In 1964, Sandy and her parents went to the New York World’s Fair. So did I with my parents. We didn’t realize that as kids, we had met there until today when we began talking about the weather.
“It’s been really warm for this time of year,” she said, sounding surprised. I didn’t blame her saying so. It was early November in Southern California and still beach weather.
“It sure beats the weather I used to have to deal with back home,” I said to Sandy, who was serving customers in our car dealership’s service lounge deli.
“Where was that?” she asked.
Her eyes lit up. “I grew up here in California, but back in 1964, my parents and I went to Connecticut to visit relatives. That was the same year they were having the New York World’s Fair.”
“Did you go?” I asked. She nodded.
“So did I,” I said, finding myself becoming slightly excited at the thought that maybe we had been there at the same time.
“I remember a lot about the fair,” she remarked.
“I’m glad you do, because the only thing I remember about the fair, besides that giant globe of the world, which is still there today, is me buying an ice cream cone for some little nine-year-old girl who dropped her first one.”
Sandy’s blue eyes got as big as doughnuts. “You’re not going to believe this, but I think that was me!”
I looked at her, my own eyes getting as big as car tires. “No kidding! You mean you were that same little girl?”
She nodded and said, “I think so.” Then after a moment continued, “If I recall right, you were wearing a cowboy hat that day.”
“I’m amazed you remembered.” I then went on to explain, “I had just bought it. It had the words 1964 New York World’s Fair embroidered on the brim. Believe it or not, I think I still have it somewhere in storage.” I thought a moment and shook my head . . . “Talk about the universe working in strange ways!”
“I agree,” she said. “And now here we are, the both of us, working for the same company all these years later.”
I felt my insides tingling, but then I always did believe in the idea of the universe sometimes manipulating people as a way to get them to cross paths—but why us, and why now?
“Do you remember how we met at the fair?” she asked, interrupting my thoughts.
I nodded, “A little bit.” I looked at her blue eyes, which were focused on me like lasers. “I remember passing the ice cream stand when I heard someone begin to cry. When I turned around, I saw this little girl holding an empty cone, while the rest of her ice cream sat on the ground all dirty and melting.”
“Yeah, and that’s when my father scolded me for not being careful with my ice cream, especially since it was so expensive.”
“And that’s when I said I’d buy you another one. If I recall right, your father was really surprised that a sixteen-year-old would want to buy a stranger’s daughter an ice cream, but it bothered me for some reason to see you so upset. After that, I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember we hung out for a little bit, and even went on one of the rides together.”
“Mostly we talked about where we came from.”
“You remember that?” I asked surprised. “You must have one hell of a memory.”
She nodded. “Yeah, people have been telling me that for years.”
At that moment, we were interrupted by several customers who wanted Sandy to heat up bagels for them. So I took the sandwich I had bought, said my goodbyes, and went back to my office, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the whole situation. I mean, what were the odds that we would, not only meet again after more than fifty years, but that we’d both be working for the same company; especially when you think that I had to leave one coast and move all the way over to the other for this to happen? Was it fate, or just a coincidence?
Over the next week, I became really busy at work: taking pictures of our new car inventory, going to meetings, helping my boss with a photo shoot. I never made it back to the deli, but I did spot Sandy outside the office a couple of times—always from a distance. And then came the day I almost knocked her down in front of the local Barnes & Noble. I was going in as she was coming out. That’s where we had our first off campus get together. I talked her into joining me for coffee inside the bookstore.
During our conversation, I found out she was a divorcee with two grown kids. I explained I was a widower with no kids. We talked about our mutual likes and dislikes, and found out we had a lot in common. Everything was going great until her ex showed up.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she asked, sounding a bit upset.
A tall looking, somewhere in his sixties, half balding man, he replied, “I’m here to find a book on upgrading patios.”
“So now you want to do something about the patio?” she said, again sounding a bit annoyed. I wondered if this had been an ongoing argument with them while they were still together?
“Why not?” Then gesturing towards me he said, “By the way, who’s this?” He didn’t sound too happy about my presence.
“This is Mike,” she replied with a happy-sounding voice. “He’s part of our advertising program. He takes pictures of the new Toyotas for our website.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said with a pleasant smile, but didn’t offer to shake his hand. His only reply was to nod in my direction.
Then he said to his ex, “Can we talk a moment? I need to go over something with you.”
I could see Sandy hesitate, which was why I said to her, “Go, I’ll deal with our stuff here,” except there wasn’t much to deal with. The both of us had just about finished our coffees, and there was still one vanilla scone left amongst the few we had been sharing.
“You sure?” she asked.
Hesitating another moment, she finally stood up and followed her ex down one of the aisles, and around the end of the shelf until I couldn’t see them any longer.
I finished my coffee and ate the last of the scones, then waited another minute or so to see if she would return. When she didn’t, I got up and headed in the direction opposite from the one they had gone. I didn’t want to intrude; besides, I figured I could always talk to her the next day at work—except she wasn’t there. Nor was she there the day after that.
“Where’s Sandy?” I asked Ben, the other person who ran the deli.
He looked at me surprised. “You didn’t hear?
There was a car accident!”
My stomach plunged. “How badly was she hurt?”
“It wasn’t her. It was her husband.”
“How badly was he hurt?”
Ben replied, “About as bad as you can get; he’s dead.”
Once again, my stomach plunged. “What happened?”
“I’m not sure exactly. You’d have to ask Sandy when she comes in.”
And so I waited for Sandy to show up . . . and waited . . . and waited. A whole week went by before she returned to work.
“I’m so, so sorry for your loss.” I said to her, and really meant it.
“Thanks,” she replied with a weak smile.
“What happened exactly?”
She shook her head. “I always told my husband that one day he was going to get himself killed.”
“Why? What did he do?”
Sandy looked at me with her brilliant blue eyes. “He had a rocket foot when it came to stoplights.” I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant. I guess she figured it out by my expression. “He was so impatient. As soon as a light would turn green, he’d punch it, whether it was coming out of a parking lot, or out of a street. Sure enough, he was at an intersection when the light turned green. There was an old man coming down the road, trying to beat the yellow light. T-boned my husband’s car on the driver’s side.”
“Yes,” she said, nodding.
That’s when I asked if I could help in any way? “Maybe with some of the funeral arrangements? I’ve had some experience with that.”
She shook her grey, sixty something head. “No need; my kids and I have all that covered . . . but there is one thing you can do for me.”
“You can buy me another cup of coffee sometime.”
My heart soared. “Just say when.”
After that, there followed a long series of dates, which eventually led me to ask for her hand in marriage. She said yes.
So now, along with a new wife, I gained two grown stepchildren, plus a house, plus an old, shabby-looking patio that had all kinds of weeds growing out of the various cracks in the cement. But that was okay, because the moment we could, we hired a landscape artist to make it look all kinds of beautiful again—just like our marriage.