When Silence is Sweeter

A boy. A girl. Neither had to say a word.

   Today was not a good day to be late for your first day of work. But of course its always when you need a day where things go right that your day starts off in the worst of luck. I really do need a car. I think everyone has a car but me. And while everyone gets to go hang out and have fun this summer, I’m stuck with a job. Not so great. And I love how you seem to be the newest attraction at the zoo whenever I step onto the bus. I’m no animal, people, I promise. But I bet I look as messy as one; only waking up about twenty minutes ago. I used to be so excited to be out of school finally and spend all my summer doing nothing but sleep and eat and catch up on movies, but as soon as reality struck, I lost all of that.

   Shifting uneasily in my plastic seat by the window, I silently begged for the bus driver to pick up the pace. I was nearly out of my seat and climbing my way toward the front of the bus when he finally stopped at the side of the street. Despite the morning rainstorm, I rushed out and sprinted across the street and ducked into the overhead banister under the café. I shrugged off my wet jacket and took a deep breath. When I peered inside the restaurant, I could see silhouettes of people walking back and forth. I didn’t really feel like going inside, but I knew I had to. First day of the job.
    Digging around in my pocket, I fished out my name tag and clipped it on. I reluctantly walked inside. The restaurant was pretty busy, like I fretted. I could feel my stomach turn a little.
    “Where’ve you been? You’re late, Haley.” my new boss started, walking up toward me from the serving desk. He gave me a weird look.
    I’m gonna get fired on my first day?
    “The bus was running late, so I, uh, I couldn’t really get here. But I’m so sorry, I’ll start right now.” I explained, swallowing hard, nervous of what he might say. He just nodded, not caring about my excuse and pointed to an empty table, going off to the back counter. I’m safe. For now.
    I know being a buss girl isn’t that great, but its something. And maybe I’ll get to work in the kitchen one day. At least then my summer wouldn’t be so boring all day. I know kids who get to work at the beach or the movies, and actually get to enjoy the work they do. I’m not quite as lucky, but all money’s the same, so I won’t complain.
    I got to work, following after the departing visitors, cleaning and clearing the table for new customers. I didn’t mind cleaning that much, it was actually relaxing. And being in the downtown part of the city was new for me. Time seemed to fly by quite quickly and it was almost time for my first lunch break. I was finishing my hundredth table and glanced at the clock.
    I saw a five dollar bill drop to the floor beside me on the floor. I looked up and saw someone walk past.
    “Excuse me.” I asked, picking up the money and holding it out. It looked like a tip that fell off the table. They continued to walk, so I caught up and touched their arm to make them stop. “Hello?” They turned around.
    The dollar’s lost owner was a server here at the café. And a cute one at that. Wow, he looks...
    “I think you dropped this.” I spoke, unable to look at him directly in his eyes.
    He smiled at me for what seemed like a long moment. I just stood there like an idiot, holding the dollar bill in my hand. Um.
    “Did you drop this? Maybe out of your pocket?” I asked again, holding it out for him.
    The server looked down at the money and looked back at me, uninterested. I guess it wasn’t his?
    “You should take it though, you deserve it.” I spoke louder, hoping he would listen. Wow, that’s so stupid to say. I can’t just hand out free money to strangers.
    He looked so innocent with that smile. But his square, masculine face showed that he was much older than his childish smile. But I still don’t know why he didn’t answer me.
    Was something wrong? I quickly assumed it was something gross that was on my face.
    He politely held out his hands palm forward to me and shook his head slightly, as if he meant to say no. Then he turned around and continued to walk back toward the kitchen, scrubbing the dish counter as if nothing had happened.
    I guess he didn’t want it. That was kinda embarrassing.
    When I sat down in the booth, I realized I was smiling. I took a quick look back at the server and watched him weave around the room, running a washcloth over some empty tables that I had to finish cleaning. He was helping me buss the tables, which wasn’t his part of the job. I couldn’t help to watch him more, he was easy to look at. But after a minute or so, I snapped out of it, and finished cleaning.
