A young man sits across from me in a restaurant. It’s a meat-and-three place, with napkin dispensers on the tables.
The young man is with a girl. They’re holding hands. She’s staring at him, he’s staring back. And even though my wife begs me not to, I ask how they met.
It’s my thing. Some folks make conversation about weather. I coerce complete strangers into telling me love stories.
The girl asks me to repeat myself. Her voice is uncommonly loud. He tells me that she is deaf.
“Our parents introduced us,” he explains. “We started as friends, and then…”
They’re newlyweds. He is signing while he speaks.
Dinner arrives. Our food is terrible.
A few weeks ago, I met an older couple in a movie theater. White hair. Steel-rimmed glasses. They were leaning on each other like high-schoolers.
My wife begged me not to make conversation with them.
But their hair was so white.
The man said they’ve been married fifty years. They realized long ago that they couldn’t have children. It was a harsh blow.
But they’re grateful for this today, he told me. Because during their forties, a young woman in their town died, leaving behind a five-year-old.
That five-year-old became their daughter. Today, she has a family of her own.
“Some things are meant to be,” he tells me.
I met a twenty-year-old boy. He was a newlywed. We shared a bench at a mall in Birmingham while our wives shopped. I asked about his wife.
He’s been with her a long time already. Her brother and father died when she was not yet a teenager. She wasn’t sure she’d ever survive it. He made sure she did.
“I’ve loved her since I was nine,” he said.
They eloped last month against his parents wishes.
Parents don’t know everything.
I got an email from a man. He’d been with his girlfriend eight years. She wanted to get married; he couldn’t bring himself to propose.
“I screwed up my last marriage, man,” he admitted. “I didn’t wanna mess her life up, too.”
After eight years, his girlfriend had enough. She applied for a job in her hometown. One morning, she left with a full suitcase.
“I was just sitting there, crying,” he said. “I realized I was screwing up big time.”
He sped through traffic. He even made phone calls to the airport, requesting to stop her plane. But life isn’t a Hallmark-Channel romance movie, and airline pilots aren’t played by Henry Winkler.
He arrived to find the plane had left. No girlfriend.
He walked away with his head in his hands. He found her car in the parking lot. He was going to leave a note on her windshield. He saw her sitting inside the car.
They’ve been married fourteen years.
So I’m leaving the meat-and-three place. I see the deaf girl in the parking lot, she’s signing to her husband. Before I crawl into my vehicle, I wish them luck.
Then, I ask them to show me how to say “I love you” using sign language.
The girl laughs. “Why do you want to know?” she asks.
“I’m a writer,” I explain. “We ask dumb questions.”
She throws her arms around the young man. She hugs him so hard his face turns purple. Then, she kisses his nose.
“Like this,” she says.
Well. I’d better start practicing my sign language.