All the next day I hoped I would see the pilot again and that he—instead of his friend—would ask me out. I was in the midst of a smallish dinner rush and was buzzing about my tables, checking on how their food tasted and if they needed refills. I had a water jug in hand and was filling up a table’s water glasses when I spotted him out of the corner of my eye. Instantly my stomach clenched and I could feel myself wanting to beam, but I didn’t want to seem overly giddy, so instead I kept my cool—which if you know me at all, is still me being wildly uncool. I kept filling the glasses though one wasn’t water, it was Sprite and as soon as I did it I snapped back to the present and away from the pilot’s smile.
“That was Sprite wasn’t it?” I said to the gentleman staring at his newly destroyed Sprite/water mix. He smiled and nodded. “Ooops. I am so sorry. I will go get you a new Sprite.”
I scurried to the front to seat the pilot and get a new Sprite. Again, he stayed until close. His new buddy Bill joined him again and I frequented their table, pretending it was just because I am an attentive waitress, but really I couldn’t get enough of the pilot or his disarming smile.
I hardly knew what to do with myself, he was such a distraction to me. I was delivering the wrong food and pouring the wrong drinks, but I couldn’t redirect my thoughts to the tasks at hand; they only wanted to be on him.
And so when he got up to leave, I kind of slunk behind my waitress station in nervous anticipation of whether he would just leave and that’d be the end of it or if he did remember that tomorrow was my day off and he really did want to take me to dinner. I had a large glass of ice water I was sipping on and I inched over to the counter at the front of the restaurant. He had paid for his dinner and walked back over to the counter where I was standing.
“So, if you would like to hang out or anything tomorrow on your day off…” he ventured while my brain instantly ceased functioning. “I can give you my information.”
I don’t remember what I said, maybe I just nodded like a loon, sliding a waitress tablet across for him to write down his information. He ripped off the sheet and slid it back to me. And being too dumbfounded for words—because besides his smile, have I mentioned how beautiful he is? How tall? Or dapper? How ‘bout that he looks just like a cowboy—I accidentally knocked over my entire glass of water onto the slip of paper, ice sliding this way and that, while water ran over the sides of the counter.
He laughed and asked if I was alright.
I felt honesty was my only option at this point. “It’s just your smile…” I confessed. “It’s very unsettling.”
“That doesn’t seem like a good thing,” he replied.
“No it is!” I insisted, “But it distracts me… and well…” I motioned to the mess I was trying to mop up with napkins, while shaking out the paper with his name, phone number and email.
“Maybe I should take your information too…” he suggested. I was deeply relieved. I knew I would have contacted him, because I was already too far gone, but I was very nervous and preferred the idea of him getting ahold of me.
I wrote out my information and finished cleaning up my mess.
The next day I shopped in town with my sister trying not to dwell on the impending ‘hangout,’ and if that meant date and if the pilot would take me to dinner or worst-case scenario, if he would even text me at all. When he did text me and even passed my serial killer joke test—where I ask if he’s a serial killer to test his sense of humor, to which he responded, “No I am not a serial killer! What about you? Are you the Bear Lodge brutalizer?”—I had to phone my mother and give her the lowdown: that my life goal of being asked out by a handsome stranger while at work, had finally come true.
I kid that isn’t my life goal, but I will admit, many a romantic comedy had given me the notion that this rather rare happenstance—at least in my case—could one day happen to me.
We settled upon meeting in the lodge gift shop at two and would go into town to visit, King’s Saddlery Museum. I ran into the lodge a minute late feeling breathless and nervous and quickly apologized for being late. He shrugged it off and said he usually ran late too. We walked out to his truck where he held the door open for me.
I chitter-chattered our way down the mountain. I couldn’t seem to stop or take a breath. Maybe it was nerves or maybe he just brought out the extra verbose in me. Country music played in the background and we both agreed that the new pop style of country was utter rubbish.
We arrived at the museum, where we wound our way throughout the Wild West decor, him admiring ropes and the fine craftsmanship of the saddles, me mostly admiring him. The pilot made saddles as a hobby. And he had horses. And although he was a pilot—also as a hobby—and not a cowboy, he had the quality of a cowboy, both in attitude, dress and general demeanor. He even had a sort of cowboy drawl.
Before we got to the checkout, so he could purchase his King’s Saddlery baseball hats, he asked me if I would like to get dinner. I nodded casually, while inside I did fist pumps and victory leaps that would impress the flashiest gay Broadway star.
Dinner was lovely and after we went on a drive around Sheridan and then out into the country where he played me cowboy poetry he had on his Spotify. My heart quieted for a minute, while I let the gruff words sift down inside of me like lazy dust flecks coming in through a sunshiny window. I think in that moment, driving in the country with him, rock ridges to my right, mountains to my left, and cowboy poetry playing on the radio, I fell a little in love with him.
He told me he wished I didn’t have to work the next day as he was going to a canyon he’d always wanted to see, and he would’ve taken me with. I told him I only worked the morning shift until one, if he wanted to wait.
He said he’d wait.
We wound our way back up the mountain where an 80’s party was taking place at the lodge. My outfit was to be your basic 80’s aerobics gear, while my sisters dressed up as Molly Ringwald and Madonna respectively—total knockouts. But upon seeing me in my simple cotton workout gear the pilot beamed and said, “If this is what the 80’s looked like, I want to go back!”
Later after we had a couple drinks and I danced with my sisters to Footloose the pilot walked me home, while holding my hand. Then he pulled me to him in a tight hug while he beamed and told me he would see me the next day.
The next day we drove two hours to the Wind River Canyon. He held my hand and made me laugh until all my mascara washed off. We stopped at the Marriage of the Waters, where I joked that I was going to jump in. We struggled to find anywhere to eat in Thermopolis, but I hardly had an appetite anyway as I was drunk on him.
On the drive home he told me I could sleep and got me a sleeping bag to lay my head on. Before I dozed he told me to pick out songs on his Spotify. I was listening to Righteous Brothers, You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling, while he pumped gas, and at the part where they belt out, “baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you!” he popped his head in the car and belted out the words to me.
I fell a little more in love.
Then I passed out.
When I awoke we were already winding back up the switchbacks and his hand was in my hair. I sleepily commented that we were almost home. He looked at me, the dashboard light flickering on his five-o-clock shadow and said, “I wish we had a 100 more miles to go.”
And right then I knew, the way you know about a good melon.
He left to go home to Pennsylvania a few days later and I ached thinking it was just to be some perfect mountain fling, but right before leaving, he wrapped a blue silky scarf around my neck that he said was his lucky scarf.
“I want you to have it,” he said.
Why would he give me his lucky scarf if I was just a fling, my brain reasoned?
I went off to Colorado on a weekend trip and he made his way back East.
And that’s the end.
Just kidding! That’s not the end. Barf, that would’ve been horrid.
No, my pilot cowboy continued to text and call. And then send me packages and letters. And generally seem like I was the farthest thing from a mountain dalliance. And well, now that handsome pilot is my handsome beau. In fact I am going to see him in Pennsylvania in two days.
So there you have it. The berries. Total berries up in here.