You’ll be thinking about how your life is like a string of Christmas lights. Great big moments strung out in a line (or, if you’re you, tangled up in a box) with most days resembling the totally forgettable plastic wire between those lights. You’ll be thinking about this when you realize that you’re 25 and your boyfriend is a total dick. On your way out the door, it will occur to you that he still has your copy of Spider-Man 2. You’ll shrug your shoulders.
You might be on a date sometime. It’ll be a beautiful day, springtime, and Milwaukee Avenue will be alive with the feeling that today is the day for you. The day for you to fall in love. The day your life really starts.
“You,” the face of a graffiti Buddha wearing a Cubs jersey on a brick wall will seem to say, looking down on you altruistically, “keep your eyes open today.” It will either be a sign from the universe, or the adverse effects of your mood elevators, which you will have recently stopped taking.
You’ll be on the date, like I said, walking side by side, thinking, this can’t be who the graffiti man was talking about, when your date, a handsome-in-a-Legolas-from-Lord-of-the-Rings kind of guy says, “what?” and you’ll realize you said the thing about the graffiti man out loud.
“Oh, nothing,” you’ll say, and your date will suggest a stop for coffee. You’ll try to tell the guy in as gentle a way possible that this whole thing just isn’t going to happen, but what you wind up saying is yes, which is why twenty minutes later, you’re holding a coffee in your hand when you finally make an excuse like, “I’ve got to meet some friends later,” or “your jacket smells like Doritos,” and he will turn one corner, and you will turn another, and you will find yourself alone on Milwaukee Avenue on a day that hums with destiny.
You will be hungry, so before you pick up your collection of Blu-Rays from your ex-boyfriend’s (as you will have been planning on doing, but you now never will), you pop into The Ramen Shop for a messy bowl of broth.
It will be hard to describe, but the restaurant will be buzzing with that fateful feeling you will have felt while chatting with the graffiti mural, so it won’t surprise you when The Waiter turns out to be pretty cute.
When you’re on your fourth trip to the ramen shop, The Waiter will finally get the hint and ask you to the movies, where he’ll reach over and grab your thigh during a late-night showing of Evil Dead II. You’ll want to say that things are moving too fast, but it will also seem fitting because life itself is starting to move too fast, so instead you will lean over and kiss him, taste his beer breath, and accept the gifts life has given you.
You will be picking up an apartment key from him at The Ramen Shop when you casually mention that you’d like to learn how to cook ramen (hadn’t you always wanted to go to culinary school?) when The Waiter says, “honey, I bet the chef would be happy to show you a thing or to.”
Which is how you’ll find yourself alone, sweating, trying to keep up with orders in The Ramen Shop, which will have gotten a lot busier since you took over, because you will be a damn good ramen chef. The waiter will come back and say, “Hey, let’s get married.” Just like that. At first you won’t think he’s serious, but when he reaches into a steaming pot of bone-marrow broth and produces his grandmother’s wedding ring you’ll know it’s for real.
The wedding will be small and tasteful, the honeymoon brief (you have three restaurants to run, after all) but you will look back at the crazy turn of events and be grateful, grateful even for the Dorito jacket guy, who you will hope is doing well. He won’t be.
It will be hard to keep it all together with twins on the way, and for a minute, things with The Waiter will get tense. But you will remember the way the universe put the two of you together, and you will smile again. And when he surprises you with plane tickets to Hawaii, you will be overjoyed, although the food at the hotel will be overrated and in the years to come you both will wish you’d stayed a week longer, eating fruit straight from the trees, laying in each other’s arms, covered in sand.
And you’ll be taking a walk with The Twins, who will be home from college, when you notice that it’s a beautiful spring day on Milwaukee Avenue.
One of your children will be suggesting that you sell the restaurants, citing a substantial financial benefit, when you will suddenly wonder if the graffiti mural is still there, the giant Buddha wearing the Cubs jersey. You might, at that point, wonder if your whole life happened because of a message from the universe, or the adverse effects of your mood elevators, which you will never have gone back to.
But the mural will still be there, although someone will have tagged “gentrify the gentrifiers” over the big Buddha’s belly. And you’ll be standing there, trying to explain to your kids that this is the reason for everything, when The Waiter texts you to tell you that he’s waiting for you at the shop.
So you will ask the twins, who are worried for your sanity, if they are hungry, and you will all turn the corner together, and pop into the Ramen Shop for four messy bowls of broth.