Monday, January 30, 2012

A Quiet Man

I have fallen in love with a quiet man. 

He never speaks, just sits in the same diner booth, motions for a cup of coffee and reads the newspaper. I have always brought him the prime roast beans, but I had a feeling he doesn’t care if I served him watered dredges. He only always drinks it half way through anyway. His entire concentration is on reading the newspaper. He sifts through it all from front page to last. Then, two or three hours later, he will leave ten dollars, more than enough to cover for the coffee and a big tip. Once I have tried giving him some change, but he only waved my offering away. That was the one time I saw him smile at me, and it changed me.
It made me look forward to something in the day. Waitressing is a dull job and only pays as well as the next tip. Some days, I get all misers who would only leave a penny or none at all. But I could always count on the quiet man to come in around 2 o’clock – just after the lunch hour rush and a while before the tea time dash. He made me look forward to the afternoons -- a feat for someone who has stopped looking forward to the future. 

At first, I told myself it was because he tips me so well. I could count on the extra 8 bucks at the end of the day. Who wouldn’t be glad to see dollar signs, right? But then, after a while, I think I started looking forward to his visits because it was one consistent thing I could count on; me who have had nothing consistent in my entire existence. It helps that he is attractive in a Richard Gere kind of way, if Richard Gere had red hair and was in his late thirties instead of fifty.

I have not told anyone about my infatuation with the quiet man. But somehow, the other waitress, Rita, has figured me out. She had always been uncanny that way. She said she knew from the way the air around me vibrates the second he comes in. She said she has also tried to read the vibrations around the quiet man, but she hasn’t quite gotten a finger on it yet. 

I don’t like it when she reads his vibrations. She said for it to work, she needs to be near somebody, as close as possible. She needs to touch their energy, and most people have an energy field of only about a couple meters wide. That’s what she said. So when the quiet man is around, Rita passes by his booth as often as she can, even if her tables are on the other side of the diner. Most of the time, the quiet man doesn’t even look up from what he is reading. But one time, Rita’s hips hit the back of his chair, and startled, the quiet man raised his eyes to Rita’s baby blues. Rita profusely apologized, and the quiet man just nodded his okay and went back to his newspaper. But the way I see it, any man would only have to look at Rita once to never forget her face. To say Rita is pretty will be an understatement. To say half of the male demographic went to our particular diner because they want to see her will be nearer the truth. I thought my quiet man doesn’t even stand a chance. The good thing is that, he never looked up again after that incident. And after a while, Rita started to tire of walking all the way around the booth just to get to feel his vibrations. That made me happy.

 But one day, it happened. It was 2 o’clock and somebody was still sitting in my quiet man’s booth. I did all the silent wishing and praying I could, but the couple who was seated there were having an argument. It didn’t look like they’ll be leaving the table anytime soon. I even tried to give them their check without their prompting, but it just lay there ignored. 

I heard the bell first, then my quiet man’s silent shuffle. I turned around to face him, an apologetic look on my face. I told him I’m sorry his booth is still occupied and if I may direct him to the available ones, none of them on my side of the diner. He hesitated, but walked towards the farthest booth on Rita’s side of the universe. I had never felt crushed before that day. I never had anything to hope for before this man. I watched him sit on the booth and motioned for a cup. But Rita, unaware of our silent covenant, wanted to know which kind. Would that be decaf or roast? Black or with milk? Whole or skimmed? 

It grated my ears when she asked. But then I heard him answer, “Just like always. Please ask Karen.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I turned around, eyes wide, too stunned to speak. The quiet man knew my name—and more than that he was staring at me hopefully, as if pleading to help him lose the chatty woman. Rita had a subtle pout, obviously a little put off. If I could vibrate any louder, I was doing it right then. “Roast, black, brown sugar.” I heard myself say.

Rita huffed away to get the offending coffee. I was still at a loss, but managed to offer a shy smile back to the man. He was still smiling back. 

Maybe it was the vibrations, maybe it made me high, but whatever it was, it gave me the courage to walk up to him and speak.

“You never really said which kind you liked.” I told him. “I had to guess.”
His smile deepened. “Well,” his voice was a little gruff as if unused for some time, “I never really knew what I wanted until you gave it to me. Dan.”

“Beg your pardon?”

“I mean, my name is Dan. Seems unfair I know yours and you don’t know mine.”

I chuckled good naturedly. “You’re not good with introductions, I get it. I don’t like chitchat either.”

He nodded. “Yes, that’s why I like you. See Karen, I don’t know how to chitchat, more so ask a girl out. But I’m going to try today because I really like you. Have so for some time now. But I don’t know why I couldn’t speak.”

“Maybe because speaking is overrated?” I offered. He nodded, obviously relieved.

“So maybe we could grab something that is not coffee, and spend some time together not talking?”he asked
It was the first time I ever said it aloud. I haven’t had reason to before. But now… there is this. I would savor every syllable of it.

 “Yes. I look forward to that.”