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The street was quiet as I walked out of the theater. The pavement was sleek and black and the cars were topped with beads of water. After the rain, brief as it was, was my favorite time. It smelled new. Everything smelled fresh and untouched as if someone up there wanted to give you another chance. And it was quiet. No sirens, or horns, or people. Just you and the click of your heels to interrupt stillness.
“So it just wasn’t your night, huh?”
Recognizing the voice, I turned on my heels. Fred, in the most chic outfit yet, all in black, stood in front of me. Hands stuffed in his pockets.
“It’s not really my life, actually,” I said trying to hold back tears.
“I saw that.” Fred nodded toward the theater. “That was number three. What are you going to do now?”
Wiping the first tear from my eye with my index finger and sniffling, I faked a smile. “Buy my first cat. Can’t be the crazy cat lady without cats.”
Fred smiled, toddled toward me and handed me a white, linen handkerchief. “You have a couple of more days left, don’t give up.”
“Who am I suppose to meet now? My three best prospects didn’t work out. How am I supposed to meet someone and create a spark?”
“But all you need is a spark.”
“A spark is everything, Fred,” I said wiping more tears with his handkerchief. “I know that now. You can’t fake it, predict it, plan it or will it to happen. It just happens.” The tears came faster and so did the sobbing. “And you can’t formulate it either. Pedigree doesn’t mean compatibility.”
“And you can’t hide from it either,” Fred added.
“What?” I stopped crying long enough to see Fred serious face. “I haven’t been hiding.”
“You’ve been hiding all your life. If someone isn’t a glamour guy you won’t even give him a second thought. You’re hiding behind material things. Love can’t find you there.”
That’s when I lost it. The tears flowed down my cheeks as well as the snot from my nose. It was a full blown heart cry, in the middle of the street, with a cherub in trendy clothing watching. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
“Hey, you’ve got a couple of more days before Valentine’s Day. Something could happen.”
“Whhhaaat ifff iittt dooeesssn’t?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
And with that Fred, on cue, popped out.
Breathing through the sobs, I managed to calm myself enough to not look like a complete idiot walking down the street. If I had to be a spinster, let it be a sane spinster with fabulous taste in shoes. Using Fred’s hanky, I wiped the area under my eyes where I was sure that my mascara was making me look like a raccoon. After straightening out my dress, I walked back toward my car.
Fred was right. I was hiding behind labels and money, what men could buy and what lifestyle I would have. Truth be told, I was happy with my current lifestyle. I had security and a great best friend and, if I stopped serial dating, I was sure that I could find a hobby or something. My life was good, with or without a man. Why did it take a Valentine’s Day disaster to prove it?
Maybe because I put too much emphasis on things that aren’t as important. Now, I’d have to pay for that by being the last single girl. It served me right and maybe in the next life I won’t take love for granted and let it find me.
A man’s distressed voice and the false start of a care echoed in front of me. Along a long line of parked cars a red Focus had its hood up and the driver’s side car door opened.
This was a bad scenario for a woman who was alone at night on a street where no one was driving. Horror movies were made out of this situation. And if I remember correctly, the person of color always died first in those movies. Great.
The man could have been a murderer or a rapist or, even worse, a combo who would dump my body in some shallow grave only to be found by a little boy walking through the woods. But somehow, I wasn’t afraid, but I was still careful.
“Excuse me, do you need any help?” I asked approaching the car.
“Love? It that you?”
Jake hopped out of the car with a delighted look on his face.
“Jake! I didn’t know it was you.”
He scooped me up in a hug and I was surprised. I know that we’ve only known each other a couple of days but … well, it seemed like longer, really…not that I know all about him or his life… but we know enough to hug…maybe…kinda…well, yeah. Geez, he smelled good. I returned the hug and he held me tighter.
His eyes evaluated my face and concern blanketed his. “Have you been crying? They didn’t—”
“No, no,” I shook my head. Jake’s arms were still around my waist. My hands around his upper arms. For a skinny guy, he was pretty strong.
“Date didn’t go so good, then?”
“Something like that. Long story.”
“Well, I have the time. Called for a tow truck and it’s gonna take an hour to get here. They’re suppose to call my cell phone when they’re on their way.” He stepped back, letting me go.
“Well, my car is right there. Do you need me to drive you somewhere?”
“No, I don’t need anything.”
