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A plain hot dog for me

In preparation for the summer, CNN published a list of “Hot dog ideas for your next cookout.”

The Texas Twist, garnished with cole slaw and barbeque sauce.

The Nacho Dog, complete with chunky guacamole and Bobby’s Grilled Tomato-Chipotle Salsa.

Hot dogs on pretzel buns. Steamed and boiled hot dogs. Hot dogs loaded with Gorgonzola, marinated tomatoes, and delicate frisee lettuce.

Even hot dogs that aren’t actually hot dogs but ground chicken loaded with fresh herbs, chiles, and mango mustard spiked with mint.

The Brooklyn Dog, topped with caramelized onions, bacon, corn, and cheese, is the only one I think is worth considering, but in the end, my favorite version of the hot dog – one of my favorite foods – is a simple, grilled hot dog on a bun.

No condiments. No fixings. A simple, plain dog.

Elysha agrees. I’m fond of saying that I knew we were meant for each other when I discovered we had this in common, but that is not entirely true.

I knew that Elysha and I were meant for each other somewhere between the moment we met in an August faculty meeting at the school where I still teach and about a month later as we walked around a lake in Colebrook, Connecticut, laughing together for the first time.

On that day, I advised Elysha about her upcoming wedding, which she would eventually call off about three months before the big day. I was a wedding DJ with lots of insights into weddings and wedding planning, and even though I was infatuated with this woman, I was still willing to help her make the wedding day perfect.

Little did I know I would have that chance four years later at our own wedding.

We also talked about my marriage, which was coming to a gentle end.

The universe was pulling us together at that moment back in October of 2002.

We just didn’t know it yet.

Eventually, we started dating – more than a year after that walk around the lake. It began with dinners with friends, excuses to see each other during the school day, and late-night phone calls. During one of those calls, she said, “If we start dating, we’re going to get married and be together forever.”

One of my friends called this, “Goin’ hard to the hoop.” Another thought it was the dumbest thing a person could say before dating someone.

I thought it sounded just right. My heart soared that night.

Elysha said that she loved me a week after our first date—which neither of us realized was a date when the day began. We took a hike up Mount Carmel across the street from Quinnipiac University, where I once dated a girl and got trapped in a shower for more than four hours after the bathroom filled with women, and I was too afraid to acknowledge my presence.

On the way down the mountain that day, Elysha took my hand, and that was it. We were together. She’s never let go of my hand, and I’ve been holding on for dear life ever since.

Three months after that first date, we were living together, which seemed a little fast to some, but we had been friends for 18 months before kissing in a parking lot outside my own apartment, so three months felt about right.

A month after that, as I calculated our monthly expenses so we could each write a check to cover rent and utilities, she said, “Can I just give you all my money and let you take care of it? We’re going to be together forever anyway.”

She was right. Six months later, we were engaged on the steps at Grand Central Terminal, and less than two years after that, we married.

It was a perfect day.

Many things signaled that this woman was meant for me, so the agreement on the proper preparation of a hot dog seems a little silly by comparison, but it was important nonetheless.

You see, I am still befuddled why Elysha Green chose Matthew Dicks, and I suspect a fair number of people in this world have felt the same over the years. We are approaching 18 years of marriage, but I still find myself astounded on a daily basis about being married to this woman.

When we started dating, I was almost certain that this magical interlude would be temporary – a fleeting moment of joy I would look back upon with fondness later in life. I thought it would be the kind of relationship you downplay with your future spouse, fearful of making them jealous over someone who once held your heart in their hands.

So early on, I looked for signs that maybe I was wrong. Perhaps this relationship was more than just a perfect interlude in an otherwise imperfect life. Maybe it really could be forever. So when I discovered our agreement on hot dogs, I latched onto that signal that perhaps we were meant to be.

It was comfort. It represented possibility and hope. It wasn’t everything, but it was something.

I think about all this every time I eat a hot dog, which is maybe why I love them so much. They are objectively delicious but also filled with nostalgia and memories and the excitement and promise of new love.