In the city long ago, I used to works nights and follow each shift up with a visit to Denny’s for their country egg scramble and bottomless cup of coffee. In the early morning hours the place would be filled with a smattering of homeless guys, a few addicts, and girls who worked in the clubs in the red light district.
One such club had a neon sign that read, “we rent angels by the hour.” I say this with some amusement, because that is also the slogan of the healthcare agency I now work for some 25 years later.
In Denny’s long ago a love story unfolded before my eyes, but not quite the type of love story people like to hear. There were a couple of Christian men, Dennis and Mark, who would come into Denny’s to try and evangelize to the homeless guys and sometimes to the ladies, too. One day Dennis met Rachel and became enchanted with her. She really was beautiful with turquoise eyes and a sweetness about her that just couldn’t be disguised, even with all the costuming and make up. She was very seductive however, and all over Dennis as much as possible in a restaurant.
I was much more cynical and jaded in my younger days, if fact, the Denny’s dishwasher and I had a running bet going over how long it was going to take these two to have sex. It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when. We would roll our eyes and snicker, “why don’t they just get a room and be done with it.”
Over the days to come Dennis and Rachel were inseparable. Dennis would ask her questions about her job, her life, how she came to work in the clubs. He was always talking to her about her worth and her value and how loved she was. Rachel began to change, she just started carrying herself different and you could sense the transformation.
Eventually Rachel fell in love. But not with Dennis. She had met this fairly well off guy and she was quitting her job and planning an elaborate wedding. Dennis was stoic, but we could all feel his sadness. To add insult to injury, Rachel asked Dennis to be an usher at her wedding. He had to pay the rental for his own suit, too.
Dennis didn’t get the girl. He never even got to sleep with her. The dishwasher and I both lost our bet. All that love and compassion Dennis invested in Rachel and somebody else reaped the rewards.
But it was still a beautiful love story because Dennis had no idea how many eyes were on him in that Denny’s long ago. Rachel found herself simply because Dennis took the time to teach her that she had worth and value beyond her sexuality. I watched Dennis night after night and I slowly began to lose my own cynicism. The dishwasher started to believe in love again. One of the 2 AM coffee drinkers reconciled with his wife. Dennis touched a lot of lives in that Denny’s simply by being himself and showing people he cared.
Rachel got married and had two children. Dennis got a really good job offer and that was the last I ever saw of him. Wherever he is, I hope he knows there was great victory in his lost-love story. He didn’t get the girl, but he made so many of us believe in love again, the kind that asks for nothing in return but leaves behind something beautiful, even in its failure.