For the sake of efficiency

“You stole the last jalapeño popper.”

Ed turned slowly to face his accuser. “Pardon?”

The petite woman frowned. “You snatched your sixth one before I could even try my first!”

“I couldn’t help it — they’re addictive!” He held his hand in front of his mouth to hide his enthusiastic chewing.

“Good.” She smiled. “‘I made them.”

“Ed.”

“Nisey.”

“Short for…?”

“Denise. My lil’ brother couldn’t pronounce his d’s, so he called me Nisey.”

“One of the many joys of being an only child — no siblings to give you nicknames.”

“In your case, I’m sure the bullies at boarding school did the honors.”

“How did you know I went to boarding school?”

“Just a hunch.” Nisey drained her solo cup and shook it, rattling the ice cubes.

“I owe you a drink.”

“Good thing drinks are free at potlucks. Kay’s goin’ on a liquor run soon –”

“Which is why we should walk to the pub down the street. She’ll buy the shitty stuff since the party’s winding down.”

“You’re real slick.”

Ed offered his arm. “Shall we?”

Nisey narrowed her eyes and looped her arm through his.

***

“I’m too old for this!”

“For what?”

“Neckin’ with my friend’s husband’s cute friend.”

“So you think I’m cute?”

“Wipe that smirk off your face! Would I be straddling you on your couch if I didn’t?”

“You could just be using me for sex.”

“Who said anybody’s gettin’ laid tonight?”

“I didn’t assume — just trying to lighten the mood!”

“Ed, I’m forty years old –“

“You’re smokin’ hot.”

“– thank you, but I’ve been divorced for a couple of decades. I’m good at being alone –“

“Nisey, I’m thirty years old. I’ve been divorced for a decade. I’ve dated a lot of women since –“

“A lot, eh?”

“– and I know right away whether I like someone or not. I like you.”

“I like you, too.”

“Since neither of us wants to waste our time –“

“Amen to that!”

“– what’s the harm in enjoying each other’s company, as the feeling is mutual?”

“Speakin’ of savin’ time…where’s your bedroom?”

****

“This was way better than either of our first weddings.”

“We should advise any youngins who wanna get hitched –“

“What’ll we tell them? If you meet someone at a friend’s party, marry the person a year later?”

“No, dumbass. We’ll tell them to save the money they’d use on a wedding and put it toward a downpayment on a house –“

“They don’t buy houses — they buy lofts or condos these days.”

“– get a friend to marry them, and go out for margaritas and nachos afterward.”

“The kids we know don’t have friends who are judges.”

“They’ve got friends who’ve bought marriage officiant licenses on the internet!”

“You can do that?”

“Yes, you old man.”

Your old man.”

“Your sappiness is embarrassing.”

“C’mon — gimme a kiss, missus.”

“Fine. But only ‘cuz I expect wedding night action when we get home.”

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“Nobody would watch a movie about kids workin’ on a farm who fall in love!”

“This is the slowest lunch place ever.” I glanced at my watch, noting that Mike and I had been waiting for our food for fifteen minutes.

“I thought we’d get our orders quicker by getting ’em to-go, but I guess not.”

Mike took a seat at a table by the window. I followed suit.

“What do you and your wife have planned for this weekend?”

“Just gonna do stuff around the house and fix up the barn. She might have a horse show, but she’s not sure yet.”

“How did y’all meet?”

“Well, we knew each other growin’ up ‘cuz we lived in a real small town in Washington state.”

“Were y’all the pair of kindergartners that everyone knew would be together?”

“Not at all. We actually didn’t get to be close ’til I went away to college up at Stanford. Summer before my senior year, I came home and worked on her uncle’s wheat farm with her.”

“A wheat farm?!”

“Wheat farming is big out there.”

“This is like the plot of a Lifetime movie.”

“Nobody would watch a movie about kids workin’ on a farm who fall in love!”

“They definitely would. Especially if they cast the actors from Nashville.”

“Maybe people would watch for the scenery. It’s beautiful — the sky’s clear out there. Not like here (in town, at least) where you can barely see the stars after dark.”

“What would be on the soundtrack — Fleetwood Mac? Led Zeppelin?”

“All the other classics, too.” Mike laughed. “Y’know, she was actually seein’ somebody else when we started hangin’ out.”

“Oh shit! You stole her away?”

“She didn’t like that other guy much anyway.”

“Still.”

“She’s always been a firecracker. Never puts up with anybody’s shit (in a good way).”

“Sounds like she and Dusty’s wife would be friends.”

“They definitely would. We had a low-key wedding at the end of the summer. Her mom made her dress. Her friends did the flowers and mine helped cook the food for the reception.”

“Wow.”

“Then I went back to school for my senior year and the rest is history!”

“Seriously, though. Which actors would you want to play y’all in the movie of your life?”

“Hell if we know any of the young actors these days!”

“K-Mart is a real romantic place!”

My favorite question to ask couples is: “How did you meet?”

The way they respond reveals a lot about their relationship. New couples are hesitant and reticent. Couples who have been together for a long time alternate who tells which part of the story. They exchange smiles. The narrative flow is perfect. Some couples bicker over the details. They argue about who approached whom first and what the other was wearing.

The way a couple shares the story reflects their everyday dynamic. It’s more telling than proposal stories. The majority of proposals are orchestrated. There’s nothing natural about a carefully staged time to “pop the question.” Proposal stories are sweet. But the story about the first time a couple met is usually more magical.

I’ll be sharing the best “meet cute” stories that I’ve been told in this post and in future posts. (I have yet to check the veracity of my coworkers’ stories with their spouses.)

Dusty, how did you and your wife meet?”

“We met after I got back from the Marine Corps.”

“There’s gotta be more than that.”

“Well, I was workin’ on my truck and realized I needed to change out the oil, so I went to K-Mart to get some.”

“Was she shopping, too?”

“Nah, she was workin’.”

“This sounds like the beginning of a Jeff Foxworthy joke. You might be a redneck if — “

“K-Mart is a real romantic place!”

“You were saying…?”

“There I was, wearin’ a white t-shirt with cut-off sleeves ‘n’ ratty jeans — ‘cuz nobody ever wears his nice shit while workin’ on his truck –“

“Some girls are into that.”

” — ‘n’ that’s when I saw her. I thought she was real cute, so I went to her checkout line to talk to her. After tryna flirt with her, she gave me her number!”

“Clearly, your wife liked the greased up mechanic look.”

“Keep in mind, this was after I got outta the Marine Corps. I was in the best shape I’d ever been in.”

“I knew there was a reason you’d wear a shirt with the sleeves cut off.”

“Gotta work with whatcha got.”