I peaked into the doorway. No one in sight. “What if she’s not there?” I thought to myself. “I already bought the flowers.” I could simply leave them with whatever yahoo is there. Conflicted, I decided to return to the car to grab my stuff. I twisted the green and gold beads between my fingers out of nerves. This whole plan was silly.
Not five minutes earlier, when I was buying the flowers, I had been all grins and confidence. The sweet sweet checker girl, Missy, was all excited.
“Who is the lucky girl?” she asked me with a huge grin.
All I could think of is that the flowers would’ve been for her, if she hadn’t told me about her upcoming engagement just a few months prior, which was coincidentally, the same day I had resolved to finally ask her out. I had been falling for her in increasing increments for over a year. She must’ve sensed something coming, because she blurted it out before I could put my thoughts together. Of course, her new diamond ring was a convincing prop. Otherwise, I would’ve been sure that it was simply a nice way to let me down.
“I wouldn’t say she’s lucky, but there’re for a girl over at the pizza place who saved my life a week or so ago,” I said, as I vaguely motioned with my right hand, where the pizza place might be. “It was the Friday before last and I went in after a long day at work to get a pizza to go and I passed out while waiting around,” I paused momentarily, wondering if my story was already getting too long and tedious for Missy. “Turns out,” I continued while trying to gauge her interest, “I had an infection and my new kidney was in jeopardy.” I wasn’t sure if I had ever told her about my medical issues. “She was working there and came out to help me to a seat and she called an ambulance despite my protests.”
“Wow! That’s really amazing! You have been so much happier and healthier since your transplant; I would hate to see you get sick again.”
“Do you think it’s cheesy to get her flowers?” I asked out of a need for confirmation.
“Not at all! I bet she’ll be thrilled!” She handed me my change, and in the same motion, grabbed my hand and quietly told me “good luck” as her next customer started loading her groceries onto the conveyer belt.
“Thanks!” I replied a bit relieved. That was a boost. Her friendliness always instilled me with energy. Also, after doing this deed, I was off to the Bullpen downtown for the Timbers pre-game gathering.
All of this ran through my head as I grabbed the flowers and the card. I threw in that gift certificate for a restaurant that I had been given earlier in the year for my birthday. I knew I’d never use it. I shut the car door softly, while still looking around to make sure I had remembered everything. I took a deep breath and went straight in.
No one was in sight. There were no customers, but I still wasn’t sure if she was there. Would I recognize her? It’s not as though I was in a great frame of mind when I last saw her. When she smiled and set the pizza box onto my legs as I was being wheeled away on the ambulance strapped on a gurney, she probably thought I was a total dumb shit.
A flash of red caught my eye from the back room. It was her. She was coming my way.
“May I help you?” she asked.
I wasn’t sure if she remembered me. “You mean like you helped me before?” I responded carefully, as a tester.
“Are you doing okay now?” she immediately replied as she set both of her hands palms down onto the counter top and leaned toward me with a smile.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s why I’m here. I wanted to thank you for saving me. You may not realize it, but I could’ve been in real trouble.” I was stammering a bit, wondering how much I should say. "You saved my life." I pulled out the roses from behind my back and presented them to her. “These are for you. Thank you so much.”
Her eyes brightened with surprise and she turned to her left and skittered her way around the counter and out toward me. I continued to stand motionless with the bunch of roses and the card extended out to where she had been. She came right at me and put her arms around me. I slowly responded in kind, as she whispered “thank you very much” into my ear.
This may sound strange, but her embrace felt completely right. She fit me perfectly. Her arms were crossed around my neck pulling me down a little and I strengthened my hug in kind. Her bright red shirt matched the flowers almost exactly. I could smell her dark hair as it tickled my cheek. After several moments, she pulled her shoulders back so she could look at me closely in the eyes. She looked as though she was tearing up. She held the look for a beat and repeated her thank you almost wordlessly.
“What’s your name?” she asked me as she stepped back quickly – realizing that she was still at work.
“My name is Chris,” I mumbled, already knowing that her name was Katelyn. I still had the receipt from my last ill-fated visit. “What’s yours?” I asked anyway.
“Katelyn. Hey listen, can I get you anything?” She asked as she moved backwards towards her perch behind the counter. One of her co-workers, a angry looking tatted out guy, who looked like an oven runner, had made his way out front into our odd scene.
“No, thank you. I’m headed to the soccer match tonight,” I responded, as I held one end of my Timbers Army scarf up for evidence. Instead I showed her the “No Pity” side. She looked confused. I went back to fondling the beads around my neck after I straightened the scarf around my neck.
A woman with two small children entered the pizza joint and I decided I’d better make my exit.
I climbed back into my small green car. It was a sunny and warm afternoon and I felt alive! Things had gone far better than I could’ve ever imagined. Earlier that day, I had given my notice at work. I had given this wonderful girl a nice thank you gift and now I was ready to meet up with a bunch of old friends for a lot of beer and a Timbers game. It did not matter to me that I had no back up plan, or that I would no longer have a job, and no savings to keep me afloat. This was the new me. I needed to remember to believe in myself and go for what I want rather than continue going with the flow – no matter what. The transplant had given me a new lease on life and it was time to start making serious changes. I made a positive move for change on this day.
As I started the ignition, my phone buzzed. It was Wil. Somehow he must’ve sensed that I had interacted with a pretty young woman.
“Yo, what’s up?”
“I’m getting ready to head into town for Thirsty Thursday. Just handed off the flowers.”
“Oh, that’s right. Did you ask her out?”
“No, man. This was about letting her know that I –“
“Dude! What went down then?” Wil cut me off.
“I gave her the flowers, the card with the restaurant thing in it, she hugged me and, and, it went well.”
“You should’ve asked her out. Now she’ll use the free meal with some other dude and you’ll be forgotten as soon as the flowers die off, or as soon as she forgets where she left them.”
“Thanks man,” I said sarcastically. Maybe things hadn’t completely changed. “Listen, we can chat later. I’m headed to the Bullpen.”