Walked in to my favorite restaurant, expecting to see Jenn, my favorite waitress as I sat myself in my favorite booth. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit at times.

Only… something was up. There was a new woman behind the bar, a new waitress tending to the tables, and Jenn was nowhere… wait. There she was, back in the kitchen. Brown hair tied back as usual, thin body hiding behind an apron as usual, but leaning against the wall instead of bustling among the patrons, her eyes were on the new waitress.

I sat down, and it was a longer wait than normal for the busgirl to bring over my favorite order of salsa (hot!) Yes, something was definitely up.

The waitress, the new one, finally came over and took my order. As I watched her leave, I made accidental eye contact with Jenn, over chatting to the bartender. She smiled and waved, then walked over.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I answered back. “What’s up?”

“Nothin’, been pretty slow,” she said. She leaned against a table next to my booth. If she didn’t look at least partially like she was still working, I would have invited her to sit down.

“I wanted to let you know that tomorrow is my last day here.” Spoken slowly.

“Oh? Moving on to bigger and better things?” I asked with a hopeful smile.

“Nah. Well, kinda. I’m going to Brazil and Chile.”

“Oh! That’s cool.” I thought a moment. “Like with the Peace Corps?”

She laughed. “No. No way! I couldn’t afford to pay my bills for 2 years. Man, if they didn’t make it a two year commitment I’d totally do that. Have you ever thought of Peace Corps?”

“I’ve thought about it.” I couldn’t tell if she thought I was lying. I have thought about the Peace Corps. I just haven’t thought of, y’know, joining the Peace Corps.

“Yeah,” she continued, “it’s that two year thing.” She pushed off the table. “Well, I just didn’t want you to wonder where ‘that girl’ went off to!” She turned to walk away.

“Hey, do you have email?” I asked her.

“Yeah!” She stopped, turned back, smiled briefly and made a ‘writing something’ movement with her hands.

“Do they have email in Brazil?” I teased. “Or is it all about the nude beaches?” We both laughed as I handed her a pen. She tore off some scratch paper from her order pad, ripped it in half and gave half to me.

She mumbled, “Yeah, I’ll totally add you to my list.” Oh. She’s got ‘a list’ already? Oh, well.

She looked off, up and to her right, and murmured, “You’re the nicest Brian I know.” I raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh, I’ve had a lot of trouble with Brians,” she said elliptically, pretending that that was sufficient explanation. And maybe it was. I thought of all the Jennifers I’ve known over the years. Of all the girls I’ve dated, I’ve dated more Jennifers than any other single name. In fact there was a time when I would refer to them by number; the tally reached 5 before I grew tired of that particular inside joke. I thought it was funny that others, like Jenn, would have strings of particular names in their past.

Is that just a case of people assigning a pattern to what’s likely a random occurrence? Or do we seek out something, maybe unconsciously, without admitting it to ourselves? I know that all the Jennifers I’ve known over the years have had only two obvious things in common, their name and their gender. Beyond that, they were all different, unique and individual as snowflakes.

And another close encounter ends in another Jennifer walking away.