Violet light peeked through the darkness. The birds were already awake but the streets were quiet. Some of us took the bus, which always arrived too late or too early, and some of us drove, eyes blurry through frosted windshields. Our backs creaked and our feet were sore from standing for a living. It didn’t matter what we did last night or how our morning had been. It mattered that we set up our stations before 7:30am so that people could eat eggs with their coffee and avocado toast with their tea.
The restaurant smell hung on our clothes and followed us around, no matter how hard we scrubbed them. At least this place didn’t have a fryer, the old oil smell is impossible to get away from. We told ourselves we were a family, or our chef told us that and it sounded nice. Comforting. We had cousins here, maybe a brother or two, but no wives, no children. We were family, just as messy as the ones we had left behind.
The day had been a good one so far, our movements were synchronized, no one bumping into each other or toes being stepped on. We kept up with the orders and received no complaints. We didn’t even notice when the officers walked through the door. That door was always opening and closing, the beginning of the lunch rush was on and we knew it was better to keep our heads down and focus on our work. Anyway lots of policemen came in here for their sandwich and coffee. We were used to the feeling of being watched, or ignored depending on the situation. But these men weren’t standing in line, they were asking for the manager, for the owner, for the chef, for someone in charge and saying one of our names over and over again. Pedro, Pedro, where is Pedro?
We couldn’t be his family now, we had to step back, had to make ourselves small, had to look away when they handcuffed him. He was still wearing his apron. We closed our ears when he called out for us. We forgot he was our brother, our cousin. We were relieved when they left, when we couldn’t hear him yelling anymore, when we were sure they weren’t going to take us too. The people in line were hungry. Even though our hands shook we squeezed the lemon on the arugula and poached the eggs and spread the avocado on bread, we made it look beautiful and we sent out the plates to those hungry people.