Have you ever had a moment of complete clarity, a eureka moment, if you will? It’s that moment when the heart beats faster, and smiles are cheekier. Everything in the brain and soul—thoughts, emotions, feelings, even tomorrow’s grocery list—is twisted into a kaleidoscope of gibberish. All you want to do is giggle and skip like a 5-year-old and sing silly songs like a stroke patient. This was my moment. Clarity.
“Well, I don’t need to be anywhere. I was thinking about getting a bite to eat. Want to join me?”
Jake perked up and nodded. Minutes later we were in my car, on the way to finding food.
On her wedding day, M was a vision of bridal bliss. The effects of love and being in love were obvious from the glow of her skin. The cream of her dress picked up the golden flecks in her hair and as the sun shone through the limo’s window on the way to the church, her smile was infectious.
“I can’t believe this day is here,” I said choking back tears.
“I know.” M’s voice quivered and she fanned herself with her hands. “Okay, I don’t want to talk about my wedding because I’m going to cry and my mascara is going to streak before I make it to the altar.”
“Ha! You don’t want to talk about your wedding on your wedding day! Fine, let’s talk about the fact that after pleading with you to not put me in the typical maid of honor’s dress, you chose for me a pink taffeta monstrosity.”
“What! It’s a beautiful dress and you look lovely in it!”
“I look like cotton candy.”
Michelle laughed and seemed to forget about the tears she wanted to shed earlier. If my wardrobe misery kept her beautiful on her day, it’s worth it.
“Well, you can pay me back when you get married, you know if you find the love of your life in the next couple of hours. Or have you already found it?” Michelle grinned.
I don’t know how love stories, real love stories, are suppose to end. In Cinderella, she married the Prince and lived happily ever after. In stories of unrequited love, someone is always hurt. For M, she marries a basketballer on the most romantic day of the year. For Marty Sandoval, doomed by the Gods of Olympus to a loveless life, the end is a big question mark. Although I only had a few hours before my love life changed drastically, my soul was calm. I’d rather be here with my friend on an important day than to chase around something that hasn’t been looking for me all along.
Jake and I have been dating for a solid week and it’s been heavenly. He’s neither glamour nor bookworm. Jake aka “Teeth” was label-less. He wasn’t even a hybrid. Jake was Jake. He likes watching kung fu movies and playing pick up games of basketball on Saturday but is a klutz. He doesn’t like to eat anything that didn’t originate from a cardboard box. He’s the slowest driver in existence and he listens to metal, a lot. But, Jake likes art, he’s open to new things because he thinks life is an adventure, and when I’m with him butterflies flutter in my stomach. My Christmas morning smile grows when he comes over with pizza and a movie. His favorite food in the world is Chinese. He has the most interesting stories and he thinks my cell phone graveyard is cool. He doesn’t talk too much, isn’t married, has never embezzled in his life, and is not trying to aspire to be a bad rapper. Jake was aspiring to be the best Jake he could be and I loved that about him.
“I can’t say it’s love, Michelle. An intense like. I like Jake intensely.”
“You like Teeth intensely,” M giggled. “That knickname, Marty.”
“I think it’s cute and describes him perfectly.”
Michelle nodded. “Marty and Teeth. Together at last. Not the type of guy I thought you’d end up with but I’m glad y’all are together. You look blissful, my friend.”
I locked myself in the lady’s room before the ceremony. After my conversation with M and my time with Jake, I wondered if everything was on the up and up.
In front of me popped in the cherub himself, styling in a black tuxedo and bone white shirt and bowtie. As always, his hair was slicked back in the Italian male model way.
“I love weddings, don’t you?” he asked waddling toward me. As he did, he looked me over from head to toe. “Oh, dear. Are you sure this lady is your friend? Yikes!”
“Oh, we have jokes don’t we?” I said, hands on hips. “Love the penguin suit by the way.”
“Funny.” Fred dug into his pocket and took out his two-way pager device. “I figured you would be calling me today. Let me get some answers from the cuz. But first, what do you think of Jake?”
I laughed. “Seriously? You’ve never asked me about any of my guys before.”
“I’ve never talked to you on Valentine’s Day before either.”
“Good point,” I answered, crossing my arms across my chest. “He’s great. He’s not someone I thought I would date, that’s for sure. But he makes me smile and, I don’t know, something about him puts me at ease. I tell ya what though if he was at that speed dating night we met at, I wouldn’t have given him the time of day.”
