By Ray Lesser
The first thing I noticed about Gracie was her eyes. One was green and one was blue, kind of like she couldn’t make up her mind, so she was trying out both of them to see which one she liked better. It was hard to look straight at her without getting cross-eyed myself. In some people this eye thing would be a flaw, but it only added to her magnificence. She had such a bright style and a commanding way of presenting herself, she radiated good vibes to the point where I felt like I’d just stepped out of the sauna after a full body massage.
When I saw her across the room, I would have made a beeline straight for her, but I was too stunned, first by her appearance, and then even more so when I realized that she was headed straight for me. Of course, I was standing by the bar waiting for my drink, so it really wasn’t that big a surprise that she was headed in my direction — but still, I couldn’t have asked for more. She sidled up next to me, tossing her long dark hair back as she surveyed the bottles behind the bartender.
“Can I buy you a drink?” I surprised myself by asking before she had a chance to order. Because I never offer to buy anyone a drink.
“That’s very kind of you, stranger,” she said.
“Actually I’m not nearly as strange as I look,” I said. “We’re shooting a commercial down in the basement of the restaurant.”
“Oh, so that’s why you’re wearing an orange rubber jumpsuit. I thought either you must be some kind of sunburned Michelin man or that you’d just escaped from prison.”
“You’re on the right track. I’ve actually been cast as a piece of fruit. See that tall guy dressed all in yellow by the pool table? He’s a banana.”
“And let me guess — the guy with palm fronds sticking out of his head must be a pineapple.”
“Well, in his honor I’ll order a piña colada. My name’s Gracie, by the way.”
“And I’m Peter. Peter the orange. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
She kind of floated there beside me, taking up way more space and air than seemed possible for such a petite lady. The noise in the noisy bar suddenly seemed to fade into the distance as all I could hear were her words and sounds. I could hear her breath. I could hear her bat her eyelashes. After she got her drink, I touched her on the shoulder, indicating a free table in the corner. She smiled and led the way. I felt like I was following a goddess; like I was following the wind; like I was following a destiny that was only now suddenly being revealed to me. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
I’d always heard of love at first sight, but I’d never really believed it possible, or had any sense of what it might feel like. Now I knew: It felt like I might pass out. It felt like I was going down the biggest roller coaster hill I’d ever been on and there was no bottom. It felt like I might be sick.
“Are you OK?” she asked when we sat down. “You look a little flushed.”
“Must be this suit,” I lied. “It’s making me sweat.” Meanwhile a voice practically shouted in my ear, “DON’T BLOW THIS!” I loosened the zipper on the jumpsuit and took a swig of my martini.
“I never let men buy me drinks,” Gracie said. “I’ve made it my policy to never let them buy me anything. Because when they do they seem to expect something in return. So I’m not sure what came over me when you offered, but I just want you to know, it was something weird.”
Something weird was happening to me as well. My whole body was starting to itch like crazy. I wanted to scratch, but I had no idea where to start. I took another swig of my drink.
“Are you really OK?” Gracie asked. “I’m starting to see red blotches on your face.”
I wanted to answer her but not only could I not think of what to say but suddenly I could not breathe. My throat felt like it was swollen shut.
“Oh my God!” she shouted. “Help! We need a doctor! Is there a doctor here?”
I have no memory of what happened after that, but fortunately there was a doctor who came over and diagnosed that I was having a severe allergic reaction. Apparently the Butter Cup Martini special was actually a peanut butter cup martini. Peanuts, chocolate and vodka. So, yeah, the first time I met Gracie I passed out and nearly died. But as my life was flashing in front of me I realized what it had always been missing, what I’d always been waiting for. And I promised myself and the Universe that if I had another chance, I would never let her go.
Amazingly, since that day we’ve been together, despite the incredibly lousy first impression I made. Now I always carry an epi-pen in my front pocket, and Gracie knows exactly how to use it.