Doing the Right Thing and Hating It

As St. Patrick’s day arrives, I’m reminded of one year ago today when I was in a Main Street bar not too far from here.  I’d been stopping in for a month or two to watch the Canucks games and have a few beers.  There was a beautiful server who had caught my eye.

I found myself looking in her direction.  I’m sure she noticed.  We talked a little every time I saw her.  I complimented her every time, telling her she looked beautiful.  She didn’t seem to mind, despite having a boyfriend.  In fact, I think she liked it.  She even thanked me for the encouragement when I made what I thought was a pretty ordinary comment about her career ambitions.

Another great thing about her – as I watched her talking to a co-worker at the end of the bar, I saw her doing the same crank up the middle finger thing that I’ve been known to do.  Others have done it, of course, but I was the first.  I stole it from Tom Waits in ‘Rumble Fish’ before them.  Obviously, we thought alike.

On that St. Patrick’s day she looked extra good.  She wore a green patterned halter style top, her loose blond curls tied up with a stick or pencil through them.  Every time she turned her back to me to enter her orders on the computer terminal, I admired her delicate back.  There were two exquisite dimples near her shoulder blades.  I couldn’t help looking.  They were too beautiful and fascinating.

On my way to the washroom, I stopped at the terminal and told her she had these exquisite dimples in her back.  Worried that this latest in a growing line of compliments may have been too much, I said, “Sorry, am I embarrassing you?”  “No, you’re OK”, she replied.  She clearly appreciated being appreciated.

I don’t know if she didn’t hear them enough, or even at all, but one night she responded to my compliment by saying something like, “I’ve never really thought of myself as being beautiful.”  Shocked at her modesty, I asked “Why not?”  She replied, “I don’t know, I just don’t.”

Some time after the Canucks’ playoffs came to an end, I was in the bar again and had one or two more than usual.  As I was leaving, I came across her sitting outside, her shift over.  We spoke a little, as usual.  In my case I spoke a little too much.  When she got up to go back inside, we hugged and I said something I shouldn’t have.  Then I kissed her on the cheek.  Again, if she minded, she didn’t show it.  She may even have subtly pulled herself closer.  It doesn’t matter.  Compliments are one thing, but I crossed the line.  You don’t mess with another man’s woman.  “I’ll see you real soon”, she said, and went inside.

If something is alright for you to do, it’s alright for everyone to do.  Otherwise, you place yourself above everyone else.  If we all just took what we wanted, we could also have anything taken from us and we’d have no right to complain.  That’s no way to live.

I did the right thing and stayed away.  There has been no reward, in kind or otherwise.  No positive ‘karma’ has come my way, and don’t even think about telling me my reward will be in ‘heaven’.  If any good came of it, it was an infinitesimal increment in collective co-operation.  One more person tried to do the right thing.

Maybe she was interested, too.  Maybe if I’d persisted she could have been mine.  Maybe she was unhappy, or not happy enough, with her boyfriend.  Maybe she continued living with him for security or financial reasons, even though she hoped for something better.  Maybe she was afraid to live alone.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  I did the right thing, and hate it, but the right thing has to be done.

Sometimes I wish I was more selfish.

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