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Breakup on Aisle 12

I always feel like quirky things happen to me more than they happen to other people. A chance encounter this week should eliminate any doubt.

I was walking casually through Aisle 12 of a grocery giant I seldom shop. I noticed a couple striding toward me. The two appeared to be about 30, although I’ve been fooled in the past, five years either way.

The dark-haired young man was an athletic six feet tall. He was struggling to keep up with his mate. His arms were laden with various discoveries that his partner had gleaned from the shelves on the couple’s trek through the store. He was Tenzing Norgay to her Edmund Hilary.

The man had a distressed, almost pleading, look on his face. I took that to mean that some deeper dynamic was playing out in front of me. This was more than a stressful shopping trip. The bigger clue was the doghouse he was dragging, which I was certain was to be his new quarters upon returning home.

She was perturbed.

The woman was stunning. At 5’10”, she walked confidently. She looked better suited for floating down the red carpet as to ambling past the baking powder toward the marshmallow whip. Her expression was undeviating. She had waist-length hair, the color of the angel hair pasta that her fella was juggling, that billowed in the store’s air circulation system.

Suddenly, her pace quickened and her expression brightened. A big grin spread across her face. What really struck me was that that the young lady was walking straight toward me.

“Alex? Is that you?” she asked eagerly, focusing her gaze directly upon me. “It’s me! Jessica!”

I might know a Jessica or two, but without a doubt this Jessica was not anyone I knew. I was certain that villainy was afoot. It was confirmed a half-second later when I caught a surreptitious wink launched in my direction, concealed when her boyfriend’s eyes were diverted while readjusting his payload.

She surged into my body without slowing, and I am certain had not my spine been in the way, she would have walked right through me. My arms instinctively engulfed her narrow waist, and I wasn’t the least bothered that the force crushed the loaf of Aunt Millie’s Whole Grain Bread I was carrying into bread crumbs.

Our momentum spun us around, during which time she planted a swift, gentle kiss under my right ear. We leaned away from each other, but not before I nabbed each hand in mine.

“Jess!” I exclaimed, as much from general surprise as it was play-acting. I sensed her plan to make her boyfriend wonder about me, but intentionally gave back the lead to her, not knowing how big my role should be.

“Oh my goodness! You look terrific! Like always!” I said, genuinely admiring her body.

“You look great, too,” she said. Then, calming the scene slightly said, “Just a little more gray hair than last time.”

I joined in her laugh, and returned serve.

“I know. How long has it been? Monaco?, I asked.

“No, I’m sure it was Saint Moritz.”

“Yes! Still the best time I’ve ever had in the snow,” I said with a lush grin.

The sham conversation dwindled to a close, but not before she introduced me to her mind-blown boyfriend. His name was John, an irony that only I caught. John had his back to me the entire time, and I was disappointed that I never saw his reaction.

“It was wonderful seeing you again, Alex,” she said with amazingly believable earnest. I gave her my card and said, “Call me next time you are in town.”

I stood motionless, and watched Jessica, with both hands on his left biceps, escort a dazed and staggering, almost lock-kneed John away from me. Just before they turned, Jess glanced back, with eyes sparkling. She mouthed an exaggerated “Thank You” behind John’s back.

I grinned and winked. I couldn’t help thinking that this would not be the last time the two will walk together down an aisle.

I was still deep into the whole experience, when the check-out cashier broke into my thoughts.

“You’ll have to insert your credit card again, Mr. Marlowe. For some reason, the machine doesn’t know who you are.”

“Understandable,” I said. “I’m considering changing my name to Alex.”

– John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media.