    As I was stacking the final dishes on the tray to take back to clean, I had a hard time balancing them in my washing bowl. I had made it halfway across the café, but before I could realize that a glass was going to fall off onto the floor, I saw him again. I was expecting a crash and everyone staring at me.
    The glass didn’t fall on the floor, he had caught it, along with another plate. There was a clank and splash of something. The soda inside the glass spilled all down my apron.
    I had my eyes glued on him again. I didn’t even care that a half cup of Coke was all over me. He seemed to laugh a little, taking the tray for me awkwardly and handing me a clean wash cloth. Then he jogged back to the kitchen again.
    Did he just-? He’s so strange.
    Then again, I can’t even carry dishes right. I feel so stupid.
    Checking the clock, it was already one, and time for my break. The café wasn’t busy, except for a few quiet visitors. I glanced around to try to find the server again, but I think he had disappeared. I just decided to find an unoccupied table and scrubbed at my shirt out of the sight of others, cursing my affinity to clumsiness. I opened my packed lunch of a tuna sandwich I made for myself this morning.
    Two dishes clanked down onto the table in front of me. Mr. Cute Server Boy brought us both a plate of fries. Only knowing him - or seeing him - for about ten minutes, he already seemed to be everywhere I looked. I forgot about the soda on me and waved stupidly at him.
    This makes up for my bad day. He’s so nice.
    “Thank you.” I blurted, seeing him sit down across from me. I caught sight of his name tag. Caleb. My heart did a tiny flip in my chest. It sounded like the name of someone cute.
    But still, he didn’t seem to want to talk to me. Did I do something wrong? Caleb started to eat silently, looking up at me, with that same cute smile. I didn’t really know what to do. It felt so uncomfortable sitting with someone who didn’t want to talk to you. So why was he being so nice to me? I looked around us, trying to think of something to say without annoying him.
    “Today’s my first day. And I’m such a klutz, all the time, thanks for helping me back there,” I paused and looked up. He still didn’t seem interested, so I tried changing the subject. “But its a cool little restaurant. How long have you worked here?” If he didn’t answer me this time, I was going to give up. I really want to talk to him. Please, please answer me.
    While putting a fry in his mouth, he looked up and caught my eyes. I tried to keep my cheeks from burning. He motioned to his ear and shook his head. I noticed that his expression was somewhat confused. Then I saw him clearly mouth the words “I’m sorry”.
    I didn’t really get it, so I just frowned. Caleb started to make some quick movements with his hands and fingers in a way I could not recognize. But something struck in my mind. I’ve seen that before -  he was using sign language.
    Now I think I understood. Caleb was deaf.
    I felt a wave of regret hit me. I was getting so impatient with him when he couldn’t even hear me. I thought he just didn’t want to talk. Now I feel so bad. And I’ve only been talking about myself this whole time.
    I just tried to gulf down some fries and think of what I should do. I couldn’t help but think of how hard it must be. How could I talk to him? I kind of wanted to get up and leave, it felt horrible to sit here with such a sweet guy. But leaving would be hard if I can’t stop staring at him.
    Caleb took a napkin from the edge of the table and began to write something down on it with a pen he pulled out of his apron. He passed the napkin over the table to me.

    don’t feel bad

    I looked up at him and he gave me a smile. He seemed to read my mind. I reached for the pen and scribbled a reply for him.
   
    I don’t know how to sign. :(
   
    Caleb quickly wrote back to me.

    most people don’t, you don’t have to. :)

   
    I felt better seeing that written smiley face. I almost enjoyed it as much as his real smiles. He could smile a million times, I would never get tired of it. I loved seeing people smile, but his was different. It looked so genuine and real. What am I even saying? Hm.

    then how can I thank you?

    He chuckled softly.

    I can read your lips. you’re welcome.

