We continued to feel bad for them, continued to ask if there was a similar kind of restaurant for women — because that might make it okay — and continued to point out that we thought there was something similar, but it wasn’t a chain — there was just one, in Dallas, maybe. We’d Googled it once.
“I’d go there,” said Tommy. “They must wear, like, Speedos, right?”
“I guess so,” I said.
“See, that’s actually worse. And I don’t see anybody calling that place sexist.”
We were headed to Roswell in my mom’s Toyota minivan — not the Roswell of cows and reptilians, but Roswell, Georgia, the Roswell of gated communities and lax open-carry laws— to visit a waitress I’d contacted on Facebook after I’d seen her on the News at 11 the previous night. Roswell was hours away — the story about Adriana had been co-opted from an Atlanta channel after a slow news day.
I was entering my seventh month of a lonesome year and I was convinced that sincerity was the only way out. Sleek radio documentaries, which must be miles worse than television in terms of turning one’s brain to mush, had been my only friend for a shameful amount of time, and so, upon seeing Adriana — a lighthouse of good intentions and an artist in a way that her recently-bestowed title, North Georgia Hooter Girl of the Quarter, failed to capture — I’d decided to grab my friend by the shoulders and try to pull myself out, with Adriana’s help.
I was taken with Adriana because I didn’t understand her. Adriana, like the human voice’s career travelling over radio waves, had started out in Brazil. Roberto Landell De Moura immigrated for opportunity, alone, after inventing the first machine capable of throwing sound at the speed of light, while Adriana emigrated, along with her parents, grandparents, and three sisters, to escape flooding, and soon landed a job at the Roswell Hooters. It was my understanding that Hooters was awful — it employed only beautiful victims in need of money, and was patronized only by the most deplorable assholes, excluding, of course, those who visited as anthropologists, as I planned on doing today with Tommy, who was a real pal and a dependable last resort. He was high when I picked him up, sixty miles or so out of my way. He sang “Blackbird” as we drove.
We were kids, Adrianna wasnt, her sister opened up the door to their bright yellow apartment, too shy to speak, we found that the entire living room — probably half of the house — had been rearranged for our interview. Adriana was on the couch in a blanket with a polite smile, two folding chairs positioned in a circle across from her. We were nervous because we were imposters, and she was nervous because she believed us. A dog scratched on the other side of the bedroom door, put away for our conversation, and Adriana’s boyfriend occasionally peeked in proudly as Adriana showed us her stitches and told us the story of Franklin, one of her aging, diabetic regulars.
“I just said, ‘listen, I have two kidneys. You can have one if you want,’” she told us.
“You weren’t scared?” we asked.
“I was,” she said, “but where God guides, He provides. That’s why Franklin came into Hooters.”
I avoided Tommy’s glance and hoped that Adriana wouldn’t notice.
“Right, right,” I said. “That’s really neat. So Franklin’s still in the hospital?”
“Yeah, but he’s doing great,” she said. “He’s so happy now, and me and him have gotten really close. He used to come in with his wife once in a while, but when she died, he started coming in every day.”
“I’m a Hooter girl too,” said Adriana’s sister. “Hooter’s has done everything for us. It’s really a part of our family.”
“That was weird,” said Tommy, when we got back in the car.
It was dark already, and I let Tommy smoke in the car because things seemed more complicated now. He told me about a Christian boy he’d kissed and loved in high school, who had eventually gotten spooked and chosen church over Tommy, and about the Disney World internship he was in the running for. Neither of us talked about our plan to see the Roswell Hooters for ourselves before we left. Maybe we thought it had nothing else to offer, or maybe it seemed too close to what I was looking for.