Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Heather

Her name was Heather and I don't suspect I'll ever forget her. She was the perfect antidote to a rotten few days. Have a seat; here's the story.

We ducked into Chili's after the UT game earlier tonight. Don't know the final score, but Tennessee was leading by more than 50 points when we made our way to the exit. Poor MTSU. It was brutal.

Anyway, the server came up and asked for our order. She was attractive, but at first I didn't take more than a passing notice.

Then she made a joke at my expense. I was angry to begin with, even brooded a minute about it. After awhile, she came back around and started chatting, first about UT basketball, then about "stuff."

Heather was a football trainer at UT. She loved her job, said she cried the day she left it. She's from Middle Tennessee and plans to return there to finish up her master's degree, although she says she'd love to return to The Hill one day as an athletic trainer.

She turned down a softball scholarship to Middle Tennessee State -- a full ride -- to attend Tennessee. Heather had her mind made up that UT was where she was headed after going to her first football game.

"I wanted to run through the 'T' once, and I ended up running through it 13 times," she said.

She later went to school awhile in Chattanooga, but said she hated that.

Heather doesn't much like the restaurant bid'ness either. It's a holding pattern toward her ultimate goal.

I'm a sucker for a pretty smile, but what I liked most about Heather is what I always like most -- her personality. We chatted with her for only a few minutes, this stranger serving our food, and yet she seemed like an old friend, somebody we'd gone to school with, getting caught up on life in the preceding years. I found myself talking all about me, too --- my failed ambition to become a history professor, stuff I never talk about.

I'll remember her smile and her looks, but most of all I'll remember her likable, outgoing self.

When we got up to leave, I wanted to say something, make a fool of myself, do whatever, to keep the moment alive. The ol' conservative spirit inside me said she probably gets hit on by every jerk that walks in the door; the insecure fella buried deep within told me I'd never have a chance with somebody like her. That little voice refuses to vanish completely; it tells me a lot about myself that it won't go.

So instead I said, "Take it easy."

"Bye, hon," she said.

Bye, Heather. Hope you make it back to UT.

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