    I was about to write something back, but he started to write something else.
   
    and i don’t think you’re a klutz. :)

    I rolled my eyes. Not true.

    but I don’t think that soda must be comfortable

    how do you sign “that’s not funny”?

    Caleb read what I wrote and chuckled more. I’m so glad that I could finally talk to him, even if we had to write it out. He was so cute. So cute.  Yes, he really was that adorable.
    But before we knew it, our twenty minutes were up and we had to get back to work. We had barely touched our lunch. But I took his plate and emptied it for him. I wish we had more time to talk. When I returned to the table, my phone was on the table, lit up. I looked at it and it said that I had a new text message. Looking around for my boss and not seeing him anywhere, I opened it and read it.

    I gave myself your number so I can bother you while you keep being a klutz.

    I thought of an amusing enough reply.

    You have no idea how boring cleaning tables are haha!

    Caleb didn’t text back after that, though. I guess he was too busy, but that was okay. I still had a few hours left of cleaning, but I didn’t mind at all. I turned on my mp3 player and bussed some more tables.
    “Good job. See you same time tomorrow.” my boss mentioned from behind me. I turned around to see him grab his coat and walk outside, leaving for the day. I guess coming in late didn’t upset him.
    I put away all my supplies and hung up my apron, grabbing my jacket and purse from the back room. Today was a good day actually, but I couldn’t wait to get home. I thought about waiting up for Caleb, just to say good-bye, but I didn’t see him anywhere. I checked my phone again and still no answer. He was probably cleaning dishes. I would help, but he would probably think I was stalking him. I’ll see him tomorrow at least.
    A little disappointed, I started for home. I crossed the street and sat down at the bus stop, searching my purse for some change. At least the rain had died down so it wasn’t pouring, but it was still sprinkling just enough so my glasses would be studded with water droplets, making it too hard to see through them. Waiting for the bus, I opened up my phone’s contacts and scrolled down the list of numbers I had. I was only halfway through the B’s when I saw the bus drive up near the street a block down.
    Just when I was going to try to catch it, I could see Caleb rush out of the café with his things and looked around as if he was looking for something. When he stopped in my direction, he jogged across the street to the bus stop. Oh no, don’t come over here. I look hideous in this rain.
    Caleb held out my mp3 player and placed it in my hand. I guess I had forgot it.
    He had on a beanie hat. It looked good on him. And-
    The bus’s engine growled and its doors were closing. It was starting up and began to slowly roll away, without me in it. I sighed. No use in chasing after it unless I wanted to fall on my face.
    He followed my gaze over at the bus that was driving away and looked back at me. Then he quickly took out his phone and began typing on it.  Just like I thought, my phone vibrated in my pocket.

    I can drive you home :)

    Before I could reply, his hand was on my arm and he was leading me down the sidewalk. Server Boy let go of my arm when he reached the street, but I followed him around the café’s parking lot to a small truck. When we got inside, I got a chance to text back.
   
    I think I’ve said thank you to you a million times today already :)

