Some eight years ago, they built what was supposed to have been a bank. It sits on one corner of the Ralph’s and McDonald’s parking lot across the street from the apartment complex where I live. Up until today, it’s remained empty. Not anymore; this morning I found it up and running.
“When did you guys move in?” I asked the single teller manning the only open window.
“This is our first day,” she replied smiling. She had a hundred watt smile, which was why I found myself staring at her face and feeling enthralled. It was an angular face with a straight nose, dazzling blue eyes, and hair the color of mahogany.
“If you open an account today,” she went on to explain, “we can add an extra two-hundred dollars.”
“But doesn’t that mean I have to put in a certain amount first?”
While continuing to smile, she replied, “Not today. We’re running a first day special. You can open an account with as little as twenty dollars. But that’s just for today.”
Continuing to stare at her dazzling smile, I found myself saying, “Well, how about forty bucks then? That’s about all I have on me.”
Her expression turned to one of concern. “Oh, I wouldn’t want to take all your money.”
“No problem,” I told her.
“Okay, then just fill out this form and we’ll get started.” I did, then handed over my forty dollars.
While she tapped away at her computer, I felt something well up inside of me, and I did what I rarely do, especially with strangers. I asked, “Would you like to go for a cup of coffee after you get off work? There’s a Starbucks nearby.”
Instead of turning me down, she said, “Sure!” I felt, not only lucky, but thrilled as well. She went on to explain, “On Saturdays, we close at two.”
“I’ll come back then,” I told her.
Arriving around five after, I waited another ten minutes for her to emerge.
“You say there’s a Starbucks nearby?” she questioned. “Good! That will come in handy.”
“You sound as if you’re not from around here,” I said after we got into my car.
“I am, but I live all the way across town.”
“In your own place?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Not right now. I’m sharing an apartment with my sister and brother-in-law.”
Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t introduced myself or asked for her name. “By the way, my name is Jerry.”
“I know,” she reminded me, “And my name is Kim.”
Once at Starbucks, we each ordered a large coffee while sharing a small batch of vanilla scones. Then we started bantering about our personal information.
Originally, she came from upper New York State, moving to Southern California with her parents when she was ten. I came from Oregon after college.
“What do you do for a living?” she asked.
“I sell cars.”
“New or used?”
“Mostly new.” And then things got a little quiet between us for a moment, until I asked, “What are some of your hobbies?”
“I like to read, play tennis, go to movies.”
That last one perked my interest. “So what movies have you seen lately?”
This started us on a long-winded discussion about movies we liked and didn’t like, and which stars we thought were better than others. That’s when I asked her if she wanted to go to a movie the next day? I couldn’t that night; I already had plans to meet up with some friends. She said yes, and then we agreed to meet around ten the next morning right next to the bank. “Unless, of course, you need to go to church first,” I said.
“No problem. I’m not that religious.”
“Neither am I,” I said, then drove back to her car, at which point we separated.
That night, I dreamt about what happened after we met by the bank, and it didn’t include seeing a movie.
The next morning, I arrived at the bank ten minutes early. The night before, I had printed out the entire schedule for all movies in our area. The only one I had seen so far turned out to be really, really good, so I figured, if she picked that one, it would be okay.
By fifteen after ten, I was becoming worried. Had I been stood up? If so, the worse part was I didn’t have her last name or her number. Finally, after another couple of minutes, I got out of my car and went up to one of the bank’s windows to look inside. Yeah, I know it was stupid; it was Sunday, the bank would be closed, but . . . that’s when my whole body went numb with shock. The interior was empty—no desks, no computers, not even any glass separating the customers from the tellers. What the hell was going on? Did they up and move in the middle of the night?
I was just about to go ask someone in the Ralph’s supermarket about the bank when a nasty thought struck me. Could this have been part of some scam? Move into an empty building, set up a bogus bank, just so you can collect money from unsuspecting customers, then disappear?
A nagging feeling made me look into my wallet, and that’s when I got a second major shock. There were the two twenties I had given her still snuggled up against my four credit cards. What the hell!? How could the two bills still be there when I gave them to her for a deposit? My mind swam with all kinds of scenarios.
Still in shock, I drove over to the McDonald’s at the other end of the parking lot, and ordered a large soda, then sat down and slowly let my mind go over everything that had happened the day before. The one question the kept popping up was could all of yesterday have been a dream? Maybe there never was a bank. And maybe there was no Kim. And maybe I didn’t go to Starbucks.
I continued to drink my soda, while my brain tried to comprehend what had happened. In the end, I decided there was no rational explanation, so finishing my drink, I drove back to my apartment and lay down to take a nap.
During the next week, I remained haunted by what had happened, especially every time I passed by what was supposed to have been a working bank. But then came Saturday, and I could have sworn I saw activity inside, which was why I turned my car around and came to a halt outside of the building. But when I looked, once again, I saw it was empty!
After continuing with my normal Saturday morning errands, I returned to my apartment and looked up other locations of the bank. It turned out there was a branch on the other side of town, so I drove out there and parked close by. Unless I was hallucinating, people were going in and out of the bank, so getting out of my car, I drifted toward the entrance. Once inside, I looked around—no Kim, but this time I knew the place was for real, so returning outside, I looked around the parking lot. Right on the far end, almost totally blocked from view by a very large trash truck, was a Starbucks. I decided to take a chance.
To my utter relief and amazement, I saw Kim sitting at one of the tables drinking a cup of coffee, and eating one of their breakfast sandwiches. Taking a deep breath, I walked over to her table and sat down in a chair opposite her. My arrival must have spooked her, because she looked at me as if I was about to attack her.
“Kim,” I said.
Then her eyebrows bunched together, “Do I know you?”
I nodded. “I think so.”
She continued to look at me with a quizzical expression, and then suddenly, her eyes popped opened. “Wait a minute, I do know you! You were in my dream—at least I think it was a dream. But how can that be?”
“I think I have an explanation,” I told her, “but I don’t think you’re going to believe me.”
She continued to look at me a moment then said, “Go ahead explain it to me.”
And that’s when I told her the theory I had been postulating ever since I found the other location of the bank. “I think the universe wanted us to meet,” I said, then continued to tell her the whole story of what had happened.
I kept expecting her to react with a huge bout of skepticism, but instead, she surprised me when she said, “That’s so weird, because in my dream, you came into my bank, like you, said, and asked if you could open an account with forty dollars.” Both of us remained silent, until she said, “So what now?”
“I guess we start all over again,” I replied, as I reached across the table and extended my hand. “Hi, my name is Jerry Benewah.”
“And mine is Kim Fields.”
So now you’re probably wondering, did the universe really conspire to bring us together? Well, let’s put it this way: so far, things have been going really great . . . especially at night in bed!