The Black Jacket

Though I am not blessed with a multitude of amazing stories to tell, I do have several–few of which have been written down.  So I think I’ll start with one of my favorites.  The details of this story have changed my life in a wonderful way–they led me to my wife.  No, this is not the classic answer to the “How did you meet?” question that is asked thousands of times a day across the world.  This is is the answer to the question, “How did you stay together?”

We had been on a few dates.  They were nothing spectacular, our first date was at a local Thai restaurant (which would eventually become our shared favorite cuisine), another watching a movie at home (now a pasttime that we enjoy twice a month).  The third date has connotations in some realms of society, but for us it was an abrupt ending to an otherwise enjoyable fledgling relationship between two strangers.  She left without really saying goodbye that night, perhaps full of nerves or just overwhelmed by my sometimes inane banter.  In any case, she departed my Subaru Outback so quickly that she left behind her black jacket that was keeping her warm on that cold October night in Western Washington.

I didn’t hear from her for a few days.  I thought this meant that the relationship was over, and I was back to the life of a single person…which wasn’t so bad in many ways but did feature the low point of frequently eating whole boxes of Stove Top dressing and considering it dinner.  So I was surprised to see her number pop up on my cell phone as I was driving home one day from work.  This was not a call to exchange pleasantries or to see how I was doing.  She had a single purpose with this call–retrieve the black jacket.  I said that I’d make sure I was around the next evening so she could pick up her article of clothing.

I was not totally head-over-heels for this girl after our first few dates, but she was a very enjoyable presence in my life, and the conversation was rarely awkward, save that abrupt departure from my wagon.  Therefore, I wanted to keep her in my life if at all possible, and I knew this wouldn’t be easy given the recent turn of events. So, I began to brainstorm.  I thought, “I have just one more chance to convince her that I’m worthy of her time”. Knowing that we are mainly visual in our approach to things, I began to think of what I could be doing and wearing to get her attention.

Two things I knew–she was diligent at her job and she liked Halloween decorations. I had some evaluations that I could take home to work on, so I thought that might impress her. “Look at him”, she might say, “He takes his work home because he is so industrious”. Next, I set out to create a jack o’ lantern based on one our conversations we had on our first date where she indicated her zeal for decorating pumpkins.  It was football season, and I was overambitious, so I decided to engrave “Go Penn State” into one pumpkin with a traditional pumpkin face to accompany it. The next aspect of the meeting was appearance.  I wanted to be casual yet nice looking, so I thought a pair of black Adidas warmup pants and a hooded sweatshirt would do the trick. Let’s call it athletic chic on a budget. Music must also play a role in the evening, so I thought Bob Marley could add some calm to an otherwise nerve-racking situation and perhaps spark some romance as his songs speak to love on so many fronts.

The last, but perhaps most important aspect of our could-be-last meeting, was conversation.  I knew this much going in–if she came in and was all business, simply focusing on retrieving her jacket and not interested in chit chat, then there was no hope.  If, on the other hand, she provided enough pause for me to interject some questions and commentary, then perhaps I could win her over.  So, I planned some talking points, focused mainly on my newly carved pumpkins and whether she watches “The Office” or not, as it was quickly becoming my favorite new show.

The time arrived.  It was a crisp Autumn evening, and she arrived looking very cute, all bundled up and sporting a pink scarf that made me want to keep this thing going even more.  Here’s the scene she was greeted with.  Pumpkins were lit on the front porch, I had the reggae playing, the lamp shed light on the paperwork I was completing–all embodying a casual yet diligent approach to a workday evening.  This was an approach I hoped she found satisfactory and perhaps remarkable.

I believe I was complimentary at first, noting how nice she looked.  Then, I went to get the black jacket that I ashamedly had taken deep whiffs of to enjoy it’s perfume scent during its residency at my house, wondering if that scent was fleeting or something that would be a permanence in my life.  I gave it to her, and I noticed she was not running for the door. This was good, very good.  So, I used this opening to talk to her about my favorite new sitcom–one that would eventually become our favorite show.  The conversation carried from there as if held up by invisible forces that were unknown to either of us.  After a while we said our goodbyes and I had a good feeling that we would be seeing more of each other.  It all came together that crisp October evening.  A touch of that tv show, a splash of divine intervention, and a spoonful of that black jacket saved my marriage-to-be.

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