How I Met Your Father; So Not a Love Story

    I really like my husband. He is a little goofy  and can be shy at times, but over all he is a really nice guy. I thought he was a really nice guy when I first met him. No, when I first met him I thought he was a creepy 18 year old, but that was because he had this stupid grin on his face.

     I was working at a grocery store, and was filling in for a cashier, when he appeared out of nowhere. There I was, six in the morning, with a line twenty persons deep, trying to get everyone taken care of as quickly as possible when this red headed, freckled faced, honest to goodness red-necked kid walks to the back of my line holding a loaf of white bread.

     I was ringing up baskets full of groceries ( my fastest was id="mce_marker"40 a minute that morning and yes, we were highly competitive about that back then) as fast as I could and he just stood at the back of the line, big toothy grin on his face and that bread resting on his hands as if it were an altar offering. After he let two customers into the line in front of him, I called him out, directing him to the register Denis, my boss, was running. Denis had a line as well, but he was quickly dispensing with his five items or less customers.

     Joe just shook his head no and kept on smiling, letting another person cut in. I kept on doing my thing, but it just seemed like the line wasn't getting any shorter. At the register across from me Denis' line was down to a couple of persons, allowing my boss to look up and scan my line. He called out to Joe, but Joe shook his head again, declining the offer of a quick check out. Denis shook his head too, I could hear him chuckling as he lowered a box of eggs into a bag. 

     The woman in front of me looked back at Joe, then she looked at me and smiled. The guy behind her was smiling too. In fact, when I looked at my now shortened line, I noticed everyone was smiling, but no one had a bigger, creepier smile than the guy at the back, still holding up that loaf of bread.

     I apologized for taking so long to get to him, but he just uttered a very excited "That's okay" and handed me the bread. When I bagged it, he waved his hands at me. "No, I don't need a bag." I pulled the bread out, but then he shook his head again. "No, it's okay, you don't have to take it out." I bagged it again and put the bag in front of him so he wouldn't change his mind. He handed me a twenty before I could tell him the total. He took his change and just stood there, grinning like his face was stuck. 

     Since I had no more customers, and the cashier had finally shown up, I turned my light off and was walking back to my station at the service counter. Joe followed me. When I made my way around the counter he slowed down and watched me as he made his way out of the store.

     "Creepy guy. I think he was drunk." I whispered to Denis who was counting out money for the registers. I could hear his laughter echo inside the safe. "You saw him, right? Just standing there grinning!"

     "I don't think he was drunk."

     "Denis! He let all those people in line in front of him, and all he had was that bread, for half an hour!"

     "I still don't think he was drunk."

     For the rest of the day, every time I looked at Denis, Denis would look up and beam a huge grin back at me. Some of the cashiers picked up on it and they too offered up their versions of the "creepy grin". It was funny for a little while, but soon I found myself not looking up from my desk. I saw more teeth that day than my dentist.

     Joe came in once every day for two, maybe three weeks after that. I would watch him walk in from the safety afforded me behind my counter, and he would wave a big hello, still smiling brightly. I always waved back, sometimes I even offered him a genuine smile. Over all, I was a little scared of him, but he seemed harmless. Whenever he left the store, I always watched him go while I stood on the other side of the one way window of the safe room.

     One evening I was working a double shift as a cashier (being a single mom, I always took any extra hours they offered me) when Joe and his friend walked up to me. The tall and super skinny black man, carried a gallon of milk, Joe, shorter than his friend by almost a foot and wearing an impossibly tight pair of jeans, carried a twelve pack of Budweiser long necks.

     Assuming that the taller of the two was the buyer, I rung everything up, all the while having to deflect a half dozen half lame, but mostly funny, pick-up lines from the tall guy.

     "Oh, excuse me. My friend Joe here is being rude and not introducing us. My name is Shawn, and you must be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in this place." His approach was so comical I had no choice but to laugh out loud. I immediately like him, not because he offered such a compliment, but because he was hilarious.

     Joe, who by this time was struggling to pull money out of his jeans, turned bright red, then deep red. He tried to say something, but I didn't understand a thing. Shawn reached over and plucked some cash out of Joe's hand and handed it to me. As they walked away I could hear the entire conversation between Joe and Shawn.

     "Man Joe, she's good looking."

     " I told you. I wasn't exaggerating."

     "And she has a nice ass too."

     Yeah, I wasn't the only one that heard that conversation either. Everyone at the front end watched the duo walk out, Shawn laughing and flailing his arms as he talked and Joe, his red-faced side kick.

     I don't think I would have ever considered dating Joe. He was a quirky and somewhat awkward guy, but he didn't fit the ideal that I had in mind for myself. His friend Shawn balanced him out nicely, and made me feel less threatened by Joe's daily visits.

     No, Joe wasn't stalking me. Well I guess he was, a little, but he did live right across the street from the store. From the things he bought I could tell he was single, ( Milk, Cheerios, bread, chicken loaf) had no girlfriend (never bought lotion, feminine products, or more than one chocolate bar), drank a little too much (always bought a twelve pack of long necks) and probably still lived at home (Never bought anything else besides Milk, Cheerios, bread, chicken loaf or beer). By the things Shawn said I knew exactly what he wanted from me, at least what Shawn thought he wanted from me. I like him, and his loud and obnoxious friend, but that is as far as it went. 

