Write On!

Ninth Step

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm

by guest author Amy Lawson

We’d finished our meal but lingered a little longer over dessert, soaking up the laughter and conversation. It had been way too long since my friend and I had shared a chunk of uninterrupted time together. Our hearts and stomachs were full after an evening of good food and great conversation. I packed a few memories away to savor at home along with my take-home bag of leftovers. All too soon it was time to go and my friend signaled the waiter to bring our checks.

“He must be new,” she whispered to me after he dropped off the vinyl folders that held our checks. “It’s a good thing he’s cute.”

He was a good looking guy, close to my age, I guessed, tall with dark, wavy hair that fell into his eyes. I didn’t know what color they were because he never looked directly at me. He had seemed ill at ease all evening and although he got our orders right, he seemed to spend as little time as possible at our table. Maybe my friend was right and he was new to the job.

We waited as he took our credit cards and brought back our receipts. As I was sticking mine in my wallet, I noticed that across the top someone, I assumed the waiter, had scrawled “I’m sorry.”

“Did your receipt have anything written on it?” I asked my friend.

“No, why?”

I showed her my receipt.

“Bless his heart,” she sighed. “He wasn’t that bad. Maybe I should have left a better tip.”

We had parked on different sides of the restaurant so we hugged our goodbyes at the door and went our separate ways.

I had parked near the back of the restaurant and as I walked to my car I saw our waiter sitting on the steps outside the back door. I gave a small wave as I walked past and he nodded his reply. I was almost to my car when something, I’m still not sure what, made me stop and walk back his way.

“The note. On my receipt. You don’t owe me an apology. Our service was fine. Really! We had a great time.”

He nervously tugged at the knot of his tie. I had made him uncomfortable. Why hadn’t I just kept walking?

“Well,” he cleared his throat, “the apology wasn’t actually for you.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, wondering if I’d just paid for someone else’s meal.

“It was stupid,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done it. You walked in and they put you in my section and I just thought maybe I’d been given a chance to try to make things right.”

I wasn’t sure what was happening, but something compelled me to stay where I was.

He paused and then continued, “You look a lot like someone I used to know. Someone I haven’t seen in long time.

“She was my best friend. She knew me better than anyone ever has. Truth be told, she used to know me better than I knew myself. She was the one person who I could count on to stay when everyone else in my life left. Until….well, until I finally pushed her away, too.

“I spent a lot of years making really bad choices. Which is why I’m a waiter right now while everybody I graduated with has careers and wives and kids. I’ve lost count of how many do-overs I’ve had.

“But she stuck by me. Always telling me that I could do better. That I deserved better. And I believed her sometimes. I wanted to believe her. I look back now and see that she loved me. Really loved me. And I loved her, too. At least I loved her as best someone can who doesn’t really love himself.

“She put up with the drinking even though she hated it. But then that wasn’t enough for me and I moved on to stuff that could make me feel good for just a little bit longer than one more drink.

“I’d tell her I was going to quit and sometimes I did….for a few weeks and one time, I even made it for three months….but then….” his voice trailed into the night.

He began again.

“The last time I saw her, we made plans for her to meet me at my place the next day. She’d planned a whole day of stuff for us to do in the city to celebrate how well I was doing.

“I dropped her off at her place and was planning to just go home and go to bed, but I decided to drop by the bar down the street from my house to see if any of my old friends were around. Since I’d quit partying with them, I hadn’t seen my boys in awhile and I just wanted to catch up for a few minutes.

“I thought I’d be okay to have a beer or two and I did and then a couple more. As it got later, I guess I lost count of the drinks. The next thing I remember is waking up in my apartment the next day. I guess one of the guys had helped me get home.

“There was a note taped to my door. It was her handwriting and all it said was, ‘I’m done.’  And she was. At first, she just wouldn’t accept my calls and wouldn’t come to her door. Then she changed her number. And then one day her roommate answered the door and said she’d moved.

“A few months later, I ran into a friend I used to hang with. He’d gotten his act together and took me to my first meeting. I realized I needed more than my own willpower or even her love to make me stop living the way I’d been living. My friend also invited me to his church and I met God there. It hasn’t been easy. I struggle. I’ve dealt with a lot of my junk. But with God’s help, I’m doing this thing day by day.

“I’ve been sober for two years now. But one of the things they asked us to do at my meetings is to make amends to the people we’ve hurt. I’ve hurt a lot of people, but the person I hurt the most was her. I can’t make up to her for all the times I disappointed her but I just wanted a chance to say that I’m sorry.

“I’d give anything just for the chance to say I’m sorry.” He looked in my eyes, and sighed. “I’m so sorry.”

He sighed. Before he lowered his head, I saw a tear roll down his face. I knelt in front of him and took his hands in mine.

“I forgive you,” I whispered.

We stood and hugged. When we separated, he said softly, “Thank you.”
He turned and without saying another word, walked back up the steps into the restaurant.

I got in my car and sat there reflecting on what had just happened. Her forgiveness wasn’t mine to give, but I like to believe she would have approved.

I never saw the waiter again. The next time I was in the restaurant I asked about him and the manager said he’d moved to another city to enroll in college. I hope he’s doing well.

I keep the receipt in my billfold. Sometimes when I’m looking for my library card or the extra ten dollar bill I keep for emergencies, I unfold it and remember that night. The apology is now faded, but I still think of the the boy who gave it and the girl for whom it was intended. The message wasn’t meant for me, but I’m thankful I was its recipient anyway.


Amy is a wife, mother, blogger, and God-follower with a fantastic sense of humor to go along with her beautiful smile. Check out her musings at http://www.snoodlings.com

  1. […] time to go and my friend signaled the waiter to bring our checks. For the rest of the story, visit shortyarns. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  2. Excellent! I enjoyed your story. It left me wanting to read more of what you write.

  3. I loved it. I wanted to see how he made out in life. Good, good story!

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