We were out celebrating a friend’s birthday at a little tavern in town. The waitress I had been used to seeing was no longer there, and I asked the owner Chris what had happened. “Oh well, you know, she just up and left. Took the kids and went out west. Family problems.” And so, we were served by Amanda, an odd sort of girl who apparently was in for just her second night. I could see Chris watching her closely whenever he had the chance. She was painfully conscious of it too. Very thin she was, almost emaciated. Tattooed here and there, with obvious sores on her arms and face.
In guilty hindsight, my first thought was Chris, why would you hire her? She’s in pretty rough shape. I saw that she was desperately trying to keep up on this busy night, and it so happened that one of the other waitresses had called in sick, adding to the confusion. She came to our table, penciling down the dinner orders from our party, and getting a little flustered by some of the guests who either couldn’t make up their minds or kept changing them. When she came to my wife and I, I just said “two meat loaf, please, and we’re good for drinks.” She made brief eye contact with me, and gave the slightest smile.
In a face that was not used to a smile. I knew her eyes. She was, or had been, a user. The furtive glances. The jerky movements. Tough as nails underneath. I know this assumes a lot, but, as the evening wore on, she gave me a brief searching look more than once, as if something had passed between us. I have known two people in my life who went down that frightening rabbit hole of hard drug use. One is dead, and the other in custody. It is something that you feel utterly helpless to deal with, no matter your compassion.
As we got ready to take our leave, Chris came to me and asked “What do you think of Amanda?” She’ll work out, Chris. Give her a chance, eh? She’s trying.