You're That Girl!
A few months back, I tapped my fingers and stared at the dark clouds through the window. At 5:00 P.M., I descended the staircase with my purse and laptop bag, dreading the rain which pelted the building, and kicking myself for not having an umbrella. As I neared the exit, I buttoned my jacket and tucked in my chin.
“Good night,” I said to the female security guard.
“You as well. Good night. Be safe.” The same words she said every night.
I swiped my badge, held my breath, and stepped out into the cold sideways downpour. All around me, umbrellas popped up, like mushrooms in a rain forest.
Unexpectedly, one swooped in, and covered me.
I looked to see who it was, and saw my husband holding a black umbrella with yellow smiley faces. His dress shirt and slacks were soaked, and they clung to his skin. “I didn’t want you to get wet,” he said.
“Aw, thanks, Honey. You must be freezing.”
“It’s okay,” he smiled.
At that moment, he carried the umbrella and my heart, and as we walked, holding hands and swinging arms, the familiar combination yanked me back to when we first met…
I was eighteen, and stood at the entrance of the Walmart snack bar wearing a chili and cheese soiled smock, and sipping on a Dr. Pepper. I reeked of beef franks, buttered popcorn, and Ozark Farms BBQ. My up-do was a slicked-back and bang-less pony tail with curls stretching down my back, and a blue visor that concealed my periwinkle eyes.
I waited for my pastor’s wife, who was predictably late, and studied the shoppers who strolled by: a mother cradling a baby, an elderly woman recklessly steering a battery-operated cart, cowgirl boots and short shorts, tank tops and tube tops, and two dusty, sweaty construction workers.
The tallest construction worker had legs that ascended to heaven, like Jacobs Ladder. “Don’t stare. It’s rude,” I told myself, but his NBA height made it impossible not to. His white T-shirt and cut-off sweats were splattered with paint and silicone caulking. My neck turned like an owl as the scent of sawdust and paint thinner wafted by, and into the snack bar.
“How tall can he be?” I wondered, staring at the back of his knees.
“Hi Jen,” the other male said, “fix us some grub.”
The tall male lifted his head, and said, “Hook me up with someone, will you, Jen?”
Her brow made a question mark.
“Look at how many girls work here,” he said with a Boston accent, “you must know someone?”
I spun around to watch for my pastor’s wife, and pretended not to hear.
“Hey, Francine—” Jen called.
“Not now…” he said, shushing her.
I turned slowly, took a sip from the straw, and played naive. “Yes, Jen?”
“Come here. I want to introduce you to someone.”
I made my way over to the popcorn machine.
“Francine this is Willie, Willie this is Francine."
“Hi Willie,” I said, looking down at the nacho cheese crusted on my shoe, while considering how god awful I looked and smelled. I smoothed my smock, fluffed my pony tail, and lifted my visor to see his warm eyes gazing at me.
“Let’s go on a double date this Thursday. Me and Willie can pick you up, and take you to my house to watch a movie,” Jen said.
“Okay, but it will have to be late. I have church Thursday evening, and I help with the bus ministry.”
I heard my name, and looked behind me to see my ride in a long dress and a bun on her head.
“Nice to meet you, Willie. Gotta run.”
On Thursday evening, I stepped off the church bus in front of the Beechmont apartments. “Have a good night, Brother Walter. Thanks for the ride home,” I said, descending the grated stairs in a cream-colored skirt and jacket, accessorized with a red blouse and a pair of cute Sam and Libby flats. My hair hung in long spirals down my back, and I made my way toward the Honda where they waited.
I sat in the front seat with my hands cupped in my lap. Willie stared quietly at me, before having an epiphany.
“You’re—that—girl!” he said, sounding shocked.
“What girl?” I asked, craning my neck, and sounding more shocked.
His eyes were misty. “You go to that church on Sharon Drive. I didn’t recognize you in your Walmart uniform.”
“Yes, how did you know?”
He choked back tears. “I went one time a year ago with my boss. After church, I asked my boss who you were, and he said, ‘I’d tell you, but I don’t want you coming back just for the girl.’ Feeling convicted, I never went back.” His voice quivered as he said. “I didn’t go back for you, so God brought you to me!”
Today marks, twenty-five years and eleven days since you first spoke those fairy tale words, “You’re that girl,” and you’ve treated me like “your girl” every day since. Yesterday, we celebrated twenty-four years of marriage, and I wanted to write a blog to say, “William Westgate, a hundred hearts would be too few to carry all my love for you! I love our life together!”