     Oh, and I was dating someone. My friend Bobbi met him once and labeled the guy I was seeing "Oily" which was a dead on description of him. "Oily" was my shield against anyone who tried to get to know me. I had random guys asking me out at work and "Oily" was always there to put his arms around my neck, throw his shoulders back and tilt his head at them. Always there, except when Joe came around.

     "Oily" wasn't there the day I was walking around the store, randomly handing out Junior Mints as I made my way back to the front of the store. As I reached the front end, with 15 registers to my right and 15 registers to my left and a steady stream of people walking past me I just happen to bump right into Joe. What else could I do? I had made physical contact with him. I had to offer him my Junior Mints as well. Shawn took a few, but Joe only took one, laughing brightly as I walked away from him. 


     Shoot. He knew my name. Stupid name tags. I kept on walking.


     Why did he have to say my name a second time. I stared at my black and white plaid pants (yes, it was the early 90s) and reached down to scratch an imaginary speck off my knee. Okay, I had a second to think about it. Did I like him? Yes. He was really nice.

     I turned around and smiled at him.

     "I know you are probably going to say no because this is really short notice, but I have two tickets to the Queensryche  concert tonight, and Shaw can't go."
     "I have softball practice" Shawn winked at me and smiled broadly.

     "And I was wondering if you would like to go?"
     "Are you offering me your tickets?"

    "Yes, well, I... I would you like to go with me?"



     "Yeah, why not?"

     "Are you sure?"

     "Do you want me to think about it?"
     "No, no... I can go pick you up."

     "No, I live out side the city limits. Way out in the desert. I'll meet you here?"

     "Okay, I will be here."

     "What time?"

     "The concert starts at eight."

     "What time should I meet you here?"

     "Oh, um...Six, is six okay? We can get something to eat?"
     "How about seven. I get off at six."

     "Oh, okay."


    "Okay...see you at seven."

     "Okay... Bye." Even though I was standing no more than two feet from him I waved and turned on my heels.

     Yes, Queensryche. I had been wanting to get my ticket to that concert, but I wasn't able to get downtown in time to buy it. They had this one really nice ballad and I was curious about their other music. Found out at the concert that the song I so liked was not in any way representative of their musical style.

     Joe and I became very good friends after that one date. There wasn't anything remotely romantic about my feelings for him, and to be honest, I just wasn't ready to be in any kind of normal relationship. It had only been five months since Peter died, and there was "Oily" to think about. Joe and I talked, spent time together, and I even tried to teach him how to cook the few Mexican dishes I knew, but It didn't go beyond that for a very long time.

     Years later someone asked both my husband and me if we believed in love at first sight. We both answered at the same time, and then we laughed at each other's answer.

     "Yes!" Joe then told me that He had been in love with me from that very first moment, when he stood in my line. He would let people get in front of his line, not because he was being creepy, that wasn't his intent. He just wanted to watch me, to look at me and just take it all in.

     "I knew I wanted to marry you the first time I saw you, I just didn't know how I was going to get there."

     I answered the question with a loud "No! There is no such thing as love at first sight." You know how I felt about Joe when I first saw him. If I had known his intentions back then I don't know if I would have struck up a friendship with him.

     I thought he was a really nice guy, perfect husband material for someone, but not me. I tried to set him up with two of my sisters, but they turned him down, because he was "too nice". I also tried getting him together with a few of my work friends, but he was really good at finding faults with all of them. It took him moving 1,800 miles away for me to realize exactly how much I really cared for him. When he came back to visit, I was excited to finally have my friend back, if only for a little while.

     I scheduled my vacation time to coincide with his visit. I sat in my apartment, waiting for him to come by or call, but after days of not hearing anything from him my three year old daughter and I walked over to where he was staying. When I knocked on Shawn's apartment door there was no answer, so I knocked again and moved over to the front window to see if maybe there was someone there. What I got to see shocked me. 

     There was a girl, half dressed, running towards the back of the apartment, Joe was there too, looking right at me. He had never told me he had a girl friend, nor that he had been seeing her for as long as he had. He tried to explain it to me right then, but I just put my hand up and told him he had nothing to explain to me. We were just friends. I apologized for interfering and Eliza and I walked back to my place.

     I was totally stunned. I didn't know why I was so upset, nor why it even mattered, but I was devastated. I sat in my apartment for the remainder of my vacation feeling dumbfounded. Joe tried to call, he knocked on my door several times that day, but I just ignored him. Even the night he was to leave, he knocked and knocked on my door, and I still refused to answer.

     Once he had gone back to Ohio, when there was some real distance between us I answered his phone calls. He tried to explain about his girlfriend, but I did not want to hear any of it. It was none of my business. I did bring up the fact that I had totally wasted my vacation and he did not even bother to call me to tell me we would not be meeting up. 

     One phone conversation became two, then three, and pretty soon I was calling him almost as soon as I got home from work, and he was calling me every night and my phone bill topped well over $300 after a couple of weeks. One night, after we had talked for a couple of hours, and said our good nights, I called him back. I really did miss him, and I was just going to tell him that I really missed him. Instead, I asked him if there were any questions he had ever thought to ask me, but had never dared. After a long pause he responded with a long, drawn out "No". Feeling a little let down, I took in a deep breath, exhaled and rephrased my question "Joe, will you marry me?"

     The rest? well the rest is what my life is all about. Keep coming back and I will tell you the rest of this story, eventually.

© Yolanda M Heisler: I do not expect my days to be like a string of pearls,

each day just as perfect and as equal in everything with the other.

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