Last weekend was supposed to be about disappointment, a gorgeous couple of days sandwiched by sports disappointments and hampered by long shifts in fast-food hell.
Last weekend, a mark of two years of unique emotional togetherness, was supposed to be a challenge of continued physical separation.
Last weekend was supposed to be about reflection and longing, about wishing and wanting, all in empty futility.
But it wasn’t.
Because of her.
I received a text from Talbot at 12:21 Friday afternoon, texts from her rare since she moved to an old house in Petersham, Mass. – a house without cell reception – for a 12-week internship.
Hey … I’m at the general store for lunch. How’re you?
I wasn’t well. The Friday-afternoon lunch rush had hit, and one of the managers – the one who prides himself on making everyone else work harder by rendering them miserable – had sort of worked me into a rage with a few back-handed suggestions that I wasn’t moving fast enough.
I never texted her back.
While throwing together a sandwich – a double quarter-pounder with cheese – I heard about five people in different directions call my name. I was too focused on what I was doing to pay attention to it, but by the second or third time I heard my name, poked my head up, ready to howl at someone for bothering me.
“Timothy,” I finally heard one of the managers say, probably using my full name to grab my attention. “Someone wants to see you.”
For some reason, I thought my visitor had pulled up to the drive-thru window, so that’s where I shifted my focus. Maybe someone from the newspaper had shown up. Or maybe my mom took a lunch break and wanted to say hi.
Then I looked up at the front counter and froze.
She stood there, beaming, in a red Phillies shirt, a golden halo of smooth blond hair, cut short, waved behind her ears; a wide “gotcha” smile radiating from her soft face.
Lost in confusion and anger, and startled by the unexpected, I tried to unleash a flurry of specific questions: When did you decide to come here? Does anyone know you’re here? How long are you staying? How long were you planning this?
Instead, I could only muster a general, unnecessary query.
“What are you doing here?”
She shook her head, still smiling. “What do you think I’m doing here?”
For some reason, I thought she might be traveling somewhere else, only stopping in Lancaster for a quick hello.
“How long are you here?”
“The whole weekend.”
And what a weekend it was.
I trudged through the last hour-and-a-half of my shift, occasionally peeking out at her. She’d almost always catch me. While I worked, she sat at a table, eating her lunch and sharing fries and a conversation with an elderly regular customer.
My coworkers kept offering to tell the man she was already taken.
As soon as my shift ended, the weekend passed in a blur, though settling, in the moment, to provide the company and relaxation I needed. Before my shift at the newspaper Friday (of course, Friday nights are the most-hectic nights during high-school football season), we shared a pint … of Phillies Graham Slam ice cream while sitting at the picnic table overlooking my backyard. I’d dig around the ice cream’s graham cracker chunks, allowing her to excavate them for her own enjoyment. We sat and talked, and I went to work.
The Phillies, meanwhile, lost the game and their season to disappointment.
Saturday, I worked in the morning and brought her and iced latte while on my break. She ventured out to the Goodwill store while I finished my shift, and afterward, we went out to Taco Bell and church.
I took her and my brother to Pine View Dairy while the sun set on Saturday. I enjoyed my first two scoops of pumpkin ice cream until the fell out of the cone, and onto the parking lot, in a very cliché, cartoonish way. Talbot laughed and teased me about it the whole way home, and as much as I told her it wasn’t funny, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh along.
She makes me smile, even in times of disaster.
After a quick stop at the store, we had more tacos – made by my mom this time – at home. Whenever Talbot stays here, I’m amazed at how eager my parents are to talk to her. Maybe it’s different for them, having a girl around after raising three boys. Maybe she’s just easier to talk to. But they enjoyed her company while I darted between the conversation and the Flyers game on TV.
We each had shots of cake-flavored vodka to use. Talbot put hers in coffee (after my dad helped us brew it), and I mixed mine with milk while my dad told me to “man up” in jest.
After the Flyers game, we went to sleep, missing a chance to watch “Saturday Night Live,” well, live.
Once again, I worked Sunday. When I got home, we watched the second half of the Eagles game (unfortunately), then headed for the mall. We picked up pretzels and smoothies, and we walked to the adjacent park. We sat on a bench by the pond, watching a duck groom himself on a rock, his girlfriend by his side.
After the walk, we caught a movie at the movie theater by my house, the one that shows “nearly new” features at a bargain price. We saw “Horrible Bosses,” straight from an old-school projector in a small, sticky theater without surround sound. In our own little subplot, we tried to open the noisy wrapper of a rice krispie treat – that we may or may not have smuggled in – without disturbing the crowd.
We returned home to a pot of my mom’s chicken pot pie – a soup, actually (which has launched several debates between my friends and me on whether chicken pot pie can be a soup). It’s one of my favorite homemade dishes, and I’m glad Talbot had a chance to try it.
Then we watched Saturday Night Live online.
Monday, we hit Dunkin’ Donuts for a pair of pumpkin iced coffees. We could probably pass as Dunkin’s spokescouple after living across the street from one at Bonaventure. After coffee, though, we went to Your Place restaurant for a buffet that included the best Stromboli in the world.
There we sat in the softly lit restaurant, the only two people dining for most of lunch. We sat and talked. We ate and smiled.
And then, after stopping at my house and fumbling with the GPS, she left.
Maybe none of this matters to anyone reading it. Maybe for some, this weekend bore no significance. Or maybe some found more fun and excitement than the contents posted above. But this weekend – the thrill of the surprise and the calm, quiet blur that followed – further boosted the feelings I’ve had for the girl I’ve been dating two years.
It was the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.
- Current Music:"Dream a Little Dream of me" ~ Michael Buble