It was a bookstore. Late night. Many years ago. I sat in the corner, reading. I was enthralled in an important piece of classic American literature at the time.
A girl walked in. She made me nauseous. My ex-girlfriend. She’d done me wrong, and felt no remorse over her devilish behavior. None.
She sat beside me. “Hey, you,” she said in a cheery voice. “What’re you reading?”
“‘The Far Side,’” said I. “Volume one.”
She told me she was meeting someone. A Sunday-school teacher—she was substitute-teaching for a children’s church-class that week.
It’s a wonder lightning didn’t strike and fry off her eyebrows.
I stood to leave. But before I could, another girl walked through the door. She carried textbooks beneath her arm. Her hair was shoulder-length, and she walked with determination.
She was the Sunday-school teacher. She sat across from me and we made fast friends.
She wore a baby-blue sweater. She had hell-raiser eyes, and when she spoke, she sounded like Escambia County.
She was funny. She had a way of making me feel like I’d met her before. Like, perhaps, we’d been friends in another life—if you believe in that sort of thing.
I thought about her all week. All month. For a few months. I am a slow thinker. Back then, it took me at least forty minutes to decide which dirty shirt I would wear for a given day.
Eventually, we had a first date. I took her for a drive. She was loud-talking, happy, honest to a fault. I saw her again. And again.
One night, we sat on her porch swing for eight hours. She fell asleep. Her head laid on my chest. When the sun started to rise, I told my dead daddy I’d figured out what my life was about. Her.
He didn’t say much.
I asked her to marry me. She didn’t even think about it. We both cried. We honeymooned in Charleston. It cost all the money I had.
We moved into a small apartment with a window-unit air conditioner. We ate cold fried chicken for breakfast. We took vacations in tents, and played Twenty-Questions in the car.
I could say those were the best years of my existence, but they weren’t. These years are. And God willing, the next years will be, too.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: the good moments of my life are the ones with her.
Anyway, there’s no real reason I’m telling you this. No special date. Nobody’s birthday.
I just got to thinking about the times we’ve almost lost each other. Once, because of a tumor. Another time because of a totaled truck.
I’m out of town right now. I got so lonely tonight I had to visit a bookstore just to cheer up.
And I can’t do bookstores without talking about my best friend.