How Carl Met Sally This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 7, 2014
Sally had moved to Michigan about two months ago. She was alone, and in the dead of winter it proved nearly impossible to meet new people. The bar scene was mostly drunk men in their late fifties hoping to get lucky with the thirty something girls. But as you can imagine the selection of people in a small northern Michigan town in December was scares. Sally worked as a locksmith in a small town in Wisconsin for two years before moving to Michigan. Her father, who had taught her everything she now knew about the locksmith business, had passed away very suddenly about five months earlier. Doctors had never found the cause of his death; it just seemed to be a freak accident, completely random. He was in his late fifties, relatively healthy, happy, and well respected in their small Wisconsin town. After his death Sally was unable to escape her grief, he had been the last of her family, leaving her truly alone after his death. So as an escape, she moved to Michigan, where her father had owned a small house, in an attempted to start new.

One of the first and only people she had met in the past two months was her neighbor across the hall. His name was Carl, a relatively quiet, antisocial guy in his early thirties. He lived alone, and in the months that Sally had been living there she had never seen any visitors to his place. Not even Sally had been invited into his layer. He was a very secretive man. He was tall and lanky, clean-shaven except for a small patch in the middle of his chin, what he referred liked to refer to, as is ‘soul patch’. He dressed in dirty tattered clothes, something you would wear to paint a house or do some yard work. He didn’t generally venture far from his doorstep except to get the mail, which was down in the lobby of their apartment building. He took the stairs as extra precaution to avoid human interaction. The only reason Sally knew this was because, for some odd reason, Carl had put a lot of trust in her. For the short amount of time that they knew each other, Carl had told her a lot of details about his past. He had grown up with his father in a small town not far from Marksville, the town in which he had now lived for four years. His mother, Doris, had died of an overdose when he was just seven, leaving only he and his father to try to make it work. His father worked as a mechanic, barely making enough to keep their tattered trailer and enough food in the fridge to feed them for the week.

Sally had experienced a similarly difficult childhood. She grew up with her single father and her two brothers. Her mother had left them when she was three; at least that’s what her father told her. The only thing she could remember about her mom was her short brown hair that always looked slightly tattered. She was a flustered woman, tall and skinny. This was all that Sally knew. She was a stranger. Both of Sally’s older brothers died when she was young. Daniel, the oldest, was mugged and later died in the hospital when she was ten. Louis died two years later, he was hit by a drunk driver. At that point Sally’s father became absent, he taught her how to pick locks and sent her out to work. She became the breadwinner of the family. This is where Carl and Sally had a deep understanding for each other. They had both experienced very mature and difficult situations at a very young age. Sally had told Carl enough about her past for him to see that she could understand what he had been through. Carl grew attached to Sally because of this.

It was one day a couple months later that Carl confronted Sally for the first time. As she was walking back into the apartment building, Sally heard someone call out her name behind her. “Sally, hey Sally,” she stopped and turned to see who could be calling for her. Since she only knew a few people she could guess who could have needed her. “Carl!” she said with surprise, “What are you doing out?”

“I just wanted to catch you before you went up.”

“Oh, ok what’s up?”

“Well I was just wondering if…” Sally’s phone rang suddenly, cutting Carl off mid sentence.

“Sorry Carl one sec I have to answer this.” She held her phone up to her ear, “This is Sally.” Carl waited patiently as she spoke very professionally with whoever was on the other end of the phone. “Ok that’s fine, I can stop by on my way to the airport tomorrow, around 2:30,” She paused waiting for a reply “Ok perfect, see you then, mhm, bye.” Sally hung up the phone taking a breathe of relief, “Sorry about that I’ve got a lot of important things coming up in the next two weeks, but never mind that, what were you saying?”

“Where are you going?”

“What?” Sally said slightly confused.
“You said you were going to the airport on the phone just a second ago.”

“Oh that, I’m going back to Wisconsin for a couple of days to pick up the last of my things and make sure everything is set over there.” Carl nodded his head shyly looking down at the cracked sidewalk. “Is everything ok Carl?” Sally said after a short silence.

