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How I Knew It Was Him


Stacy Mintzer Herlihy

I knew it was him the first time we dated. The problem is that it took a while for us to get to the first time.

It all started when Susannah called me yet again.

“Are you free Friday? I have this great guy for you.”

“You’ve said that before. Twenty five times before.”

“It’s only been twelve.”

“You’re keeping track?”

“I have to. I’m better at math than you. So will you go out with him?”

“Describe him.”

“Five eleven, the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen, likes good food and small children. Your type but with thicker glasses.”

“Okay but only if he really is five eleven. The last guy you set me up with described himself as six feet when he was maybe five four.”

“Considering that you’re barely five two in heels and tiptoes I don’t understand your point.”

“My point is that I don’t mind short. I mind liars. Did he think I wasn’t going to notice that I could look him in the eye?”

“He’s not a liar. I promise. So double date with me and Andy at Le Café in Soho on Friday?”

Susannah Anderson was my best friend, happily married herself and determined to see me join her. She called me at least once a month with her latest find. With the exception of the engaged guy who “just wanted to see what was out there” so far she’d been close but not quite. The last guy was actually cute if you liked red hair but he was a friend not a boyfriend.

After the first few set ups I had declared a new rule: all future blind dates must only be with another couple. This way I had an escape clause if twenty minutes of small talk only made me want to find the nearest emergency exit.

That Friday night I put on my reveal-your-best-assets dress. It had very strategically placed slits and beading that gave me the illusion of cleavage.

But it was all for nothing.

Susie was at the entrance with her gorgeous and charming husband. If he’d been Catholic, Andy was exactly the sort of man I wanted to marry.

“He’s not coming.”

“What do you mean he’s not coming?”

“He called me and said he had a bad cold and he doesn’t want to infect you.” She shrugged. “Look at least he’s being considerate. He could have come here germs and all.”

Take two happened a week later.

“He still wants to meet you. Are you up for it?” Susie asked me on Tuesday.

“Is he no longer a walking sack of infection-spewing protoplasm?”

“He was never spewing. It was more of a slow ooze. Anyway that’s over. He’s lovingly passed all his germs to another member of our species. Why don’t we catch the new Tom Cruise movie and dinner together?”

I pulled The Dress again out of my sacred spot in the closet, the one place where the cat couldn’t reach. My white cat had only one mission in life – to spread white cat hair on all the black clothing I owned. White clothing was completely ignored presumably because she mistook it for a fellow cat.

This time Susie at least had the grace to look sheepish when she approached me.

“So what is it now?” I asked. An outbreak of the Madagascan flu? A sudden Tom Cruise allergy?” My voice had a sharper edge than I intended but being stood up twice in a row was on my list of Unacceptable Behavior in a Potential Boyfriend.

“His mother’s sick and he’s nursing her.”

“Sure she is.”

“No really. He went to visit her last week and he gave her the flu. His mother works in my building and she hasn’t been in two days.” She looked at me pleadingly. “I have her number if you want to double check. He’s with her right now.” She handed me her cell phone. “Here, call her and confirm if you don’t believe me.”

A few of my dates may have been liars but Susie wasn’t.

“No, it’s okay. I trust you.”

I decided to give him one last chance.

“He’s a wonderful guy. I’ve met him twice. You just have to,” Susie insisted.

This time the black dress stayed in the closet. I decided to opt for a tasteful red pants suit and leave the cleavage for future emergencies.

I got to the restaurant early so I could have the first look. There was Susie and yes it had to be him. Hmm. Tall as advertised and I could see his blue eyes behind the glasses from here. He had thick dark hair with a hint of gray. His jacket hinted at a slim build but I could see a flash of muscle. So far, so very, very good.

“Jack, this is Annie, “said Susie with a wink and a smile.

“Nice to meet you,” he said clutching my fingers firmly and looking at me square the eye.

“Um hi.” Oh dear. My brain sometimes went into freeze mode when confronted with my hormones. This was not going well so far. So much for witty and intelligent. Face to face, the only vaguely coherent thought I could come up with was, “he’s adorable,” over and over again.

We walked to our table. He held out my seat for me.

“How’s your mother?” I finally asked after we’d ordered.

“She’s fine. So am I. But I think we managed to buy up New York City’s entire supply of tissues and chicken soup.”

I giggled. “I can make you some more. I’m a really good cook.” Okay so the truth was that I wasn’t really that much of a chef but I did know how to make great chicken soup. The secret was letting the broth sit in the freezer for three days.

“Now that I’m feeling better I’ll be happy to cook with you. I love a great bowl of soup.” He then proceeded to talk about a recipe for what sounded like the best chicken soup ever made.

Susie and I went to the ladies room before dessert came.

“So what do you think?” she asked me as she handed me a spare pair of pantyhose because mine had a run in them.

“Okay. You were right. He is very cute and not stupid. Definitely second date material, maybe even long term relationship potential.”

Dessert was the restaurant’s specialty. I ordered my favorite one, Cinnamon Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Ganache. It was a test of a sort. If a man reacted squeamishly when I ate it I knew he wasn’t for me. I watched my weight but I also liked to eat well.

Jack eyed the slice of cake with awe.

“Wow. That looks delicious. Can I try a piece?” he asked. In return he held out a forkful of his Apple-Peach Crumb Tart a la mode with a Shortbread Crust.

When we got up from the table I headed towards the subway.

“So where do you live?” Jack asked casually.

“Brooklyn,” I said.

“What part of Brooklyn?” he asked.

“Sheepshead Bay.”

“Why don’t I come with you? I’ll see you tomorrow,” he called to Susan and Andrew as we walked down to the Q train.

There weren’t that many people on the train so were able to get seats.

“So what else do you like besides chocolate?” he asked me.

“Books, travel, handsome men.” The last part slipped out and I blushed. Much to my continual embarrassment I remained one of the few females on the planet still capable of blushing.

“Add gorgeous women to the list because that’s what I like” he said looking me directly in the eye. He leaned over and kissed me. At that point we both simultaneously looked up to see if anyone on the train was watching us.

“You’d better be careful. I hear they’re arresting people for public lip locking,” I said with a grin in my voice.

“If we’re going to do the time, we might as well do the crime,” he said kissing me again.

He was a wonderful kisser, determined but deft and gentle. I felt flutters in all the right places after his lips left mine.

Half an hour later, the train pulled into my station. Jack got off with me.

“Do you live around here?” I asked him as I searched for my door key.

“No. But you do.”

“Where do you live?”

“In the Bronx.”

My eyes widened. “But that’s another two hours on the train in the other direction.” It had not occurred to me to ask him where he lived. I had simply presumed his house was close by. The Bronx by train was a very long trip.

“I just wanted to make sure that you were safe. Goodnight.” And with that, he kissed my hand and walked right back to the station without a backwards glance. Overcome by the sweetness of his act I started to cry.

And that’s how I knew it was him. And it was. A year later we were married. After our wedding ceremony we took the subway home together. He really does make great chicken soup.

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