Suzette was just finishing her lunch when I took my break. She seemed a bit subdued; maybe the Lean Cuisine Chicken a l’Orange she ate for lunch wasn’t sitting right. I told her, “Mrs. Strauss is going to marry you to Herr Frederick if you don’t watch your back, honey.”
“Ah, geez, I might even let her. Wait, who’s Herr Frederick?
“Her great-nephew. I’ve never met him, but if he wears those teeny running shorts with black socks like all the German tourists do, you’d be better off alone.” Suzette didn’t reply to this, but looked more melancholy than ever. My faded Tupperware almost reduced her to tears. “You’re so lucky!” she yelped in despair.
“Because I have leftover green bean casserole for lunch? Suzette, dearie, I’ll share with you if you’re still hungry!”
“You have a home and a husband and casseroles with those little French-fried onions. You’re not eating out of boxes or sitting alone at night.”
“Ma amie, you’re young. You’ll have all those things, too, believe me. Oui, even the Durkee onions. And besides, there’s so much about your life to enjoy right now. You have good friends, a stable job, freedom. You don’t have to worry about your husband eating the baking soda or getting lost on the way home from the Tavern.”
“But I’ve tried so hard. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried personal ads, Internet dating, speed dating, hanging out in the produce section of King Soopers, going to church. That last one was a disaster. How was I to know that First United was full of snake-handlers?”
“Suzette, darling, you’re so lovable. You won’t be lonely forever. L’amour will find you, wait and see!”
Suzette continued, “Now I’m trying niche pairing, but it all seems so futile.”
“What, pray tell, is ‘niche pairing’?”
“Well, you fill out this questionnaire about the products in your home, and then you get matched up with some guy who eats the same crackers, or uses the same laundry detergent, or whatever. So far, I’ve met a man who drinks Fresca, but we couldn’t stand each other.”
“If it makes you feel better, he’s probably rotting from the inside with cancer by now. You should give that horrible beverage up, my dear.”
“What I should've done was marry Othel when I had the chance. But I was too picky, and now I’m getting my comeuppance.”
This was how all our conversations ended. Othel was our daily companion, his august head looming over our breakroom tete a tete, dripping Vitalis all over our lunches and snacks. I had never met this ghost lover, but his mere name gave me the creeps. And the idea of settling for anything, just for the sake of being married- well, my romantic heart found that simply offensive.
“Nonsense! Dearie, you can’t just settle for the most convenient thing. You’re not being punished for being discriminating. Othel will find his backwoods bride soon enough, and you will find your prince. Just concentrate on the good things about your life.”
Suzette’s teary glance changed to one of puzzlement, but then she happened to see the microwave clock. “Goodness! I’d better get back to the buttons. Thanks so much for listening to my bitching and moaning. You’re such a good friend.”
I gave Suzette a sideways hug and returned to my lunch. Ah, if only the button inventory were the only thing we had to worry about at Hancock Fabrics.