Dale and I are riding home from Ligonier again – this time it’s Easter. My laundry basket is sandwiched in between us in the cab of his truck and I’ve got my feet propped up on the dashboard to avoid stepping on the paper bag of leftover ham, cheesy potatoes, corn and rolls (un-burnt, thanks to the preparation skills of yours truly) that sits on the floor. I’m telling him about a boy who I’ve decided doesn’t like me as much as I wish he did, as much as I like him.
“When I met your mother,” he says, “I just knew.” He adjusts the black Pirates hat covering his shaved head. “I hadn’t even met her yet. I just saw her. I knew things about her – she was married, had you and Beej. She had everything I didn’t want, yet I still found myself wanting to spend time with her.”
“I remember the first thing she said to me,” he continues. “We were sitting in the break room at the restaurant. I lit up a cigarette and she says, ‘you’re a smoker?!’”
Dale does a good job mimicking my mother’s voice, the tone she must have used. I can imagine it in my head – she doesn’t ask a question, she shoots it at you like a dart. The waitresses in the other room probably heard it, too.
“I was tongue tied,” he says. “And you know me. I’m usually pretty snappy with the rebuttals.”
Dale tells me about being young – the years he spent living in Nags Head, surfing and working, seeing girls here and there but never settling down.
“I had this self-centered mentality. But then I met your mother and I forgot all of that,” he says. “And the thing is, I still feel exactly the same way about her today as I did the first time I saw her.”