how i found you


How I Found: Sarah
February 13, 2009, 2:38 am
Filed under: my girlfriend

I didn’t mind that the two of them offered to drive me home. It wasn’t far to walk, but it was especially cold for early November. Mary and Cory were new friends of mine. We’d all just met in a writing class, but after weeks of movies and music and drinking, they were making their way toward each other. I was trying to make a quick exit, trying to stop tagging along, letting them be, together.

I took the backseat in Cory’s old jeep and from the front I listened to heroic stories from childhood, giggles, and favorite colors. Mary picked up her phone, made a call, and before I knew it we were on our way to a little Mexican place that was open all night. “They have great fries,” she said. Her friend Sarah was on a date and she wanted to meet up with us. Cory swerved down a side street and parked next to the restaurant. We were there.

The third wheel on a short ride home is something I could handle, but the fifth wheel in some double-date-meet-up at a late night Mexican place crowded with people who spilled over from the bars close by was a situation that required social skills I did not possess. Namely, I didn’t feel like being nice because:

a) I lost a button on my shirt and couldn’t find it on the dirty floor of the club.

b) The kid behind the coat-check counter was a prick and acted as if I was some sort of monster for wanting my jacket while he was in the middle of reading Fight Club.

And, c.) I didn’t have the balls to tell Mary and Cory I didn’t want to be around their getting-to-know-each-other talk anymore.

Sarah and her date, some guy in a blazer and jeans with his hair spiked to the middle of his head, sat at a booth and waved when we walked in. Mary and Cory joined them eagerly, but I stayed back and waited to be introduced. It never happened. When the waitress noticed that I was, in fact, part of their party, she moved a whole table over and tacked it onto the end of the booth. A single chair sat at the end of the table and when I sat down I realized I was now too far away for introductions.

Mary, Cory, and Sarah talked while Sarah’s date wrote a poem on a napkin. He left it in the middle of the table for us to read, but never announced he wanted us to read it. I picked it up when they finally left, and put it down after I saw the words “ivory” and “heart” and something else about love being complete.

Sarah and I talk about this story often. I bring up her date’s terrible poem and she defends herself by saying it was the last time she’d seen him. We both regret not saying anything to each other. “You looked so angry,” she says. But our talks always end the same: I tell her I thought she was beautiful and she replies by letting me know she was interested, immediately. Then we create the perfect situation, one in which I make her laugh from across the table. She can’t stop and has to put her hands up over her open mouth. Her date switches spots with me so he can concentrate on his writing, and Sarah touches my arm in the middle of another charming story, saying, “Stop, stop,” through bursts of laughter. She comes home with me and we stay up until morning saying the same things Cory and Mary said to each other in the front seat. Her date goes back to an empty apartment carrying his pen and a napkin.

This is our story in two parts—the chronicling of actual events and the emotions behind our meeting—and each is equally important. Without one there is no whole.

Jim Novak is currently an M.F.A candidate at the University of Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis with a dog who barks too much.

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