Jeff Buckley and a Flat Tire

It was Feb. 9, 1994, a snowy Wednesday night in Chicago. I was with a friend at Schuba’s Tavern, one of our favorite music haunts. We met there to see Jeff Buckley, but it was a sold-out show and we didn’t have tickets. A drink at the bar before we trudged home through the snow: Why not?

When the guy with snow-covered hair nudged his way up to the bar next to me, I noticed his cheekbones, his motorcycle jacket, his playful smile. As he waited for his beer, he built a house out of matchbooks. He was trying to get our attention, so we indulged him.

I asked him if he was there to see Jeff Buckley. He wasn’t. His friend had a flat tire outside the bar and called him for backup. Apparently, he called several other friends too, so Cheekbone Guy decided to go inside to warm up and have a beer.

I teased him for not helping his friend and laughed when he admitted he’d rather be in the warm bar having a drink. We talked about the NPR “Car Talk” guys, and he told us Janis Joplin was one of his favorite female singers. The conversation was easy, so we shared a few more drinks.

When he asked for my number, I gave it to him. I assumed he wanted to hang out with my friend and me. (I’ve always been a little naïve about picking up on guys’ signals — even the blatantly obvious ones.) My friend laughed at me. “He is going to ask you out,” she said. But I didn’t take her seriously. He was a few years younger than us; I really didn’t see it happening. Plus, I was 26 and had just moved to Chicago four months ago. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend.

Cheekbone Guy called a few days later and asked if I wanted to go see a movie. I asked him if he meant “go see a movie” as in “go on a date.” Yep, he said, that was exactly what he meant.

We saw “Reality Bites” at the Biograph Theater on our first date, which lasted 24 hours. Six weeks later we moved in together. Today we are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary.

Thank you to Jeff Buckley and a flat tire for making it all possible.