Special thanks for the inspiration from photographer Samm Blake whose work can be seen here.
He slammed on the brakes, thrusting her forward. She threw her hand to the dash, her thin arms braced, trying to save herself from a concussion.
“Did you see that? We have to stop for a photo!”
She looked over her shoulder at the road behind them looking for his ambiguous landmark but all she could see were trees and the back of a billboard.
He reversed past the signage and hit the brakes again. Now she understood; the whole ad consisted of one word: EATS.
He was single at the time, sitting at a small independent coffee shop reading on one of those lonely nights where he just had to get out of his empty house. He couldn’t concentrate on his novel; an attractive, almost-too-thin girl was at the table next to his and chatting on her phone. He had a good view of her and pretended to read as he took in her beauty. A plaid shirt would have hidden her size if it weren’t that she had the sleeves rolled up a bit, allowing her thin arms to burst from them.
“I’m tired of it,” she said into her phone in a reserved tone. She dipped into a yogurt-granola-fruit concoction, which made him smile since she skipped the sandwich and chips sitting in front of her and went right for the dessert. It made him look down at his meal, an untouched sandwich and a napkin covered in the remains of what used to be a coffee cake crumble. “I need to switch doctors again. Yet another one refuses to believe me. I eat all the time, and I eat a lot.” She finished the yogurt and started digging into the sandwich as she listened to the other end of the line.
She had beautiful brown hair, long and curly, and her eyes were deep but sad, a trait he noticed right away. He’d always had a thing for sad eyes. The person on the other end of her phone suddenly had to go, so she continued her meal in silence as he continued to feign reading.
He turned to his side to rummage through his bag for a notebook. This woman was some sort of muse, a story hit him and he had to get it on paper before it was too late. He would write it and then share it with her, a way of getting to say hello and maybe get a date with her.
He wrote fiercely as if possessed by some sort of writing demon as the scribbles continued faster and faster, more than once his pen ripped through the page a bit, such was the passion and ferocity of this particular story. If he had his laptop the sounds of the keys would stop readers, put a halt to all conversations and even drown out the sound of the steamers of the cappuccino machine, attracting the attention of all beings in the café and distracting them from the everyday and the mundane and make them all stop and take notice.
When he finally looked up she had left. So ensconced in his work was he that she’d gotten up, packed her things and left before he could even tell her what she’d done.
And the story? It was a masterpiece.
That night on the Craigslist Missed Connections the following was posted:
You: a beautiful and thin girl, mid-twenties wearing plaid in the coffee shop who ate her meal dessert-first while talking about the need for a new doctor.
Me: a kind of shy guy sitting across from you pretending to read while in reality taking in your beauty.
You inspired something beautiful in me, and I feel the need to share with you. Please write me.
After checking his email religiously for a day or so, he’d all but given up when he got the message, the one, from a girl who seemed to fit the description. He responded with the story he’d written in her presence, and so powerful was it that they agreed on meeting at a little café, a different place, to see if they clicked as a couple and not just in a muse-creator relationship. So they met, and they ended up in love and in a car driving down a random road in the middle of nowhere and stopping to take a photograph.
They got out of the car to find a man climbing the ladder to the sign.
“Sir?” he called to the man, who stumbled a bit on the rung at his voice. “Shit, sorry sir! I was just wondering if you would take our photograph up there.”
“You aren’t allowed up here! It’s illegal.”
“Please?” she called to him, giving the older man her winning smile. “It would mean a lot to us.”
He started back down toward the ground.
“I’m sorry, I could lose my job. And anyway, I’m here to take it down. I have a new one over there,” he said as he pointed in the direction of a large pile of folded up vinyl.
“Please sir, it’s important to us. It’s how we bonded.” The man raised a gray eyebrow.
She stepped forward a bit. “You see, I’m thin, and everyone always thinks I’m anorexic or something. I’m not, I can assure you. But I was complaining about it on the phone to a friend almost a year ago, and to make a long story short, it brought us to this moment.” She reached a hand out to her boyfriend, who refused it and pulled her in next to him.
“And my grandmother always used to say that to me. ‘Eats!’ she’d always say, because I’m thin too. She was from Italy, and thought she was saying it right. I always used to laugh. But basically, we’ve both had the same problem over the years, and the word, well, it means a lot to us. Every time we went out I would tell her to ‘eats’ like my grandmother would, and we would laugh about it.”
“Now it’s our inside joke. We tell each other to ‘eats’ with the same meaning as ‘I love you’ and this sign, well, it has a lot of meaning to us.”
The man looked from the couple up to the billboard, then down the road. “Okay okay, you convinced me. Hurry up there but be careful!” She handed him her camera and they climbed as fast as they could and posed as he took the photo.
“One more, just in case!” he yelled after checking the road again. They held each other and he took the picture. They were back down by his side in no time.
“I’m Italian too. I understand the whole pushy Italian grandmother thing. It’s like they always think you’re going to starve,” he said to them.
“Thanks so much, sir,” he said, shaking the man’s hand. “This will be one of those moments to remember. Maybe even tell our kids,” he said with a shy smile.
They got in the car and drove off and she looked at the image on the small screen of her digital camera and smiled.
Photograph by photographer Samm Blake whose work can be seen here.