I blame it all on the evening breeze.
If not for that late afternoon gust of wind, the note beneath my driver’s side windshield wiper would never have flicked up, catching my attention.
I would have driven home, and the rainstorm that arrived later that evening would surely have disintegrated the note’s flimsy paper. I don’t believe in fate and I hope things don’t happen for a reason because the note altered my view of life.
Had I not worked late that day, maybe the note would never have found its way to my car’s windshield. But what’s the point in speculation, we can never really know why life unfolds the way it does.
When the breeze lifted the edge of the note into view, I was annoyed. No doubt another windshield advertisement. I stepped out of the car, lifted the wiper, and grabbed the small piece of paper.
The handwritten note was clearly not an advertisement. The letters were printed in lower case, and this is what they said:
I hate you! I never want to see you again! You said you were working late but here you are, parked outside her apartment. Cheater! Don’t call me, and don’t show up at the Blue Dish. We’re through! -C
What are the odds that some guy who’s cheating on his lady would have the same car as me? I chuckled at the thought and stuffed the note in my pocket.
My wife Carole and I have been married for 25-years. Our son and daughter are grown up now, living and working in the city. We’ve had our ups and downs, like any couple, but remain devoted to one another.
I suppose I have my father to thank for the longevity and joy of my marriage. He once told me, “Find someone who’s kind. Looks are great, but they’re a terrible predictor of compatibility and happiness. A kind person may have flaws, but kindness reveals character. And strong character can sustain a marriage.”
When I got home that evening, I told Carole about the note and read it to her.
“Oh dear,” she said. “Can you imagine her boyfriend’s shock? He must have gone to see her, only to be accused of cheating. All because your car, apparently, looks like his.”
“Yeah, poor guy,” I said, adding, “Lousy luck. Although there must be a backstory. He must know a woman who lives in the apartments next to where I parked. Maybe he cheated in the past?”
“Too bad you don’t know who she is,” Carole said. “Then you could tell her what happened. Maybe her boyfriend is a good guy?”
The next day at work, I pulled the crumpled note out of my pocket. I almost threw it away that morning, but something told me to hang onto it. I read it again. The part about not showing up at the “Blue Dish.”
I did a Google search for “Blue Dish,” figuring it must be some kind of diner or restaurant. Sure enough, there was a Blue Dish diner on 5th Street. On my lunch hour, I decided to swing by there and see what I could find out.
The diner had a 1950’s theme to it, with cozy booths in front and big round-cushioned bar seats in the back. I sat down on one of the bar seats and a heavy-set woman behind the bar welcomed me.
“What can I get ‘ya,” she said.
“How about your club sandwich and a water,” I said. I noticed her name tag, which said Madge.
“Hey, can I ask you a question?” I asked Madge.
“Sure thing, sweetheart,” she said.
“Do you have a woman who works here with a first initial of “C” in her name?”
Madge looked at me warily. “What’s this about? Are you a cop or something?” she said.
“No, no, I’m not a cop. It’s just that I found this note on my windshield yesterday, and I think it was meant for someone else.”
I told Madge the whole story and handed her the note.
“Yep, that’s Cindy’s handwriting alright. I’ll be damned. I guess you and Steve, her boyfriend, have the exact same car. Cindy is off today, but she’ll be in tomorrow. Why don’t you stop by then?”
I thanked Madge, ate my lunch, and headed back to work.
I told one of my co-workers, Joe, about the windshield note and all that transpired. Joe was a good deal older than me, and I always respected his advice and wisdom.
“Good for you for trying to fix the misunderstanding,” Joe told me. “That’s all we can really do in life, try to make things better. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. But at least we know we tried. It’s the effort more than outcome, I think, that spreads a little grace in the world.”
I wasn’t sure if I was spreading any grace in the world, but the next day I found myself back at the Blue Dish, nervously seated in a booth. It wasn’t long before a pretty young woman entered the diner and disappeared in the back. A moment later she emerged, wearing a “Blue Dish” apron and a name tag that said, “Cindy.”
