Okay, so I’m a bit superstitious and nothing is official, so I hesitate to call this a “How I Met My Agent Story.” Instead I’ll call it “How I Met An Agent.” Because even if it doesn’t work out in the end, it’s still a pretty good story.
So you may remember that my family and I went on a cruise at the beginning of August. (It’s okay if you don’t remember that; it was my vacation, after all.) The only reason this is important is because we had emptied our larders, so to speak, prior to our trip. Which meant the afternoon after we got home, I had to go to the grocery store and restock because we had almost literally nothing to eat in the house.
Now, I don’t usually go to the store in the afternoons because that’s always when it’s busiest. I prefer mornings or, in a pinch, later at night. But this was an emergency, so I went mid-afternoon and filled a cart. More than filled it, even, since stuff was ready to spill out if I took a turn too sharply.
Still, I was feeling snobbish about my food. For whatever reason that day I decided the pre-packaged cheese was not good enough. I wanted deli cheese. But when I swung by the deli, there seemed to be no one working the counter. There was just a man standing in front of the counter, and he had that dejected air of someone who’d been waiting a long time and didn’t see any end to it. I was about ready to give it up, but then I remembered I needed hot dog buns from the bread aisle (which is right by the deli), so I ran over to grab that. And when I came back, there was at last someone working behind the deli case.
I know. This is, like, the best story ever, right? Adventures in Grocery Shopping?
Anyway, I got in line. And decided I wanted some buffalo chicken as well as the cheese. (Because I know you’re dying to know exactly what I eat.) And then this woman came over and asked the lady ahead of me and I if we were in line or had been helped or what. I told her the lady ahead of me was being helped and I was still waiting.
Then this woman asked me the strangest question. “Do you make grilled cheese? Or have you in the past year or two?”
Okay, so my first thought was that she was some kind of secret shopper. I don’t know why a secret shopper would want to know if the customers can make grilled cheese, but . . . I dunno. It just felt like a test of some kind. But I said, “Well, my kids don’t like grilled cheese, but I make them for myself sometimes.” Which is true. I can’t for the life of me figure out why my kids won’t eat grilled cheese, though.
Turned out the lady had a question about the best kind of bread to use. She had a preference for wheat bread in general but remembered her mother only ever making grilled cheese on white bread. “Does it taste different on wheat?” she asked. And I admitted I don’t care for grilled cheese on wheat; it does taste different, and I prefer white. (Most of my friends say sourdough is best, especially with a sharp cheese, but then they’re all from San Francisco so they like sourdough everything.)
From there the conversation meandered as we waited for very slow deli service. The woman said something about how she traveled a lot, and how she didn’t much like the east coast, and I told her I’d lived in Massachusetts for 12 years and was so glad to live in California now. “Well, but I’m a writer,” I said, “so I supposedly can live anywhere.”
And she said, “How funny! I’m an agent.”
To which I jokingly replied, “Well, if you’re ever looking to sign a writer . . .”
She asked me about what I write, and we exchanged contact info. And we met the following week to chat some more. And I really, really like her. But I don’t want to jinx anything! Right now it’s an informal working relationship meant to be low pressure for both of us.
Still, it’s funny how things play out sometimes. Joyce (the agent) said she hadn’t even intended to go to the store that day; it was a last-minute decision on her part. And I almost skipped the deli counter entirely. All the right elements had to be in place for this strange, alchemical meeting.
People ask me from time to time, “How can you believe in Fate or Destiny or any of that frou-frou stuff?” But my life is made of a million little pieces of evidence; it is a mosaic constructed by the Universe, or God, or Whomever you like to think of as “Up There.” I have faith because I have seen miracles, and I have seen miracles because I have faith. It’s difficult to live with open eyes and heart and mind, but when you do, amazing things happen.
And if Joyce does become my agent, well, we have one of the best “How We Met” stories ever.
Also, just writing this makes me want to go eat grilled cheese.