Tired feet, aching head, growling stomach. These are some of the side effects of working 12 hour days, seven days a week – of opening for business at 4:00 pm and finally coming home at 5 in the morning. Of sitting down to have dinner just as the birds are announcing the dawn of a new day.
For David, the 12 hour days are not so different from what he experienced in New York. As a private chef, he was on his feet all day and would frequently put in such long hours as he patiently waited for his employers to get hungry for each meal. For me, it’s the opposite of what I’ve been used to for nearly the past decade. As a writer for a website and then a magazine, I sat in front of a computer all day. Yet, even for David, running AlteArte has required an adjustment. For, since we got laid off from our jobs a year ago, we had both fallen into a fairly idyllic, lazy lifestyle of getting up when we felt like it, eating three meals a day, and, besides the perpetual nagging feeling of needing to figure out what in the world we were doing with our lives, relatively little stress.
At first, we figured that we’d test out opening AlteArte every day to see which day would be the best to close. Monday was slow, but, since all the other businesses were closed, perhaps it would be best to stay open that day. Tuesday was slow but maybe we could organize a happy hour to stir up business. And as we tested it out, the weeks passed and the tourists started arriving for Easter week and we no longer could close one day out of the week because, as everyone in Altea knows, during the high season, you work. And you work hard. It’s during the low season that you rest. Consequently, we’ve been open every single day since we officially opened February 27th.
And it’s starting to take its toll. David who has, historically, been able to withstand being in a household of sick people and not get sick fell ill the other week but persevered nonetheless. I, who hadn’t been able to lose weight since being with David regardless of my attempts to work out, quickly shed the hard-to-lose pounds within the first two weeks. My weight loss was so noticeable that when David’s cousins came to AlteArte for a surprise visit a couple of weeks ago, they lectured us about eating well. Up until that point, we had varied our meals by eating all different kinds of… pasta – bowtie, spaghetti, rotini. After that, though, David started scouring through the cupboards at 4 or 5 in the morning searching for any kind of protein – that he could add to the pasta. However, we hadn’t had time to go shopping for home and our cupboards were quickly becoming barren – so much so that, one evening, in desperation, David grabbed my last, treasured can of Amy’s vegetarian chili that my mom had brought for me from California. I had been saving it for a special meal as I especially enjoyed eating it on a baked potato with cheese on top. But, instead, it was hastily added to the pasta and not nearly as good, and I sullenly ate it for its protein – not for its taste.
Our apartment also suffered from neglect and the laundry piled up until I was forced to stay home and do load after load until the situation became less urgent.
And the exhaustion has set in – especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I have Spanish class at 9 in the morning. On these days, I sleep only 3 or 4 hours and wake up at 9, jump out of bed in alarm and run to class. Running on little sleep is OK as long as business is steady. But on Tuesdays when it tends to be slower, drowsiness sets in and it’s hard to keep my eyes open. But, for this, David has found a solution. When the exhaustion becomes unbearable, we spread out a long-chair mattress along the length of the stockroom and, in the narrow space between the crates of soda and the shelves of alcohol, we take turns resting.
But I’m not complaining. Because the exhaustion is a good exhaustion. It’s the type of fatigue that comes from having done something, from having accomplished something, from having worked hard for something. And, over time, the body adjusts. My feet don’t hurt as much as they did in the beginning, I haven’t had to take an Advil in weeks, and having dinner when we should be having breakfast is kind of starting to feel normal.
And it’s true that we don’t always have to both be at AlteArte. But part of the pleasure of owning it is being able to do it together. Our goal, after all, was to create something where we could work together. In the future, perhaps, whether out of choice or obligation, we’ll have to modify that. But, for now, we’re making AlteArte ours – together.