He was used to the stares. They never bothered him, not even when he was in Grade School. When you are in Eighth Grade and stand six foot six inches tall and weigh well over two hundred pounds- everyone stares. In High School he didn’t get any taller. He did get heavier. He topped the scales at just under three hundred pounds. None of it fat. Well, okay, three percent was fat. The rest was all sculpted muscle. He didn’t date.
It only took him a few weeks in the summer of his Freshman year to realize that woman wanted trophy boyfriends just like men wanted trophy wives. Girls and Women from age fifteen to thirty (and some even older than that) threw themselves at the tall good looking kid - and he was only fourteen.
By Tenth Grade he was immune to the tricks, plots, and plans to get him to fall in love with any girl…or woman. He didn’t want to be used, or shown off, or become a trophy. He just ignored the whole dating scene. In college he kept that program in place. He liked girls- unlike some of the unkind comments made by woman who failed to trap him with their beauty suggested. He was a straight male. Just a really big, really pretty, really strong straight male.
He was in his first year as a Professional Football Player now. A Starting Quarterback- as a Rookie. Having won his first five games by wide margins and leading the league in Touchdowns, completed passes, and rushing yards- you would think he would be full of himself. He was not. He heaped praise on his Offensive Line, the way his Running Backs picked up blitzes, and his wide receivers for making spectacular catches that made him: “Look Good.”
After every game when they asked him what his secret was for his success… he always said the same thing:
“I throw it, they catch it. It is that simple.”
His world had been only Sports since he was in sixth grade. That was about to change. Of all places, in a Wall-Mart.
She hated working Saturdays and Sundays. She worked forty hours during the week as a scheduler for Habitat for Humanity. It was satisfying work…watching people achieve the miracle of having their own home. She never missed a groundbreaking, or the day someone moved into their new home. It didn’t pay enough for her to take care of her two Sisters and her disabled Mom though. So Wall-Mart it was. Every weekend for ten hours a day. That job paid minimum wage and gave her no benefits at all.
It was, however, close to home (she could walk to work). Every penny counted…and four weekends a month meant close to four hundred dollars in take home pay. It was enough to keep the basics rolling in. That thought made her laugh out loud. They kept the thermostat set at 90 Degrees in the summer to save on air-conditioning, and 55 in the winter, to save on heating bills. She hadn’t been cool in the summer, or warm in the winter in so long, she forgot what that even meant.
She was grateful though. She had a roof over their head. A house built by her Dad before a girl texting on her way to a party took his life and her Mother’s ability to walk away. Texting not only killed her Father, crippled her Mother, but it snuffed the dreams of three little girls too. Megan was the oldest…and she was the one working at Wall-Mart on a Saturday. She had no idea that her life was about to change. Again.
He knew people were staring at him. He was used to it. Some even recognized who he was. He could tell because of the way they stopped in shy awe and watched him pass by. He would always acknowledge them with a quick smile and nod, but he kept moving. If he stopped, for some reason people took that as permission to overwhelm him with their fawning compliments. Children were a different story.
If kids came up to him to ask for an autograph, or some five or six year old wanted to know if he was a Giant…he always took the time to sign something, or answer honestly.
“No. Giants start at Seven foot six inches, and I am only six foot six inches. What I am is pretty tall.”
That would make them laugh - and him smile.
He was walking by the Pharmacy when he looked down an aisle to see a woman stocking toothpaste. A quick thought went through his mind: “Hey, I need toothpaste. I will get it on the way back out.”
Just as he turned his head to look forward again, the girl stocking toothpaste stood up and glanced at him. She froze. He did too.
He had never felt anything like it. It was like she was connected to him by some kind of magnetic tunnel. Time ceased. Reality ceased. There was nothing in his world, or vision, but her. She must have felt the same way because he saw her hand flutter to her heart, her lips form a surprised “O”, and her eyes grow as wide as his must have been.
His heart had stopped beating, eternity was wrapped up in that one long look.
Until a woman in a hurry bashed into him from behind with her cart. She snarled at him:
“You big oaf! Don’t just stand there blocking the aisle just because you are big.”
