Our stars have finally aligned! Indoor dining is coming back, and a well-deserved stimulus payment is in my bank account. So I’m putting on pants and preparing for my return to the only place I truly feel seen and heard: the restaurant where you work. I’ve missed you, beloved server of mine. And since I, the diner who does not tip, am never able to remember your name, I can only hope that giving the host an offensive physical description of you will bring us together again.

Ever since the pandemic forced your restaurant to lay you off, life’s been extremely hard for me. I’ve failed to find someone willing to bend over backwards as you did. You were never tending to my every desire because you wanted to — it was as if you simply had no choice. Romantics like myself call such compulsions “fate.”

Forced to dine at home, I have found myself sending the food back quite a bit, telling my wife that the meal did not taste the way I expected it to taste. But it hasn’t been the same as when I used to do that very thing to you during a Friday night dinner rush. You brought me a brand new meal right away. You get me. My wife, on the other hand, only addresses my constructive criticism by suggesting I make my own “goddamn dinner,” and reminding me she’s not my mother.

I wonder if you miss how I used to cheer you up when you were having a bad day at work by telling you to smile. I tried doing that with some of my female co-workers until they complained, and my manager reprimanded me for violating company policy. Can you imagine if your job had an insane policy like that, where your managers came to your defense? Me neither! Luckily for you and me, your restaurant’s only policy is that oldie but a goodie: “The customer is always right.”

I hope you haven’t forgotten the little game we used to play where I held you hostage as you waited for me to finish ordering. Your section would be getting triple-sat as I asked countless questions, all of which could have been answered by simply reading the menu. Well, I’ve tried to replicate that whimsical rapport with fast-food employees at the drive-thru, but they just close their windows and stare at their phones. Oh, how tickled I am by the mere thought you would even dare do something like that to me!

I can’t stop dreaming of that glorious day when I get to see you again, honey, bulldozing my way past all the people who have been patiently waiting, just to seat myself in your section. I will loudly push tables together and create fire hazards, all while your co-workers try to decide who will reprimand a grown man. As I sit alone at a table big enough for four people, I will surely kick off my shoes and enjoy the highly-coveted oceanside window view. I may only order a small beverage, but we both know I will make it last your entire shift.

I yearn for that inimitable human connection that can only be attained by forcefully handing you a tower of dirty plates when you’re not ready for them. If we’re lucky, you’ll drop everything before reaching the dish room and I’ll get to cheer and laugh until you have returned to me, wiping from your eyes what could only be tears of joy. God, it’ll be good to laugh again.

And what visit would be complete without you delivering the bittersweet reminder that your shift has ended and stating how much you would “appreciate me” paying my bill so you can go home to your family? Don’t worry; I haven’t forgotten about my signature move where I write on the tip line, “Here’s a tip… get a real job!” What can I say? I’m witty and I need you to know that I honestly think robots could also intuit what I mean every time I request that my fried eggs be cooked “dippy.”

Before I put on my shoes and leave, however, I would be remiss if I didn’t walk back into the kitchen to find you so we can officially say our goodbyes. I’ll shake your hand, as I always do, and say, “You were great, darling. Everything was wonderful,” both of us knowing full well that I have left you no tip at all. As much as I would love to reward your attractiveness, you and I know any monetary form of gratuity would cheapen what we have.

For now, sweetheart, be patient. Take comfort knowing that the day grows near when I will once again snap my fingers at you like I do at my dog when he’s biting his stitches. And from across the wonderfully crowded dining room, I will yell your beautiful name — that is, if I can just get a good look at your name tag.