Fred nodded and turned his attention to his two-way pager. His fingers flew over the keys and I could hear the furious clacking. A knot started to form in the middle of my stomach and my life flashed before my eyes like someone who was about to die. But I wasn’t dying, I was about to find out if Jake was the one. There was obviously a spark but was it enough to turn it all around?
In that moment, I saw all the men I’ve dated since high school. All of them. And boy, it wasn’t pretty. They flashed before my eyes in a who’s who of Marty’s dating life. Tommy Westin, my pimply prom date. Mark Zimmerman, my athletic college sweetheart. Jerry and Terry Foreman, the twins I dated who didn’t know they were twins until I dated them (long story). Jacob Martinez, my neighbor at my first apartment complex. The list went on and on and on until Jake. Sweet, crazy Jake that had made me believe everything is possible, even love.
Love? Yes, love. I think I may actually…maybe…well, I know that I feel all bubbly when I’m around him….
Fred looked up from his device with a grim look on his face.
“What?” I asked. My heart started to sink.
“It’s not working,” Fred shrugged.
“It’s not working. It’s not telling me if he’s the one.”
“Fred! What the…”
He waved me down. “Calm down, there is a message for you.” Fred tapped a button on the pager and looked up at me. “Step outside.”
Fred shrugged again. “It doesn’t know. It’s cryptic. It’s usually a shoot or don’t shoot type of thing.”
I nodded at Fred, smoothed out my hideous dress and walked to the bathroom door. Turning back toward him, I saw the confused look on his face.
“I don’t know what’s behind this door, Fred. But I will say that these past two weeks make me realize a lot of things about myself that I didn’t know. It also made me find Jake. I don’t know if he’s the one but if he isn’t, I don’t know what love is. Not sure if I want to know.”
I unlocked the door, stepped through and the lights went out.
The bell dinged and the guy who sat across from me for eight boring minutes left. Eight minutes of my life wasted on a bald dude who wasn’t as exciting as watching paint dry in 100 percent humidity.
Lord, help me but this speed dating event will be the last time I do this. I can’t take this anymore…
Why do I feel like I’ve thought this before?
I looked around the room, and it all looked familiar like I was in this very room before. Even the people looked familiar: the blonde woman next to me, the guy with the funny laugh two tables down, even the bald guy who just left my seat. It must have been boredom. I’d been there so long and the dates were so uninspiring that it felt like I’d been here for two weeks or something.
I smoothed out my hair with my right hand as the final guy slid into the seat. He was about six feet, shaggy chestnut hair, with a goofy grin. He was kinda hot if you like the lean muscular type of guys, which I did all of a sudden. With his broad shoulders, he looked like he could be a swimmer or a skater. I noticed his tattoo on his right forearm.
I held out my hand for him to shake.
And then something strange happened. I felt a prick in the middle of my chest, like the sharp point of a pencil. It wasn’t painful but distinct. Suddenly, I felt happy and bubbly like I had won the lotto or something. I wanted to get up and dance but there was no music playing. I wanted to sing but I never could carry a tune. And the colors! Oh my, the colors brightened and I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy that I never in my life felt.
I looked at the man across from me. He looked familiar, too, as if I had met him in another life. But I would have remembered him, a hot stranger guy like that. Of course, I would!
“My friends call me Teeth,” he said as he pulled his hand away. “because…”
“You’re always smiling.”
My cheeks felt like warm s and I could hardly breathe. He was hot, and charming and not the kind of guy I typically go for but he was different somehow like he was destined for me.
“I’m sorry to stare but I have this weird sense of—”
“—Déjà vu?” Jake finished my sentence.
“I know, I’ve been feeling that all night about you. Like I know you.”
“Yes! Me too!”
At that moment, a short and greasy waiter came to refresh our drinks. Super greasy. There was enough grease in his hair to lube a Dodge. His name tag read Fred and he smiled as he filled our water glasses.
“I’m sorry, you look familiar, too Have we met?” I asked.
“No madam. I’m new in town,” he said with a wink and hobbled away.
“Hey, you wanna get outta here?” Jake asked. There was a twinkle in his eyes that made me trust him.
“Yes, I’d love it,” I said collecting my things. “I know this great Chinese spot not too far from here,”
“I love Chinese,” he said.
“Somehow, I had a feeling.”
Jake smiled a toothy grin and stretched out his hand. I linked on to it and I felt a tingle, a spark, go from my toenails to my hair roots and back down again.
“Let’s go, Love.”
Love. Now that sounded like a gift from the Gods.