I’m not sure what it was, exactly, that first set them apart from the dozens of other customers I ring out on any given day. But they stood out. So much so I still can’t shake them from my mind a week later.
They were relatively young, mid-twenties perhaps. He was the better looking of the two but not in a showy way. His hair was short and well-kept, his height around five-eleven. He wore a pair of jeans and an Irish green t-shirt… Nothing terribly out of the ordinary except for maybe his eyes. They sparkled when he smiled.
She was average in looks, bordering on almost non-descript. Her shoulder-length hair was pulled into a quick and easy ponytail and the only thing I remember about her clothes was a darkish brown waist-length coat of some sort.
Had they approached the register individually during the course of the day, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post. But they didn’t, and so I am.
In the time it took me to ask if they had a rewards card (they did—and so should you) and to scan their two books (not cheap ones) and her hastily added chocolate bar (my kinda girl), they wormed their way under my skin and into my memory. Where they’ve remained ever since. And while I’ve tried to rationalize their impact on my innate love of people watching, I know it’s way more than that.
They had it.
You know, that attraction that Hollywood glamorizes in its movies and authors expound on in their books… But with these two, it was every bit as real as the clothes they wore and the books they were buying.
That sparkle in his eyes when he smiled? It was for no one but her. I’m quite confident a bodacious and perfectly air-brushed beauty from Swimsuit Illustrated could have paraded herself in front of the counter and he wouldn’t have noticed at all. His attention, his focus, his passion was on no one but the average-looking girl standing by his side who was as genuine and sweet as any I’ve ever met. And it was obvious he saw that and knew he was one helluva lucky guy.
When I scanned one of their books and it rang up cheaper than they’d expected, they cheered collectively as if they’d been handed a winning lottery ticket. She responded with a cute comment about not feeling bad about buying the book any longer. To which I replied, “or the chocolate.” She looked at me and said, with all seriousness, “I never feel bad about chocolate.” The look he gave her when she said that was enough to melt anyone’s heart. Including the pathetic cashier behind the counter (formerly known as…moi).
As the transaction was coming to a close I asked the standard question as to whether they’d like the receipt with them or in the bag… The receipt went in the bag. The chocolate went with her.
It’s been a week since they stood in my presence for all of about three minutes. Yet I haven’t forgotten them or the genuine love they obviously had for one another. It wasn’t over the top, it wasn’t in-your-face, it wasn’t jaw-dropping.
It was simply magical…and real.
As real as it gets.
So how about you guys? Have you ever met someone who affected you in a way you could never have imagined? An encounter that you’ve revisited often? Describe him or her and tell us what it was that took root and wouldn’t/didn’t let go…
Great post Laura.
As for your questions, all I can say is:
by Tasha Alexander on April 8th, 2008 at 12:14 am
“I’m quite confident a bodacious and perfectly air-brushed beauty from Swimsuit Illustrated could have paraded herself in front of the counter and he wouldn’t have noticed at all.”
There are SO many things I could say here. But I won’t.
Thanks for putting a smile on my face this early in the morning, Laura.
by Will Bereswill on April 8th, 2008 at 7:30 am
I have a picture I bought in Florence from a street vendor outside a garden. It shows two heavy, older folks in swimsuits at the beach, sitting side by side, their heads turned to each other, both giving and receiving the kind of chaste, affectionate and meaningful kiss that only those married for decades can give.
Have it hung in the family room right over a photo of me and the hubby in some Italian doorway when we…ahem…thought no one was looking.
by Regina Harvey on April 8th, 2008 at 10:02 am
There was that Swedish stripper I sat next to on a plane to Europe once…
Your young couple sounds sweet, Laura. Good luck this Sunday!
by JennieB on April 8th, 2008 at 12:55 pm
I saw a couple this weekend on a motorcycle who had “it.” I probably could have created a whole story around them if not for the fact that I was too distracted because they weren’t wearing helmets. Grrr.
by heather on April 8th, 2008 at 3:13 pm
Tasha, I understand that heh as you knew I would.
Will, Will, Will. I won’t ask.
Regina, your picture sounds great! Would love to see it one day!
JennieB, okay, I said DESCRIBE! You left us with no description of travel companion! And as for Sunday–THANK YOU!!! We’re raising lots and I’m so proud!
Heather, forget the helmets and write!!
by Laura on April 8th, 2008 at 4:32 pm
Many years before I married, chance placed me in the home of a family from a school other than mine, who had agreed to take two girls for the upcoming music weekend. Bart and I surprised them, but they were cool. I met their son that evening.
The next evening, I met their daughter, and lost my mind - and it stayed lost in a fog around her for years after she married someone else (unhappily, as it turned out). We were finishing each others sentences within minutes, always knew who it was when one called the other before answering the phone, and wrote damn near daily letters. I put a bunch of miles on the old Plymouth that year, before we started college. It was to be many more years before I learned the term “soulmate” - but that’s what we were.
College time came - she went away and I commuted - beginning of the end - and when the end came it so destroyed me (or perhaps I let it so destroy me) that I ended up in the Air Force dodging the draft instead of gaining the education to Make Something of Myself When I grew Up or If I Grew Up (there are many opinions even today, 50 years later, about whether in fact I did grow up.)
