The Best Money I Ever Spent

Him. The One. Soulmate and best friend.

I loved him the moment I saw him, all bumbly chic in his waiter’s uniform, tall dark and handsome, with a Superman forelock Christopher Reeve would have swallowed kryptonite for. I’d been going into that Lyon’s restaurant for months, checking him out, ordering coffee and leaving no tip. But it was cool, y’know? It was the no-tip-required kind of place. Open all night. Smoking section. Black berets (not really). The kind of place the posh community college crowd liked to frequent.

I’d bring my notebook and write poems, fend off older boys who asked what I was doing. I was only a senior in high school after all…and besides, that adorable waiter had my heart. The way he walked right into walls or tables, dropped glasses or plates or the little notebook he used for taking orders (I didn’t know that he was nervous too), the way he never scoffed when a group, comprised of me and my fifteen BFFs (most of whose names I’ve now strangely forgotten), asked for nothing more than sixteen waters with sixteen cumbersome twists of lemon.

I was seventeen and smitten.

Once, outside of Lyon’s, I’d seen him wearing a burgundy flannel and white jeans (ala Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode), chain-smoking menthols at another local hangout, conveniently whenever I went outside to smoke, though I hardly noticed then. It was my first poetry slam, my first addictive hit of fandom, all “That was great!” and, “Are you going to read next week?” And while I loved it (loved it, LOVED it), all I noticed was him. All I thought when I was up on that stage was, Crap, do I look alright?

The site of my youth.

Then weeks later, at the other Lyon’s across town, I saw him again, bent over a spiral notebook in the corner booth, his Superman forelock swooping down into his eyes. I wanted to walk right up to him and brush the hair back from his brow, ask if he was a writer too. Did he see me at the poetry slam? Did he remember me from all those tipless nights at the other Lyon’s? And golly gosh gee, I know this is sooo last minute, but did he want to grab a cup of joe and talk of existential blues?

Instead, I shimmied past him to the bathroom. He smiled. I turned my head, feigning obliviousness. (Though later, when he tells this story, he calls me ‘aloof’ and ‘pristine’ and ‘untouchable,’ while smiling, I defend myself with words like ‘shy’ and ‘timid’ and ‘young.’ But whatever. It all worked out.)

Then one day, four of us girls went into Lyon’s after school. Adorable waiter man said, “Hi. May I take your order?”

And we said, “Water with lemon please,” multiplied by four.

He brought us coffee instead. We blushed.

“I’m going to marry him someday,” I told my friends.

And we all laughed. Because he was the one who seemed untouchable, y’know? Pristine. Aloof. Or maybe shy. Timid. Young. But whatever. When our visit to Lyon’s was done, we all agreed that we should leave some sort of tip.

We pooled our money on the table, somehow came up with a five dollar bill, debated on who should deliver it. And I drew the straw.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

His shift was done by then, and he was sitting at the bar, writing in his spiral notebook. I tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, sorry to bug you.” My hands were shaking. “We come in here a lot. You’re always so nice and sweet and…well…we never leave a tip.”

I handed him the five dollar bill. He took it.

“Wow,” he said. “So sweet.” (Or something similar; I was far too nervous to remember.)

All I can remember is a few days later. We sat at Lyon’s again. He wasn’t working. He was just there, sitting and smoking in his burgundy flannel and white Dave Gahan jeans. Then plop. A folded piece of notebook paper fell onto the table. And by the time I looked up, adorable waiter guy was bustling through the doors into the parking lot

My friends tittered. “Oh my God!” and “Can you fricking believe it?” And I unfolded the note with trembling hands. It went like this:

Now, over twenty years later, the rest is just a history lesson for our son.


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