Her cart had pushed him past the corner of the aisle. He could no longer see, nor feel the magnetic pull of that girls eyes. He offered a quick apology to the angry woman, who’s anger cooled as soon as he turned to offer his apology. When she saw how pretty he was, she changed demeanor as quickly as a cat changes direction.
“OH, I am sorry young man…it was all my fault.”
He was used to the syrupy falseness people used when they were in the wrong, and then wanted something from him.
“No. It was mine. I have to go now, Sorry.”
With that he slid down the aisle parallel to where the girl had been stocking tooth paste. He was a big man, but as any NFL Player could tell you, he moved like a Panther…quick, silent, sure. He walked that entire aisle with nary a hint that a three hundred pound man was walking down it. His feet landed with the softest of cat pads on the linoleum.
He reached the end of the aisle to turn towards the aisle that he hoped still held the girl who was stocking toothpaste. She was still there. She had her back to him…and was still staring at the other end of the aisle where she last saw him. She had her phone out and was talking to someone on the other end. He stopped to listen.
“I am not crying. Okay, maybe a little.”
“Megan, you are babbling…what happened?”
Sylvia was second oldest, and she was just finishing up her second year of Junior College. In just four more months she would become an Occupational Therapist. That would bring in more money…and she could take care of her mother on weekends. All the girls in that family understood…family.
“Sylvia…I just saw the man I am going to marry!”
“I know. I know. He got away. But when I see him again, I am going to walk right up to him and propose. “
“Megan…are you high or something?”
“Maybe I am. Sylvia, you should have seen the way he looked at me. Like I was the most perfect woman in the world. Like I was his equal. His partner. His rock.”
“Whoa there Nelly… slow down...that is a lot to read into a look.”
“No. I am not kidding. I saw the way he looked at me. I can’t let go of it.”
“What’s he look like?”
“I don’t know. I only saw his eyes…and the way he looked at me."
“You are crazy, Sis. Stone cold crazy.”
“No! I am in love.”
They both laughed. Until…
He had heard every word - he now knew that the girl’s name was Megan. She had a sister named Sylvia. More importantly, he knew that the girl wasn’t in love with his looks or his body. Heck, she hadn’t even noticed them…she just saw what he felt. He was prepared to say yes to her proposal the minute she asked. He didn’t mean to interrupt…but her laugh made him brave.
He creeped up behind her, silent, tall, strong and said:
Her phone flew from her hand. She had never been so startled in her life. It banged on the floor as it bounced away…she started to scream as she turned. The scream faded away into tears as she saw who it was that had scared her. His face had fallen into complete dismay. He was hoping to make her laugh…not cry. He never meant to scare her…he would never hurt her. He knew that. He hoped she did.
She must have read that in his face, the same way she had read the Truth behind his look earlier. For she fell right into his arms…sobbing:
“You scared me. I thought you were gone.”
She started to laugh, her head buried in his chest. He laughed too. He wasn’t about to let go. He could hear the phone on the floor as her sister kept yelling:
“Megan, you alright? Megan! Megan!”
Without letting go of the giggling girl in his arms, he reached down, scooped the phone off the floor and spoke directly into it:
“Megan’s fine. I scared her by accident. It made us both laugh.”
The Silence on the phone said it all. So did the next words that came from it:
“I’m the guy your sister is going to Marry.”
This time Megan screamed again. A scream very unlike the one she had let out moments ago. This time everyone laughed as the Giant good looking man picked the girl stocking toothpaste up in the gentlest of bear hugs, gave her a kiss that curled the toes of every romantic in the area.
When he pulled away to catch his breath…he whispered:
Four things happened in a row. Megan quit Wall-Mart. The Giant Quarterback won the Super Bowl. Sylvia graduated, but with her new Brother-in-Laws Graduation Gift of a Scholarship to the college of her choice- she only had the summer off before School Started. Nobody could figure out why at the Wedding the cake was topped not by a hand crafted statue of the Bride and Groom…but simply the word “Boo!” in Candles.
For the next fifty three years…when they were alone, he called her: Boo.