On a wintry January day almost 31 years ago, destiny opened the door, beckoned and twirled me onto the dance floor with the man of my dreams.
I was clearing my desk at the end of the work day when the crackle of a radio broadcast caught my attention. I walked outside my office and saw our secretary, Mary, listening closely. This was before the Internet, mind you, when we didn't know what was happening every minute.
"What's going on?" I asked.
Mary, the clucking grandmother type, looked worried. "It's bad out there," she said. "Already eight inches of snow, and everything is covered with ice. Accidents everywhere. You didn't drive, did you?"
Why I didn't take the train that day, I don't remember. My car was in a lot several blocks away, and I had a long ride home.
The rush of cold air made me gasp as I exited the building, and I paused under the overhanging eave to assess the conditions. About a dozen pedestrians huddled together seeking protection from the pelting snow and ice.
"I heard they closed the expressway in both directions," said one.
"Traffic is supposedly at a standstill," said another.
"The roads are a sheet of ice," chimed in a third. "I almost killed myself trying to cross the street."
I half listened, half tried to work out my escape plan. A little voice was telling me something. But that little voice was deeper than mine. I turned to find a total stranger trying to get my attention.
"Do you have far to go?" he asked.
I told him about my car being a few blocks away, and my typical 40 minute drive out to the suburbs. I asked about him.
"I live in West Philly, but when I saw it was snowing I thought I'd take the subway down to Third Street Jazz to check out some new music."
Is he crazy? I wondered. Who would do that in this kind of weather?
I would soon find out that, yes, Pete would do that. And that's who it was. Pete. My future husband.
With the snow falling all around us, we continued talking. I started to like this funny and good looking guy. When he asked if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee at the Chock Full o' Nuts across the street, I agreed, and we spent the next hour sharing stories of our lives while the storm raged outside. Turns out we were the same age. We both loved books and sports and worked in the city. I recently got my MBA; he was applying to law school.
We looked out the window. The street wasn't as crowded, but the storm raged on. For a moment we sat in silence. Is it going to end this way? I wondered. Will I see him again?
He glanced at his watch. "There's a great restaurant a couple of blocks from here, Warsaw Cafe. Can you stay?"
I hesitated. What are you thinking?? I silently admonished myself. Are you kidding? He's a perfect stranger! How do you know he isn't a smooth-talking serial killer? I am horrified at your lack of common sense. Tell him no. Right now.
"I'd love to," I said.
The restaurant was warm and intimate. Over candlelight I told him about a book I had read that he might enjoy called "The White Hotel." He asked if I liked Big Five basketball at the Palestra. We compared notes on our favorite players.
As we left the restaurant, the snow was falling softly. He walked me to my car and waited while I unlocked the door.
The snow swirled and danced around us. I fleetingly thought of reaching up to brush away the snowflakes on his hair. I wanted to. But I didn't.
We exchanged phone numbers and said our goodbyes, and he disappeared around the corner. As I slowly made my way home, I relived every moment of this magical evening. He could be my soul mate, I thought. Will I ever see him again?