I Want to Speak to a Manager By E.J. Schoenborn

I Want to Speak to a Manager

So Sharon walks into my cafe
with her “I want to speak to a manager” haircut
and wearing “My kid is on the honor roll” jeans.
She comes up to the counter and orders
twenty-four raspberry muffins
for Jimmy’s soccer team because it’s her turn
to bring a snack item bullshit.
To give you an idea of how much that costs,
my family could buy a month’s supply of PB & J,
Kraft singles, and Wonderbread with her muffin money.
She asks why it’s taking so long?
Why aren’t I trying harder to help her?
I say, I’ll be right with you
my anxiety attack is almost done.
And surprise, surprise,
she wants to speak to my manager.

I just want to speak to a therapist,
which I still can’t afford.

And, see, I do get it… kind of.
I understand why Susan,
the data entry specialist at a health insurance company,
doesn’t feel fulfilled.
She thought her photography career
was going to take off after high school, and it didn’t.
But yelling at me because our salt shaker is empty
isn’t going to make that photo of another fucking sunset any better.

Jim asks if the gluten-free bread is gluten-free
Betty asks if the peanut butter bars have nuts in them.
Rory asks for a twelve ounce almond milk triple shot decaf dry cappuccino with sugar-free vanilla syrup TO GO.
And everyone asks me why I’m always shaking.
“I’m sorry, we’re all out of emotional labor today. Please come back tomorrow.”

Once, my sister and I went rollerblading.
She tripped going downhill and cracked her skull on the pavement.
My sister flew to a hospital in an emergency helicopter
and I got a ride to work the next week.
She almost died.
Later, I drop a stack of dirty plates because a customer bumped into me.
I look down and start apologizing to every bone-like shard.

This morning, my mom texted me
that my dog died, his mouth foaming
as he lay on the ground by the front door.
Bill is standing at the counter
waiting for his coffee cup to just appear,
and I’m waiting for my dog Beans
to walk through the door
and lie down at my feet.
But we don’t all get what we want, Bill,
except you get to cut ahead of everyone in line
and get two free refills
and talk shit about the women workers
because you are an old, cis het, white man
with more money than any of us will ever see.
And I take four shots of espresso
just so I can burn the shadow of a smile
on my face.
My mother tells me my dog’s body is already gone,
along with any shits I still gave about Betty’s order.

None of them know
my hands have burned themselves into calluses,
I work in food service for the free meals,
my family is dying or near dying all the time.
all over my body
and I couldn’t stop smiling.

By E.J. Schoenborn


E.J. Schoenborn (they/them/theirs) is a non-binary and queer performance poet from St. Paul, MN. A recent graduate from Macalester College, E.J. hopes to become a children’s librarian later in their life. When not writing poetry, they are searching the Internet for perfect pictures of possums, otters, and red pandas to share with their friends.

Leave a Reply