A bus ride, Sally's Diner, and the big city
I often get asked how my wife Kathleen and I met. Well it is one of my favorite stories to tell. We were young and both working hard on different paths. We were going in different directions but life and love have a funny way of changing your plans.
I had just gotten out of high school and made the decision to move to the big city. I just knew once I hit the streets I could make it big. I did not have a place to live so the first night I just rode the bus all night. When the bus was empty I snuck some shuteye in between stops. The next day I hit the streets looking for my first BIG opportunity. I got a job as a dishwasher at a local diner. I worked under the table so I worked any hour or shift they would give me. I worked days and nights. Some days I thought I would drown in dishwater. I was saving my monies while I looked for somewhere to stay. Nobody wanted to rent to me because I didn't have a solid job.
Kathleen was in her first year at the local university. She was just a small town girl in the big city to go to school. She was able to find a room for rent with a girl she went to school with. Only that situation did not last long. The family she was staying with needed the room for their elderly grandma. Kathleen did not want them to feel bad, so she assured them she had another friend to stay with. She was at a lost as to where to go and what to do. That is where our paths crossed.
I got on the bus after work and found my usual seat to ride out the night. A stop or so later she got on. What can I tell you, there she was, The Girl, the best thing I never knew I needed. She went to get on the bus, in those days buses were cash only and all she had was her bank card. I jumped to action and asked if I could help. She nodded. I was hoping that didn't make me look to creepy. I could clearly see she was upset about something. She accepted the fair and got on the bus. She thanked me and took a seat behind me.
Now what do I do? Do I turn around and try to make conversation, mind my business and leave her alone? A girl like her does not want to be bothered on the bus. I was sitting there considering my options when I heard a little whimper. Oh no. How do I ease her pain? How do I get to know her? I sat there for what seemed like forever. I started doing inventory of what I had on me, something I could use for a conversation starter. Looking in my bag I found some napkins and cookies from work. I summoned up all me 5 year old courage, “I can do it!”
I got up from my seat and walked back to her. I offered one of the napkins. She took it with a small smile. I asked if I could sit, she nodded. I told her I'm sorry she was sad but I had a solution to her problems. (Realizing it sounded silly). She glanced up at me. I revealed my chocolate chip cookies we made at work that day. As I open the bag the warm fresh smell rushed out and made her smile a bit more. We sat sharing the cookies and chatted. To tell the truth I just held one piece of cookie and pretended I was eating them I wanted her to enjoy them. I'm still a great desert wing man.
We shared our stories with each other over the next couple of hours. Soon she rested her head on my shoulder and fell asleep. I was glad I made her feel safe enough to sleep. I hoped I'd always get to keep her safe. We rode the bus the rest of the night, with her sleeping on me. I sat there trying to figure out what I could do to solve her problem. Wondering what I can do tomorrow to keep her in my life. Wondering if she felt the same. I just knew she was the one.
At sunrise she rose. Pretty as a flower. She was embarrassed that she slept through the night. She thanked me for looking after her. It was time for her to make her way to school. I asked her if I could escort her. She nodded. We got off a few stops later and walked towards the university. As we walked we passed the diner I worked at. We stepped in for some coffee, juice, eggs and toast. I was enjoying our time together and my coworkers were very charming and really set a nice scene for us. Carl the cook and owner of the diner, kept singing love songs, that made her giggle. I still love that giggle. Mary the waitress and one of my closet friends at the diner, kept teasing me also making Kathleen giggle. The owners wife and restaurants name sake Sally of Sally's Diner joined us for a minute or two and paid for breakfast for us. It was a nice time. Now time to get her to class.
We made our way to the university, still really enjoying each others company. As we approached the building where her class was I got worried that I might not see her again. I slowed down and told her that she gave me the best night and morning since I came to the city. I asked if would be okay if we saw each other again. She nodded. On that we parted. Her towards class and me to my mission of how to take care of the woman I just met and The Girl of my dreams.
I had been pretty much living at work and on the bus so I was able to save most of my monies so far. I headed back to town to begin my quest. I spent the day calling on room for rent ads. I had no idea if this was smart or not. Why would this lovely girl take help from the likes of me, a fella she just met. I was not having much luck. I was certainly baffled but determined to find a solution. So like an 80's montage I just kept knocking on doors. Not finding much luck I headed back to work.
As I cleaned the morning dishes I explained everything to Mary the waitress. She sweetly listened to the end. Looking back at her, in her silence I discover Carl and Sally have been listening also. They were unaware of my riding the bus every night. Sally told Carl it was time to clean up and rent out the apartment above the diner. Carl agreed. He explained it had been junk storage, If I'd clean it out, he would rent it to me for a for what he said would be an agreeable amount. Later I found he meant agreeable to Sally, not himself. Thank you Sally.
After work I rushed back to the university to find Kathleen. While I was making my journey I thought about what I was about to propose. Hey nice lady I just met on the bus less then 24 hours ago. Want to move in with me a poor dishwasher in an apartment above the diner I wash said dishes??? Wait this makes no sense. I stopped in my tracks. Now what do I do? Swallowing the pit that just grew in my stomach I continued on my way. Just trying to think of what to do next, what to say. I don't want to blow this. I was just so nervous.
I returned to the building I left Kathleen at this morning. I did not see her anywhere. What am I thinking? I wondered around campus, just staring at the ground. Even if I found her, then what? After a bit, I was passing by the library. Kathleen and some other girls came out and headed straight towards me. To my surprise she gave me a hug and told the girls I was the guy from last night. (Your damn right I am, ego boost.) Before I could say to much, Kathleen said she was gonna stay with these girls for the rest of the semester. They had a apartment off campus and she could stay there. “Hey, that's great” I said. Talk about mixed feelings.
She asked what I was doing. I said just passing by. (Yeah right! Nice one Mr. cool guy.) Since I'm here do you want to go to dinner with me. She nodded. I asked her if the diner would be okay. Big smile from her. She nodded. I invited all the girls and we all headed to the diner. “Well lets go see if Carl's singing” Kathleen said. That made me smile so big. As we walked she told the girls of breakfast.
We had a lovely time at dinner. Carl kept calling me his intern or apprentice, I think he thinks there the same thing. Sally and Carl definitely did all the duets from the fifty's. Got to love those two. I asked Kathleen if she liked garlic bread. She nodded. I ordered the house spaghetti and garlic bread for the table. As we enjoyed dinner I told the girls of my efforts to find a place for Kathleen. Turns out I'm a “sweetie”. I mentioned the apartment above the restaurant and Sally helps me tell the rest of that part of the story. Sally made me look heroic. I laughed as I told them about me thinking of Kathleen moving in with me. They still thought I was a “sweetie” lots of awww's. After dinner Kathleen and the girls helped me clean the small apartment. It was just a studio, I was thankful for it. More room than the bus. I thanked the girls and they started home. I asked Kathleen if I could walk them. She nodded. I was tired but this way I'd know where to find her. Not to mention I just did not want this night to ever end.
As we walked Kathleen and I fell to the back of the group. She grabbed my hand as we strolled behind the laughing girls in front of us. Walking quietly, holding hands down these city streets. I always felt so alone in this cold city. Tonight I felt like I have a new family at the diner, friends in the girls that just cleaned my apartment the day they met me, and met The Girl I hoped I would marry someday. I might just be okay, we might just be okay. I let the moment overtake me. I let a tear out and wiped it just as fast. She looked at me. “What a great day” I said.