, when really it’s only been five months. And it’s been a long five months. Something in me died when I left the kitchen, but it wasn’t passion.

Former Sous Chef – let’s run with that: FSC – texted me today; just, “Mt. Adams?” and I went.

Tonight hurt. I realized how much I’ve missed “the Hill”; going out drinking three to four nights a week because I worked with people that I actually wanted to be with for more than just my seven-to-sixteen-hour shifts. I realized that I miss being the DD; I miss being the reliable and responsible one who got everyone home safely, because I care like that.

I’d never actually seen FSC really inebriated before tonight. I haven’t been out drinking with him in something like ten months, but even before that, I would usually catch him at the beginning of the night, not at the end of it. I was always the one to go home first and leave him with his other friends.

I’ve missed Yesterdays. And I’ve never seen it so dead before – it was just me, and FSC, and the bartender – but I hear it’s been like that a lot lately.

I don’t have a good reason to hang in Mt. Adams anymore. I miss it. I miss seeing people and knowing them. I miss bartenders and bouncers not bothering to card me because I was a familiar and expected face around there. But most of all, I miss the crew. I miss being surrounded by real passion for our craft. I miss being around people who weren’t in it for the money; who weren’t stuck with the kitchen as their supplemental second job that they couldn’t care less for; who actually wanted to be there for the customers and for each other, and understood that the independent sector of our industry isn’t about the money, but about the love. I miss the Cincinnati kitchen heart, the kitchen heart that I tried to write about – naively, perhaps – and that consequently won me a scholarship for trying to portray with words. Heck, I miss the late nights and weekends. Something about me misses the weird schedule, the craziness of having to throw down.

I miss really being needed. I miss the dance.

FSC was pretty heavily inebriated. He was slipping and sliding down the street and I left a half-empty Miller High Life on the bar so that I could take him by the arm and drive him home. Alcohol makes us more truthful, right? And FSC brought up all the old embarrassing stories of me accidentally ruining a thirteen-quart bowl of lemon curd with salt instead of sugar, and him saving my skin more times than I could count, and the one time I was really really mean and rude to FSC’ second-in-command guy, and how he never fired me, among other things. We talked about how I used to worry about FSC, and how all I wanted was to see him happy and make him proud.

FSC said he knew, the whole time, that I was worrying about him a lot. And FSC told me he was proud of me.

Driving out to Mt. Adams, I felt a tug, like I was going out because I was needed in some way. And then I ended up making sure that someone made it home alive in one piece, in spite of treacherous, slippery Cincinnati roads, and a lot of unnecessary alcohol-directed turns; someone that I really, really care about, and whose opinion really, really matters to me.

He didn’t just tell me that he was proud of my work back when I was in the kitchen with him. In fact, I’m not sure that he directly referred to that period of time at all. He’s proud of me – would you believe?! – for intending to head out to ND this summer, go cold turkey on the world, and discern my vocation. I can’t- I can’t even begin to try and verbalize what was going on in my heart when he said that. The guy that I thought I could never please and could never be friends with, but that I worried so much about and wanted so bad to make proud of me; the guy that I thought I’d never have a chance to prove myself to, because I would never again work in a kitchen with him, and he would never ever see how far I’d come because of the foundation that he gave me – he’s proud of me. For trying to figure out God’s will and for following my heart.

I know this blog post is all over the place, but… I needed to put that down before it faded. I’ve wanted so much to be of true service to this guy, and tonight, in being a patient, listening ear, and kind of preserving his life in legitimately dangerous weather, I think I actually managed it. But it’s not a, “hey Ais, give yourself a pat on the back,” moment, it’s a, “Thank You, Lord, for this opportunity.” An opportunity to try to express that respect and love that I thought I’d never be able to show him.

He probably won’t remember it in the morning – I think he really was that far gone – but somehow… that’s ok.

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