I never thought of her as pretty. Or interesting. She snarled even when saying, “Hi.” In the same way some people exude enthusiasm, for her, it was a startling disposition and a propensity to snark. Chatting her up was like trying to interrogate an irritated detective on his way to the dentist. If first impressions always proved right, I imagine that I crossed Lisa off my list within five minutes. We spent many weeks pointedly ignoring one another, much in the same way that two hyenas avoid the water hole when the other approaches.
Three months later, I realized I was wrong.
I sat at my desk, several cubicles away from my other coworkers. I heard the most vibrant and laugh I’d ever heard. It sounded like a warbling bird being driven over a series of speed bumps at a high rate of speed. Without realizing it, I started laughing. As the laughter from the other cubicle continued, I laughed harder and louder. Seconds later, I was crying from the effort and turned away from the cubicle entrance. As my laughter subsided, I swiveled my chair back to face my desk.
To my horror, Lisa stood at the entrance to my cubicle, hands on hips, snarl glued to her face. Her hair fell over her blue eyes. I realized that it had been Lisa’s laugh chirping all over the office.
“Something to share, Lenny?” She tapped her foot in impatience.
“Uh… listen. I’m sorry. Your laugh is awesome, Lisa.” I don’t know why I blurted out the truth in such simple terms.
“Haha, very funny, Lenny! Laughing with me, right? Not at me. Jackass.” Lisa started to march off, probably to recite my list of defects to our other coworkers.
“Wait, Lisa. I’m sorry. Your laugh is infectious. I mean that. I never heard you laugh before.” I stopped talking.
“I’ve been told that my laugh is life-threatening,” Lisa said and marched away. The snarl never left her face.
Her comment lingered in my head. Something inside me tingled.
A couple of hours later, my desk phone rang. Expecting a call from accounting, I picked it up immediately.
“Lenny. This is Lisa. Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to take me out to eat at that Italian place, the new one. Saturday, at 6.” I started to answer her, but the phone went dead.
Confused, I hung up the phone. From a distance, I heard Lisa’s high-pitched warbling laugh. She probably had someone else listen to our brief conversation on her end. Involuntarily, I smiled as her laughter echoed across the row of cubicles. She won that round.
On the way out that day, I stopped at Lisa’s cubicle, something I’d never done. She looked up, her hair still falling across her blue eyes. The snarl was already up and locked.
“I’ll pick you up at 6? On Saturday?” As I asked, the snarl fell away from Lisa’s face. Her eyes lit up. For the first time, she smiled at me.
“I’d love that, Lenny. Bring someone good-looking with you for me to look at, will you?” And she laughed. The cubicle filled with her laughter. I laughed too. “Yeah, as long as you bring a hat the reaches your chin.” We laughed harder.
Lisa’s closest work friend Antonia looked over the cubicle, probably wondering if she were in an episode of the Twilight Zone. She looked from Lisa’s face to mine, then back again as she shook her head.
As Antonia ducked away from sight, Lisa looked at me. “For real, though. 6.” She took a slip of paper and noted an address on it. Presumably, hers, although it would be impossible to know.
A year later, we were married. During the vows, Lisa broke out in laughter. As the pastor’s face recoiled in surprise at the raucous laugh from Lisa, I joined her.
Lisa was the prettiest girl there.
The only one, really.