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Worldwide Ace » A Unique Snowflake

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A Unique Snowflake

25 February, 2009 (15:48) | Tattoos

snowynight

The card read:

You still owe me the story of the snowflake.
Ben – [phone number]
http://worldwide.aceharmon.com

I’m sure she thought it was some sort of pickup. This random guy who passed her a card with his number? Please. How transparent could someone be?

But I really just wanted the story of the snowflake.

It certainly didn’t feel as awkward as it probably looked: fourteen people, thirteen of them well into their retirement and me, the 20-something in the black shirt wearing Mardi Gras beads and a rubber skeleton jester. If I had seen such a sight, I’d have guessed that the 20-something was someone’s nurse. After all, why else would he be there?

It’s probably a little bit selfish, but I can’t imagine being a nurse. The bowel movements alone are something I’d loathe dealing with. I don’t, however, mind being enlisted as my grandfather’s chauffeur. I get to meet his wonderful friends and eat at wonderful restaurants and thoroughly enjoy a life I can only dream of someday earning. That’s how I ended planted at the foot of a table at a moderately fancy Italian restaurant in Summit County surrounded by former Caterpillar employees and their spouses.

I had hoped someone else within a decade of my age would be there as well, but it was not to be. My grandfather’s friends tell me stories about their kids and grandkids–how their granddaughter is 23 and just graduated from Georgia Tech, how their niece is 26 and looking for a job, how their son is 32 and works in the same part of TV I have–but they’re never there. They’re always a story away.

I shouldn’t be so disappointed. These people are lovely, caring, intelligent people. They’re kind and helpful and always willing to chat. I may not agree with their politics, but they have fascinating experiences that I enjoy hearing about. They’ve lived all around the globe, spending three years in Hong Kong, five years in Panama, a decade and a half in Switzerland. They have traveled and learned and seen things I can only dream of.

But there are moments when I unintentionally space out and wonder why I’m here. I’m lucky to be included. They could just call me for a ride, leaving me at home. They could talk amongst themselves without including me. I don’t belong. I’d be instantly picked out by a three year old on a Sesame Street segment as the one of those that doesn’t belong.

During these times, I find my eyes wandering to the people at other tables. I try to spot generational differences, but they’re few and far between. I make funny faces at little kids and funnier faces and grumpy adults. I watch the wait staff, trying to pick out if they’re stressed or having a good night; which smiles are fake and which of them are merely counting the hours until they leave.

Our waitress was a young brunette, a small streak of highlighting tucked along her tightened pony tail. Her eye shadow was deep and dark, making it hard to notice her eyes. Her smile snapped into appearance and disappeared as quickly, indicating a coercion of self I empathized with from my time waiting tables.

As she came around, taking orders, I noticed something on the back of her left wrist. I tried to figure out what it was, but the image eluded me. It seemed green or aquamarine and looked slightly like a Celtic knot, but I couldn’t be certain. She passed behind me to her right, leaving the ink in full view. It was a snowflake, beautifully shaded from an icy white to a cold blue, a tinge of red glowing in the middle. My curiosity was piqued.

“Excuse me, one more thing,” I called as she began to walk away.

“Yes?”

“Is there a story behind the snowflake?” Her right hand lovingly caressed the spot on her wrist, a genuine smile flashing as she giggled slightly.

“Yes. It’s, um, actually a long story. I’ll come back and tell you later.”

“Please, when you’re not so busy,” I told her, waving at her dismissively and smiling as she turned back to her job.

There are times when I become instantly enamored with someone or something. This was one of those times. But it wasn’t a someone. I felt joy that she had a story. If a tattoo doesn’t have a story, it’s more than likely a regret. It doesn’t matter if the story is about where the meaning comes from, about how she got the tattoo, about her time with the Alaskan Maori and their cultural customs, or about the artist and her relationship with him. But a tattoo is just ink stuffed under the skin with needles if it doesn’t have a story.

She came back several times, primarily clearing plates or refilling drinks. Never did she mention the snowflake. I watched as the restaurant crowded, her hands shaking stressfully as she coped with a full house, telling myself that when things calmed down I would get to hear this story. In some ways, I felt I would build up the story to the point that it would be anticlimactic, but I knew that if the story had enough meaning to her, it could never be anticlimactic.

