My work schedule is a little weird. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it's really not odd at all, but instead of working 9 to 5, as tradition holds, I work 8:45 to 5:15.* Consequently, though, when I'm leaving work, I'm uniquely equipped to, y'know, actually leave work. The more traditional shift is either 8 to 4:30 or 8:30 to 5, so I'm one of the last ones out the door and can exit with a minimal use of my PILWSDT** and get into my car and immediately drive away, uninterrupted by parking lot traffic.
As such, I get to the cutoff to the road home at almost exactly the same time each day. It varies by two or three minutes at most, really, and that's if traffic's especially gnarly. I am intimately familiar with the nature of life at the Bow bypass between 5:18 and 5:21, is what I'm saying. This is how I know Mullet Boy.
You might think it an insult to call him "Mullet Boy" but, 1) I'm Canadian and 2) this guy wears his mullet the way Superman wears his cape. Some people have awesome hair, others have awesome hair thrust upon them, and the case of Mullet Boy there can be no question that his hair is his responsibility, his burden. He bears the scars of so much business in the front and so very many parties in the rear that I'm amazed his face can still bear a smile. But it does.
When I first adopted this new schedule, last year, he was perhaps 14, with a slight hint of facial hair on his lip and that particular cocky swagger I remember attempting to perfect around the same age. He does it well, if a little perfunctorily. He always walked alone, but seemed to enjoy the company, a rare feat at that age. As time passed, though, he would occasionally have the company of a young woman that I like to call Bangs Girl. And, yes, it's because she has bangs.*** I liked her instantly. She started walking with him at the beginning of the school year, so I presume they attend together. We had a decently chilly September, and this girl was - get ready for it - wearing a jacket!
It saddens me that this is a remarkable observation. Even when I was a lad, though, many girls had already adopted this stance that jackets were, I don't know, not cool or something. I really didn't know enough girls to ask, and now it would be just really creepy. A thirtysomething guy with a pot belly and a scraggly beard sidling up to a teenage girl to ask why her arms are bare when it's forty degrees out? Yeah, even I'm creeped out by that and, in this situation, I'm the creep. Still, there's something to say for a young woman who actually dresses for the weather. That's not why I knew they'd be a couple, though.
I have this thing. I'm pretty sure someone has a fancy New Agey name for it, but in short I have a slightly unnerving ability to tell when two people are going toe end up in a relationship. It's not universal - I can't just look at two people and say, "They're going to end up dating" - and it doesn't predict length of the relationship****. So far, it's batting about 24 for 25. My guess is that it's something to do with reading body language and word choice. I say word choice because one of the marriage I predicted was between two people I'd never actually met in real life. Because I'm a geek, I call this my "spidey sense."
Anyhow, when I saw Mullet Boy and Bangs Girl walking together this last September, my spidey sense pinged. And I was right.
My first confirmation was in November. It was a very cold day, and windy. For those of you who haven't been through one of these days in New Hampshire, it's kind of hard to describe what it's like to try to go for a walk in this kind of weather. It's a little like walking in a NASA wind tunnel, but a wind tunnel that hates your guts and wants you to die. The wind is steadily pushing you back, but whenever you open your mouth the speak, it seems to know and kicks up just a notch, right at mouth level so that you choke. If you turn in a way that leaves you a little off-balance, it gives an extra push just below your centre of gravity. It's like zombie wind, a weather condition that hates the living.
When I passed them, Mullet Boy was jacketless and carrying two backpacks, and Bangs Girl was wearing two jackets, one ridiculously overlarge. Now four minutes from work with the heater on, the cold wind was still whistling through my bones, I felt Mullet Boy's pain. I got the impression, though, that he wasn't feeling any. The skin on his bare arms was red, and looked chapped. He mullet flew behind him like a windsock. And he just didn't care. Walking two steps behind Bangs Girls, his face was beaming.
Over the next few months, I saw them walking together more and more, sometimes close together, sometimes not. He never made a move on her while I was watching but, well, it's a busy roadway. I would've played it cool in that situation too. They were never on their phones, never listening to music, just walking and talking together.
Something happened in March. I'm not sure what it was, but Mullet Boy walked alone. It was a cold March, too, a hard time to be lonely. He didn't strut, he shuffled, and he never looked up from the road. The weeks went on, and still, he was alone. He seemed to walk with a bit more confidence as time went on, but there just wasn't a spring to his step anymore. I was getting worried about how life was going for this total stranger. This went on until last week.
Bangs Girl was back. They were walking hand-in-hand the first time I saw them, and then, on Friday, he was walking his arm around her shoulders. I was stopped at a light when he said something that made her laugh. He smiled and pulled her closer. She leaned her head on his shoulder for a second.
Why do I tell you this? Well, life is hard. Some days, it hardly seems worth it to get out of bed. The thing is, there's always a reason to.
Sometimes, life is amazing, even when it's hard. Thanks, Mullet Boy and Bangs Girl, for reminding me of that. I hope you have a fantastic romance this summer.
* I wonder why the "9 to 5" thing persists - I mean, virtually every office worker I know has two unpaid fifteen minute breaks. I suppose "9 to 5:30" just doesn't roll off the tongue.
** Personal "I'm Leaving Work So Don't Talk" field. C'mon, we all have one.
*** Okay, so it's not a very clever nickname, but the purpose of giving people nicknames is that you remember them, and while it was tight running between Bangs Girl and Definitely Not Chloe Deschanel, I eventually found myself defaulting to Bangs Girl because it's simply easier to remember.
**** Well, that's not quite true. It has two settings - "these people will date" and "these people will end up getting married."