Most couples have those cute stories of how they met and the unexpected circumstances that brought them together. Whether they meet by chance in line at a supermarket or are set up by mutual friends on a blind date, it all has to start somewhere. I met my first love and lost a good friend all in one fell swoop. My close friend Michelle had finally met a good guy after years of scraping the bottom of the barrel when it came to men. She talked about him in reverent tones and often blushed when she mentioned his name. Now, Michelle is one of those people that could find fault with the Pope, but besides a few small flaws in personal taste, she was crazy about him, anyone could see that. Michelle often mentioned how perfect he and I would be together, we liked similar things and shared an odd love for contemporary musicals and overpriced coffee. He honestly sounded like a great guy, but he was hers and it was against the laws of feminism for me to covet him. But after three months they abruptly stopped talking, for reasons that she would not disclose, yet she was deeply affected by the loss. Two weeks later, I found myself unemployed and the center of yet another of Michelle's schemes, famous for never really working out to her advantage. I was assigned the task of getting hired at the restaurant where he worked as a cook, where I was to try my damndest to get them back together.
A few days later as I loitered in the hallway by the kitchen of my new job, I inspected the cooks one by one. Having never actually met Michelle's man, all I had to go on was her glowing description of him as a tall, thin man with a deep tan, leaning toward the Hispanic persuasion. I saw one guy that fit her description but the grease laden hat and glasses that looked fit for the legally blind gave me pause. After a few nonchalant comments to the other servers I discovered that he was indeed the one that my friend spoke of so often. Boy can she pick 'em, I thought, giving him a second glance through the kitchen window. The next day I was able to put my plan into action as we happened to find ourselves waiting to clock in before our respective shifts.
"You must be one of the new ones, huh?" he asked confidently, with the awful glasses now gone I could actually see his face clearly for the first time, and I knew what Michelle saw in him, his eyes had a soft kindness in them.
"Yeah, my name is Emmie; I think you know one of my friends . . . Michelle Anders?" I studied his face closely looking for a shred of reaction or emotion.
"Oh, yeah, she is a crazy girl." He said with a small laugh, as he moved to the time clock as our shift neared.
"Crazy? How so?" I asked innocently, cutting in front of him to clock in first.
"Oh, come on, you should know." He replied, winking as he made his way toward the kitchen. For the rest of our shift he asked me simple questions about how Michelle and I met and became friends, the conversation flowed easily and he politely corrected me in my work, until the dinner rush hit. As one of the few cooks who spoke English as a first language he was a constant translator for the others, and he effortlessly slipped in and out of Spanish commands as the night progressed. At one point, when I wasn't running all over the restaurant he called out for "Agua caliente" and those that didn't ignore him as they passed froze with looks of confusion on their faces. With my own broken Spanish, I was able to discern that he wanted hot water and reached instantly for two cups and filled them with all haste, passing them through the window to his surprisingly grateful face and reply of "Gracias" to which I answered "De nada" and he broke out in a quick smile.
As for my plan for Michelle to get back together with her Latin prince charming, the perfect opportunity presented itself the following weekend. My younger brother and his band had entered a showcase at a local bar and nothing brings people together like lukewarm beer and cheap cover bands. I was the one who made the initial call, and he agreed to meet us there after his shift that night. Michelle was ecstatic that he was coming, but once he arrived the shit hit the fan. Despite there being an empty seat next to Michelle he sidled in next to me and didn't take my obvious hints that I was only there as her moral support and loyal wingman. Furious, she stomped off to the ladies bathroom where I tried to console her.
"Don't you see what is happening here?"she yelled at me through the bathroom stall door. "He only showed up because you asked him too, he doesn't care about me anymore!"
I couldn't help it, she was right all along; we were almost perfect for each other. Michelle stayed in the bathroom for the rest of the evening, regardless of how many times I returned to talk her out of her tower. Perhaps because of my long standing hatred/fear of men I wore a fake diamond ring on my left hand, to ward off potential victims.
"So what is that for? Are you engaged?" he asked me, after I returned from the ladies bathroom for the fourth time. I glanced down, slightly embarrassed, and blushed when I replied.
"No, it's to keep men away, actually."
"Does it work?" he asked slyly.
"I don't know, you tell me." I said looking him straight in the face with a confidence that frightened me a little bit. That night I left with promises of meeting up over the following weekend at his place for a Halloween party, and Michelle crying softly in her car, alone. As I parted ways with her former man, I approached her car and lightly tapped on the glass, she responded by vehemently gunning her engine, throwing her car in reverse and speeding away.
After two days of silent treatment, Michelle finally caved in and accepted one of my phone calls. She was quiet and strangely polite, which was very out of character for her. She explained that she was angry at me for stealing her man, but that it was no reason to have acted so childishly that night at the bar. We were able to apologize to one another and reconciled for the most part. However, when I told her that her man and I had plans to meet up for coffee later that week she asked if I would talk to him on her behalf. To try and explain what had happened between them and to tell him how she felt about him.
I halfheartedly agreed, mostly to make her happy, but as luck would have it I ran into the man in question the following day as I was leaving a class.
"Hey, I recognize that walk!" he jokingly yelled at me as we crossed the quad in opposite directions. I gave him a friendly smile and we stopped to talk for a few minutes. After discovering that I was leaving a class and he was skipping his, we both decided to walk together to the lot where our cars were parked. We neared the corner where student parking was housed and my mouth fell open immediately. It was noon on a Friday and he had snagged one of the most coveted spaces, close to the humanities building and shaded by a large tree.
"How…?" I shook my head in disbelief and stared at his smiling face.
"Why don't we have that cup of coffee now, and I'll explain to you how to properly navigate this school." I threw my school bag in the cab of his truck as he began imparting his wisdom about how to find the best parking spaces and where to go for the finest cup of coffee. One week later I had the unwelcome task of explaining to Michelle how I had every intention of basing our talk over coffee on her feelings, when in reality I had left the coffee shop hand in hand with her Ex, and my new boyfriend.