They say Washington is a lonely town. Singles bars and video dating and God knows when you'll ever meet somebody decent.

There I was in one of those vast suburban malls one night after work, looking for a pair of shoes. I went into a glass-enclosed leather store. Across from me, a woman was twirling in the mirror, examining the brown leather boots she had tucked her tight jeans into. She was probably around 23, brown-haired and pretty.

"I don't know," she was saying to the young salesman hovering at her side. "Let me see the size 6."

He disappeared behind the partition and came back with some boxes. Two for me and one for her. He dropped mine on the floor and carried hers like The Holy Grail. He was young and wore jeans and a beaded belt and snakeskin boots. Innocent looking, a little like Wally Cleaver.

"These are nice," she cooed, slipping on the boots. He held her leg, helping her with the fit. They huddled together for a few minutes, talking in low voices. Every so often their conversation was punctured by her laugh, shrill and high and full of promise.

"I'm going to take these," she announced, posing before the full-length mirror. He smiled warmly, and carried the box to the front register where he stayed for the next 10 minutes. When he returned, he was carrying a small white business card.

"I don't believe it," he said. "That girl and I grew up two blocks from each other in Cleveland."

I smiled.

"Hmm," he said, looking over the card. "It says she's a leg and shoe model."

Suddenly, the leg and shoe model was back, carrying her bag and blushing. "If you ever find yourself with nothing to do, give me a call," she said lightly.

His face lit up. "Maybe I will."

Then she walked out.

"I can't believe it," he said. "Two blocks from each other in Cleveland, and I meet her here in Washington."

He said the word "Washington" as if he had in mind all the women he had failed to connect with at the racquetball courts, the bars, the Kennedy Center, the jogging path, the parties, and through Met Personals.

"It looks like love," I said.

"Could be," he sighed, flipping her card in his fingers. "Could be."