“What can I get for you?” Cindy said with a cheerful smile.
“Just a coffee, and perhaps a few minutes of your time?” I said.
“For what?” she asked.
I handed her the note she left on my windshield. She stared at it and then back at me.
“Did Steve put you up to this? I don’t want to see him!”
“No, no, I don’t even know Steve. You put this note on my windshield. Look outside across the street. Do you see the white Infinity? That’s my car.”
Cindy stared at my car, then the note, and then back at me.
“Oh my God!” she said.
Cindy asked her manager if she could take her break early. She slid into the booth and I told her the whole story. She shook her head, teared up a little, and confirmed that Steve also had a white Infinity. The exact same make and model.
“I’m so stupid,” Cindy told me. “I guess I was just being insecure.”
Cindy explained that Steve’s ex-girlfriend lives in the apartments next to where I had parked my car. She assumed he parked there and was having an affair with his ex-girlfriend.
“I don’t mean to get personal, but has Steve been unfaithful in the past?” I asked Cindy.
“No, he’s always been great. Really sweet and kind. But his ex-girlfriend used to be a model. She’s really pretty. When I saw his car, um your car, well, I thought the worst.”
“Well, Cindy, you’re a beautiful young woman. I wouldn’t worry about his ex-girlfriend,” I said.
“Thanks, that’s sweet. And thank you for taking the time to find me. I really need to call Steve and clear this whole thing up.”
We slid out of the booth. Madge called to Cindy and pointed to her wristwatch.
“Mind your own business, Madge! Can’t you see I’m busy!” Cindy said. It surprised me, but then I knew all of this must have been stressful for her.
Cindy surprised me with a hug and thanked me again.
That evening Carole and I sat on the back porch after dinner and enjoyed some coffee. I told her all about Cindy and Steve and the outcome of my visit to the diner. I also told her about my co-worker Joe’s advice about “spreading a little grace in the world.”
“There’s been times when I did the right thing to help people and things didn’t work out. And there’s been other times when they did,” Carole said. “The times it didn’t work out used to discourage me, but not anymore.”
“Why is that?” I asked Carole.
“I’m not sure. I doubt there’s any kind of cosmic scorecard that keeps track, but acts of grace just make me feel better, regardless of what happens.”
“That sounds like a good philosophy to me,” I told Carole.
The following week, just for fun, I invited my co-worker Joe to join me for lunch at the Blue Dish diner. I had grown fond of their club sandwich and was curious to see how Cindy was doing.
When we arrived, we spotted Cindy in the parking lot outside the diner. She was passionately kissing and embracing a handsome young man.
“Well look at that,” Joe said. “Looks like she patched things up with her fellow. We watched as the young man walked over to a motorcycle, slipped on a helmet, and rode off.
“I thought you said her boyfriend had a car like yours?” Joe asked.
“I guess he has a motorcycle too,” I said.
Joe and I entered the diner and Madge seated us in a booth. I introduced Madge to Joe and then we ordered our lunch.
“I’m so happy you did what you did for Cindy,” Madge said. “She and Steve got back together. In fact, you should say hello, he’s in the diner right now.” Madge pointed to Steve, who was seated across the diner from us.
I noticed a small bouquet of flowers on Steve’s table.
“Isn’t that sweet?” Madge said. “He brought some flowers to surprise Cindy with.
Just then, Cindy strolled into the diner, with a smile on her face. Madge smiled back at Cindy and pointed to the corner of the diner. Cindy turned around and spotted Steve, waving to her with one hand, and holding the flowers in the other.
Cindy cheerfully walked over to Steve, giving him a kiss and a hug.
“Ah, young love. Isn’t it beautiful? Madge said.
Before you go
I’m John P. Weiss. I’m the author of “An Artful Life: Inspirational Stories and Essays for the Artist in Everyone.” To follow my writing, artwork, and black & white photography, sign up for my free Saturday Newsletter here.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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Photography by John P. Weiss