"I'm sorry to dump this on you guys, " Dave said, finishing off his chicken parmigiano. "I mean, Jen and I don't get to see you guys that often, this is such a nice dinner, and all we've talked about is our troubles." His wife, Jen, nodded her agreement.
"Don't worry about it, Dave," admonished Cheri, my then fiancee. We sat on the periphery of a dense friday night crowd, waiting for the waitress to come back. Jen and Cheri needed their left-overs boxed up, and we all heard the coffee and dessert calling to us through the din. "It's really no problem. We're your friends, that's what we're here for. Besides, I'm used to it, this kind of thing happens to me all the time."
"Friends unloading on you?", Jen asked.
"No, not just friends," I said mopping up the last of my carbonara with the garlic breadsticks. "Random strangers, too. We'll be hanging out, doing our own thing, and people she's never met before will come up and tell her things about their lives that I wouldn't tell my therapist."
"You're kidding, right?," Dave smirked. He switched to a fake snivel, "Hi, my name's Dave, and my parents didn't love me enough."
"Worse, and I'm not kidding. When I was first getting to know her, it kinda scared me sometimes -"
"- but you gave me the ring anyway, how romantic," Cheri leaned in and we kissed briefly.
Dave dished us his usual good-natured hard time, "Come on, you guys, get a room!"
"No, that's so sweet," said a thin, high-pitched voice from over my left shoulder. We all turned to find the waitress had walked up beside me, unnoticed. "You have to treasure those moments. You know, my husband and I used to work at the same restaurant. I was a waitress and he was a cook. One day, I was just going on a break and he was back in the cooler, so I went back there to tell him. He was pulling some lettuce and he just put down the box, grabbed me up, gave me a big kiss, and said, 'I love you.' I was shocked - he didn't like to show his affection much, especially in public - but at least I told him, 'I love you, too.' He smiled and said, 'I know,' and went back to work, and I took my break."
"Five minutes later, someone came in to rob the place and shot him dead," she continued without even a quiver in her voice. "So, you really need to treasure the moments you have with people, because you never know when they'll be gone forever."
We waited in awkward silence.
She sighed deeply, and blinked as though coming out of a trance. "Any way, you want me to wrap that up? And I bet you guys are going to want some dessert - I'll check what we still have and come right back, okay?"
And with that she bustled off, oblivious to Dave and Jen staring after her.
"Case in point," I said, dropping my unfinished breadstick and pushing away my plate.
After a couple stunned blinks they turned back to us and noticed the wan smiles on our faces. Dave looked down, sheepish, then back in the direction the waitress had gone. "Wow. I am so sorry. I just didn't realize."
"It's okay, it happens," Cheri assured him. Then perking up a bit, she added, "But you've gotta admire the timing."
Thanks to DeadEyes for helping polish this up.