She won't tell you about the specials unless you ask her to. She says, "you are expected to participate in this life so don't be shy to ask questions." Tammy's real name is Dorothy. Its the first thing you'll learn about her, when she points to her nametag with a finger like a switchblade that's been flirting with a waterbed, looks you in the eye and says, "this isn't me." She'll go on to tell you that Tammy is the best waitress in the whole wide world. If mountains had heart strings, Tammy woud have them curled around her fingers, and she would be mining hard rock for heavy metal. Skipping each love-me-not flower petal, until all that remains is the love, love me. Dorothy doesn't ask if you want coffee. She pours it hot, careful not to hit the brim, just shallow enough to leave enough room to turn up the volume with cream and sugar if that's how you take it, I don't even drink coffee. But I can see that she has danced this dance so often that her steady grace depends on this routine. She's been subjected to cruelty over empty cups of coffee, treated as if she is somehow responsible for your long night or rough morning. She holds a pen like a warning and is not shy to remind you that she doesn't take orders, she takes requests. You can tell her what you'd like, but if you're not polite about it, she'll point you to a sign that reads: Shoes and shirts are nice, but manners are a must. If you wanna be served, you better dust off your ettiquette. Better sit like you did back in whatever grade that mad it clear to you that your teachers are not your parents, and that any mess you make remains your responsibility. Dorotthy has set the bar so high for world's best waitress, that I wonder about Tammy. How could she hold a candle to this woman who's kicking wisdom into me as swiftly as she's kicking the bullsh** out. She tells me about dreams. She says, " My dreams are helium balloons, and I've made the mistake of letting go a few too many times but I still got this one. Tied it around my finger like a wedding ring, because even though I don't believe in marraige, I'm gonna bring this one home." And I want so bad to ask her what her dream is. But today I'm thinking maybe its enough that she has one. Maybe its enough that she's holding on to something in a world where everything else floats away. Maybe this one should stay her business, this one thing that she shouldn't have to explain to anybody. Kinda like the fact that she gave up softness a long time ago. I know because she wears her eyes like two diamonds, cut into spheres, and she will look at you hard. The other diners would call her blunt, not me, I'd call her up-front. LIke that kid at the head of the cla** that always has his hand raised. Not because she's got answers but becasue somtimes she is willing to ask the questions. I ask; so who's Tammy? Instantly I can see that its the lump in her throat thats stopping the words from getting out. I can tell that theres a story here that starts like an earthquake and ends like a hurricane. That there isnt a stormdrain big enough to collect all the tears she shed for this woman who's nametag she wears like a shield against the worlds cruelty. Dorothy clears her throat, smiles and says; you havent touched your coffee. We dont always get the answers we want. Somtimes a simple look can haunt us enough to know that some ghosts need their rest. That some stories are dressed in the flesh of other people because they dont wanna be seen. Dorothy has been holding on to something and as much I want to bring it out of her I can see how sure she is that this story is not for me. We both acknowledge that I will never know what it means to be the last one left to lock up after the cook has gone home and the lights have been turned low. I will never know what it means to go from the front door to the parking lot wondering if all the guys I served today got the hint I'm not to be f**ed with. I can see why she is sharp, why she traded in her softness for edges. I can see that her eyelids are ledges that tears have stepped out over. Her story is one I will never know because I was born a man. I can only mind my manners and accept that some things are none of my business. That this space we share is a gift and I'm only here with her consent. And it remains my responsibility not to be the next guy who puts another dent in her heart by trespa**ing into a territory that she has marked off limits. The radio spits out another song that makes it sound like the world doesnt have to worry about the way it is. It should. Granted it would be easier if everything we needed to know was written on a menu board. But nowadays we should know enough that its up to us to ask about the specials. To not a**ume that just because our coffee is empty, we are somehow entitled to having more. Because its not just about putting forth the questions, its about accepting the answers we ask for.