“Never mind it wasn’t important.” Carl turned and briskly returned the apartment building, leaving Sally standing alone on the sidewalk, very confused.

A few days after Sally returned from Wisconsin Carl confronted her again. Sally was walking down the stairs, on her way to work when she met Carl on his way back up from getting the mail. He seemed a little flustered when he first saw her, “Sally, you’re back already?”
“Yeah, I was just gone for a couple of days, I had to get back to work as fast as I could. How are you doing?”

“I’m…um, pretty good I guess.”

“You seem different lately, is everything alright?” Carl looked at Sally with a look of secrecy stretched across his face. He was like a ten-year-old boy again, shyly telling his crush about his feelings.

“I’ve just been wanting to tell you something, for a while now.” Sally looked surprised.

“Oh! Alright what is it?”

“Um… well… I’ve just been thinking lately about me and you…” Carl stopped to take a breath, “I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re a really amazing person, and I really like you.” Carl looked at the ground while Sally took in what Carl had just confessed to her. “That was it.” Carl then continued up the flight of stairs as if nothing had happened.

“Wait Carl,” Sally was confused, “that’s it?”

“Um,” Carl thought for a second, “yeah that’s it.” He continued up the stairs. Sally couldn’t think of anything to say in time, he was gone before she knew it.

Sally sat at her kitchen table intently stirring her milk into the coffee she had just poured. She was thinking about what Carl had confessed to her in the staircase a couple days earlier, she hadn’t seen him since. “How was I supposed to react, he didn’t give me any warning and even less time to react, there was no way he could hit me with that and expect me to know exactly how to act,” she thought out loud. “I have to talk to him, it’s been three days this needs to be cleared up.” Sally got up leaving her fresh coffee to go cold as she headed over to Carl’s to confront him. She found herself standing in front of Carl’s door, unable to bring herself to knock. She didn’t want to have to face him. After a couple of minutes she finally knocked hesitantly on the door, hearing a shuffle from inside. Knowing that Carl rarely, if ever, had any visitors she wasn’t caught off guard by the surprised commotion happening on the other side of his door. As she waited she could hear it get quiet, the door then creaked open just enough for Carl to see who had come to see him, the chain was still attached to the door. “Hi,” Sally hadn’t really though about what she was going to say, she just knew that they needed to talk.
“Hi.” Carl said quaintly.

“May I come in?” Carl looked at her for a moment, and then shut the door. She heard him taking the chain off the door. Carl then slowly opened the door just wide enough for Sally to step in. As she entered she was surprised by how beautifully decorated it was. It was simple, but everything that he did have was interesting. The colors were bright, mostly blues and whites, the accent pieces looked like antiques, it seemed to be a very functional space. Sally moved towards the plush couches breaking up the center of the room. “Want anything to drink?”
“No I’m fine thank you,” Sally said sitting down. The couches exceeded her every expectation. “I just wanted to talk foe a little.”
“Ok,” Carl said sitting down in a chair across from where Sally sat comfortably.

“I’ve never been in here, it’s really nice.”

“Thank you.” There was a short pause. Sally didn’t know what to say.

“So I just wanted to ask if you wanted to go out sometime, to get coffee or something?” It was cliché but it was the best she could come up with on the spot. Carl looked at her excitedly.

“I… yes, yes that’s…yeah, that sounds great.” Carl struggled for the right words to say as he accepted her invitation.
“Great,” Sally said “how about Thursday?”

“Of course, what time?”

“Um, let’s do 3?” Carl smiled in agreement.

“Ok, sounds good.”

“Cool.” Sally smiled while she got up from the couch and started for the door. “See you then.” She shut the door after she had stepped into the hall. She couldn’t wipe the grin off her face.

Carl met Sally that Thursday at the local coffee shop at the corner of 12th and Fuego. Six months later the two moved into Carl’s apartment together, selling Sally’s apartment for some extra money.

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