The biggest problem with hanging out with the retired crowd is that they’ve adopted a schedule that doesn’t match my natural existence as a night owl. When nine o’clock rolls around, they start dropping like flies.

I watched as the dishes disappeared: the wine glasses replaced by coffee mugs, the clanging utensils exchanged for conversation, the cloth napkins traded for a leather billfold with the check. It dawned on me that I wouldn’t get the chance to hear the story tonight, and possibly never.

I thought about leaving a note on the bill, but I was being treated by my grandfather and his friends. Reaching for the bill would seem rude. I considered trying to talk to her as she worked, but I knew the stress of being a waiter. The last thing I wanted to do was fuck her over with my curiosity.

I excused myself to bathroom, but got sidetracked on the way. As I passed the reception desk I realized they’d have business cards. Sure, it wasn’t as cool as having my own business card, but I’m willing to work with what I can get. When I asked the Maître D, I was told they were out but that he’d check in the back. Sure enough, he returned and passed me a card.

I quickly jotted down the simplest of notes on the back:

You still owe me the story of the snowflake.
Ben – [phone number]

mysterymanI stared at it for a moment, wondering what she would think if I stuffed this in with the check. Would it come off as a bad pickup?  Perhaps she should know more about me since I had never made a good mystery man. I quickly added the URL for Worldwide Ace, figuring that if the whole card thing made her nervous or weirded her out, she could find out more about me before calling.

My companions began to arise and collect jackets, many of them milling around chatting. As I slipped into another conversation at the other table, the check disappeared and I was never the wiser. When I finally noticed, my grandfather was headed for the door and my time was running out.

I spotted her by the coffee machine and walked over, her back turned to me. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “excuse me.” The coffee shook in her left hand, spilling a little in the saucer. I grimaced, my hand shaking slightly. I hadn’t meant to cause any problem. “I’ve got to run, but I still want to hear the story of the snowflake,” I finished, tucking the card into her empty right hand. I could hear her laughing as I headed for the door.

When she looked at the card at the end of her shift, I wonder what she thought. Was I some creepy guy just trying to pick her up? Was she tempted to call and tell me the story and leave it at that? Would she visit Worldwide Ace and decide I was some sort of freak of nature?

It’s possible she tucked the card into a pocket and forgot about it. Or maybe she threw it out with the pile of notes that were actually meant to pick her up. Or perhaps it’s sitting on her nightstand where she looks at it every once in a while wondering if I was for real.

I don’t think I’ll ever hear the story of the snowflake, its blood red center pulsing with life, its image burned into my memory, its possibilities lost in the blizzard of life. Then again, maybe she’ll call.

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  • The Old Bear

    Nice story. You, sir, are a romantic with style.

  • AceHarmon

    It kind of aggravates me that you equate this story with romance. I once again reiterate: I really was only interested in the story of the snowflake.

  • The Old Bear

    You misunderstand. Romantic as in “belonging to or characteristic of romanticism or the Romantic Movement in the arts; 'romantic poetry'; a soulful idealist; a romantic adventurer; quixotic, as in not sensible about practical matters, idealistic and unrealistic: for example, 'as romantic as a the ideals of medieval knighthood' or, if you will, 'a romantic disregard for money'.”

    These are the qualities which make the story so resonant. I think they are amplified by your concern that your message on the card be mistaken for a pick-up line rather than a pure and honest quest for what you imagine to be an intriguing story.

  • TheOldBear

    You misunderstand. Romantic as in “belonging to or characteristic of romanticism or the Romantic Movement in the arts; 'romantic poetry'; a soulful idealist; a romantic adventurer; quixotic, as in not sensible about practical matters, idealistic and unrealistic: for example, 'as romantic as a the ideals of medieval knighthood' or, if you will, 'a romantic disregard for money'.”

    These are the qualities which make the story so resonant. I think they are amplified by your concern that your message on the card be mistaken for a pick-up line rather than a pure and honest quest for what you imagine to be an intriguing story.