    He looked down at my text and just smiled.
    It was a quiet ride. I couldn’t imagine how much of a challenge driving could be for a deaf person who needed to pay extra attention to the road. I wasn’t nervous at all, he seemed like an excellent driver, and I trusted him more than the bus driver. I wrote down the streets to take to get to my apartment on a sticky note 9and he was able to navigate well. It didn’t take him long to find a route home while the rain picked up again. But I wish he could drive just a little slower.
    I thought of how difficult communicating with him was. Texting and writing notes was a little more effortful than talking, and it didn’t help much. There would be times where I wouldn’t be able to text or write to him. And I doubt I could learn a whole new language soon. But you know what? Any form of communication with him would be worth it.
    Caleb pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex. The rain was pounding on the windows, it was hard to see much outside. He killed the engine and we sat together in silence. I couldn’t tell if it was uncomfortable or not, I assumed it was weird for him, but I was more nervous than uncomfortable. I didn’t want to look into his eyes. Anything but that. But I had to. I wanted to make sure he could understand what I was saying to him.
    “This is the last nice thing you have to do for me, I promise. See you tomorrow?” I spoke slower than I usually do so he could read my lips.
    He nodded and pointed to his cellphone.
    “Call?” I asked, unsure.
    He nodded again.
    “I mean, text, sorry.” Of course he wouldn’t be able to call me. I’m so stupid.
    Caleb just grinned at me, probably not catching my mumbling.
    “I should get you a towel or something, you’re so wet from the rain.” I offered, slinging my purse over my shoulder and putting my hand on the car door. He looked like he was shivering.
    He didn’t really say anything, so I thought I could get him a towel or something at least so he wasn’t so cold. The least I could do. I didn’t realize that we had walked in the rain earlier, but the air conditioning had given me goosebumps in the car.
    “Wait a minute, I’ll be back.” I sprinted to my room on the first floor and got it unlocked. I threw my stuff down on the kitchen table when I walked in and hurried around the apartment looking for a towel for him. When I found one by the washing machine, I hurried to give it to him.
    But he was standing in the doorway.
    “Oh, hi.”
    Caleb took a look around my place. I held out the towel for him and he signed a thank you to me. Then my cell phone rang.
    “Sorry, uhm, hold on.”
    I answered my mum’s call.
    “Hey honey, how was your day? Good?” I heard her bubbly voice on the other line. I took a nervous glance back at Caleb who was drying off his hair by the kitchen table. She would kill me if she found out I brought a boy home without her knowing.
    “Great mum, it was pretty fun.”
    “I knew it wouldn’t be that bad. So I’m almost done here, want me to bring home some chinese? Or do you want to get some pizza maybe?”
    “Chinese would be cool.”
    “Alright honey, home in a while. Bye.”
    She hung up and I wandered back into the kitchen. He was sitting patiently at the table. When he saw me come into the room, he smiled his classic smile. Ugh, I love it. Maybe a little too much.
    But I couldn’t help but wonder. Caleb probably isn’t single, so I have to stop thinking like this. I swallowed hard. Despite his misfortune, he was funny and very sweet. And I just met him only this morning. His hair was awesome. Not that I think solely about looks, but wow.
   He had to have a catch. Some people might consider his being deaf as the catch, but I don’t. Maybe he’s married. I think I would have noticed a ring. A girlfriend? Most likely. Even if thinking of him like this was stupid, I still had an urge to learn sign language just so I could surprise him.

    My phone buzzed in my pocket again.

    I guess I’ll go, but I’ll see you tomorrow.

    Why does he have to go so soon? I frowned at my phone.

    I got another message.

    Nice meeting you. :)
   
    I didn’t really know what to say. My mind kept imagining what his girlfriend might look like. It sort of hurt to answer back. I avoided looking up at him across the kitchen table.

    You too. :)

    He walked over to the door, turned around back at me and opened the door.
    Probably had to leave to make it for a date with his girlfriend. He would take her somewhere special and romantic. Maybe a picnic or the movies.
    Caleb gave me one last smile and mouthed the words ‘bye’ before closing the door behind him. I stood there, as if staring at the door would help me see him better. But it didn’t. The whole day’s events played over in my head. My heart was pounding in my ears.
    I know what this feeling was.
    The door opened. Caleb slipped through the door and just looked at me. I just looked at him. He stepped forward and I closed my eyes. All I felt was a beautiful, half soaking-wet server boy kiss my cheek. I was afraid to open my eyes and see him leave. But I had to open my eyes and see him again. When I did though, he was already out the door. I stood there in surprise.
    I guess he doesn’t have a girlfriend.
    I could feel my phone vibrate in my hand. I didn’t have to look to see who it was.
    I think I definitely like Mr. Cute Server Boy. And he didn’t even have to say a word.

The End

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