After the service I met and married my first wife, but this lady and I stayed in touch through her dissolved marriage, her battle with leukemia, the adoption and birth of my children clear through the recent marriage of my daughter. In the meantime, she decided to leave her ancestral home and ended up taking a professorship at McDaniel College - 15 minutes from where my wife and I have lived for the last 35 years.
We have stayed close, and while certain things never were consummated, we still finish sentences when we talk with one another.
My wife somehow understands this, and knows she is not threatened when I get on my motorcycle and head off to visit a lady from years ago, and will even come along if I promise to take her to dinner and not insist she ride the motorcycle - and so sometimes I take a car.
I’m sure this all means something to someone, or maybe it’s the seed for something. I’ve long since given off any anger, and most of the sadness although that took longer - and we have had the inevitable conversation about what might have happened we might have killed each other) and what fascinating children we’d've had together (which was quite a conversation when I was waiting for the birth of my last daughter.)
We agree we’d've been poorer for not knowing one another - and that we caused each other monumental pain that might have not been necessary - but both of us grew and learned from it, so I guess it was all worth it.
Living almost inside someone else’s skin & mind was a beautiful experience,and althoughI\’m still closer to this lade than to anyone else in the world, it all seems to be right -0 even knowing we’ll never inhabit the same space again, I guess we’re both lucky for having had that experience with each other.
I guess sometimes I talk too damn much.
But that’s how it was - and it was wonderful.
And my first wife still puts up with me.
by Bob on April 8th, 2008 at 4:40 pm
Bob, I don’t know what to say other than, wow.
After forty years, I think I’m beginning to truly understand the connection you just described. And it’s magical.
by Laura on April 8th, 2008 at 4:47 pm
Not everyone has the good fortune to exeprience life with a soulmate. I’m sure there’s someone out there like that for just about all of us, if we have the wit to flow with it when it comes by instead of wondering, questioning, or fearing. I don’t know that the experience is repeatable with someone other than the one who originally was the catalyst for the experience (if you don’t mind a mechanical term for a mystical experience) but no matter what, it does something, opens some ways in the mind, allows one to see colors that are not usually there.
For all the sadness that resulted, I’d never wish not to have had that timewith that particular person.
by Bob on April 8th, 2008 at 5:24 pm
Oh, one more small point or two.
I’ve been married just over 40 years.
The lady I mention I have known for almost 50 years.
by Bob on April 8th, 2008 at 9:01 pm
JennieB, okay, I said DESCRIBE! You left us with no description of travel companion!
He was a 23-year-old Swedish stripper, Laura. What more can I say?
Oh yes, I was 29 at the time. Married but without children. He asked me how old my husband was, and when I told him 30, he suggested that maybe I should try a younger man. I was flattered, but I pretended I didn’t understand what he meant. To be brutally honest, I thought I might have misunderstood. Or not really, but it seemed safer to think I might have misunderstood. He was a nice kid. I don’t regret it at all.
by JennieB on April 8th, 2008 at 10:14 pm
by J.D. Rhoades on April 9th, 2008 at 7:34 am
Oh no, Dusty…no, no, no.
Writers can not give one word answers.
And JennieB, much better!
by Laura on April 9th, 2008 at 7:39 am
JennieB, that was you??? Since being an engineer is boring, I tend to lie about my profession. For fun, of course.
Now I pretend to own the airline that I’m flying on.
by Will Bereswill on April 9th, 2008 at 9:27 am
I’m glad others answered a day late - I was unwell yesterday.
I know I’ve met a few couples like you described, Laura, but they’ve become more indistinct as time goes on.
However, there have been two men, at different times and places, both from Texas, who were unforgettable. One was a naturalist at the Dallas Natural History Museum, who was smart, sweet, and fascinating, and sadly, died much too soon, and the other is a cowboy who had an amazing dog and an impressive human brain and personality (and a great set of legs) that was cleverly hiding behind a sweet, “aw, shucks” manner. If I hadn’t been committed to who I’m with (and he hadn’t been married), well, that guy could have gotten me to run off to Texas with him with very little effort. Yep, they were … special.
by Kate Hathway on April 9th, 2008 at 10:08 am
One day, back in 1986, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.
Oh no, wait, that was Bernstein from Citizen Kane…
by JDRhoades on April 9th, 2008 at 11:56 am
LOL, Will! LOL!
Kate, a smart and sweet cowboy with an “aw shucks” manner???? You’ve SO got a character for a novel with that one! And I’ll buy the first copy!
Dusty, I’m shaking my head at you and planning the first conference I actually meet you at. Because I know I can get this story out of you with the help of some bottled friends.
by Laura on April 9th, 2008 at 3:56 pm
That was me, Will! Had I but known…
by JennieB on April 9th, 2008 at 5:37 pm
I don’t remember, Jennie, did I use the. “I’m just a Sexy Swedish Cake of Beef!” line?
by Will Bereswill on April 9th, 2008 at 7:07 pm