Brad was busy so I tried to slip out without distracting him. He’s been running the front to that Italian restaurant for so long that he’s either developed a sixth sense or has grown eyes in the back of his head. With the front door quietly opened and me about half way out, thinking I’d slipped out undetected, I heard Brad call out, “See ya, Floyd – Thanks!”
I paused and turned, “Thanks, Brad – see you next week,” I answered.
About half way to my car in the dim lit parking lot I heard a woman’s voice behind me, “Floyd? – Floyd Samons?”
I turned to see her, “Yeah,” I answered as she quickly walked toward me.
“It’s Kelly Schulte!” she announced.
“Kelly Schulte? Are you kiddin’ me?” I asked in complete surprise already knowing full well it was the same girl I’d known pretty near my entire life. What a chance encounter!
We hugged like long lost family. Funny how people we’ve known almost all of our lives, and the ones that treated us as such, do feel like kin.
“I thought that might be you, and when I heard Brad call your name, I knew it had to be you,” Kelly said. We chatted, trying to give each other the readers digest condensed version of our lives standing in the tiny parking lot if front of and Italian restaurant two hundred miles from where we grew up. The spot we both just happened to be eating at that particular night and at the exact time…
Her big brother, the one famous in our town for his baseball skills, was killed in a car accident… I hadn’t heard…
Kelly had heard about my dad passing. We offered one another sincere condolences.
We talked about the endless days spent on her parents famous boat, “The Millers Folly”, the Mississippi paddle wheel replica boat that was unmistakable and the only one like it on Lake Havasu. I can still remember the bright red wooden slatted wheel slapping the water, engine humming, pushing us slowly across the waters of the Colorado River.
We would jump off the second floor of the good ship, Kelly’s brother throwing a football to us with pinpoint accuracy. They’d feed and water us, their neighbor, my friend Hank and I, like we belonged to them.
I asked how her mom and dad were, where they were, and how they were doing. I told Kelly how special those days were to me when we were young, the warm Arizona days when we hovered around the sixth-grade mark for what seemed like a lifetime.
Kelly reminded me how much trouble she and I got into during school. I’d forgotten that… Funny how we see ourselves in hindsight better than other folks do in reality. The alphabetical seating landed our desks smack next to each other in all the classes that we shared.
We talked, passed notes and broke just about every rule they laid out in front of us, but we weren’t so good at not getting caught at it. There was no one to keep Kelly and me from talking and catching up in the parking lot after a chance encounter at a small Italian restaurant in a city with over four million people.
I’m reminded how much value memories have and how much more valuable the ones we made them with are. But mostly I’m reminded that there are no coincidences in this life…