She texted me from her cubicle. She was tucked in some corner of a government office. I can only imagine that its one of many in some suburban office park, next to the highway. She’d have easy access to the on ramp. She’d take it out to her second ring suburban apartment that she invited fellow New York Giants fans into each Sunday afternoon. She helped people with welfare benefits.
She wrote, “I only show my picture to guys I like.”
She told me social media and online profiles were frowned upon in her office. They feared reprisals from rejected welfare applicants.
I suppose I should have been relieved. I was a bit unnerved. Her picture, a slightly blurry profile shot of a jet black-haired alabaster woman in heels, tight jeans, a t-shirt with a logo I couldn’t quite make out and purse the size of a dog was somewhat alluring and simultaneously asinine. I hadn’t seen her yet. Instead of questioning her gait, accent, breath, laughs, or random moles and the like I now am left with this curious potentially abstract expression of her. Doesn’t she have a digital camera? Or hang out with friends with smartphones? Or have Facebook? It’s 2011. Who doesn’t have Facebook at 29 in 2011? Is she a Luddite? I can’t date a Luddite. It’s strange enough that she’s separated. Somehow the picture bugged me more.
I responded with a “:)” followed by “You look great.”
She told me she was “not a girly girl but was all woman.” I still have no idea what that phrase means. I knew that this stage was delicate. Two weeks of emails and text messages and she wouldn’t share her last name. At this moment there’s no slack for fights.
“Are we still on for Friday?” she asked. I invited her to a grill near my house for drinks and if things went well dinner. The grill was an adult sports bar in the kindest of terms. Classy enough for a nice dinner date yet relaxed enough to watch March Madness.
“Yes.” I answered. I volunteered directions. She said there was no need and she’ll find her way.
About forty-eight hours later, I sprayed myself with cologne. I rarely wear cologne. I’m still unsure why people like it. I finished my last assignment at my work desktop on my kitchen table. The house was an empty carcass. A too good to be true rental that’ was too much for one man. I headed up to the shower. I showered. Sprayed myself with the same cologne and walked into my bedroom. I threw the towel on my air mattress and dressed from the clothing stacked in a duffel bag.
The first shirt was too wrinkled.
The second too tight, the third too flashy, the fourth was ok, the fifth had lint balls, and the sixth was itchy.
I threw the forth in the dryer.
I sprayed myself with more cologne.
I put on my dress overcoat and well-worn wingtips and headed out the door.
Around the corner, down the road and another corner was the grill. Its red neon logo popped in the crisp November sky.
It was happy hour on a Friday night, quite busy.
I stood outside chatting with the door guy and the parking attendant. They were years younger than me. I was Hulk Hogan, dispensing pop psychology and a few sage tidbits like “internships are important” to the college age whippersnappers. On their advice I grabbed a booth by the window. I faced the door. Come what may.
Her propulsive click clack of high heels approached me. Brand new jeans, slicked back raven hair in a bun. She was a tiny little thing.
I stood. We hugged. We both laughed. Relieved. We were both nervous.
Things were natural. Comfortable. We talked about football and had two beers each. We hated the same TV hosts and liked audiobooks. She listened to them on her smart phone. She worked out but didn’t care that I didn’t. She like every sane person adored Jerry Maguire.
“Can I bring you your bill?” The waitress said.
“I think we’re ok.” I said. “I turned to her.”
“Yeah. We’ll have another round.” She said.
The waitress walked away.
“Weird.” She said. I agreed. Before we knew it the manager brought our check over. He said we have a lot of customers. He walked away. I was stunned. Before I could pull out my debit card she took out a twenty, and paid for our $19.67. “Lets go.”
The winds picked up. I held her tight as we went up the street to the next bar.
“Do you think that was because we’re…” she trailed off. “…mixed.”
“We’re mixed?” I laughed.
“I don’t know. What do you call it?” She said.
“I don’t call it mixed.” I said amused. She took it well.
“We’re a mixed race couple.” She said.
“Maybe.” I said.
“Maybe?” She said.
“Maybe.” I said.
“Don’t make excuses for assholes.” She said. Sipped her beer. I smiled. She questioned. “What? Its true.” I couldn’t stop smiling.
We held hands.
An hour and two more beers later, we laughed about our favorite movies. We had a mutual love Nick Hornby adaptations. We threw back and forth About a Boy and High Fidelity references for a half hour. I said they were in my top five favorite comedy films. She asked for the other three. I said Knocked Up, As Good As it Gets and Dogma.
“Dogma?” she said, “What’s so funny about Dogma?”
I always had this vision of the end of the world. I always thought it would be an accident. That people would be pulling weeds, painting pictures, picking up dog shit and in an instant, without anticipation all your hopes and dreams fall into a fiery heap, even if they’re two weeks old.
I told her I liked how Dogma twisted catholic dogma. That it was ironic. It was pro-catholic. And that “the imaginary god won in the end.”
She didn’t look me in the eye. She stared at her hand in mine.
“You think god is imaginary? God is not imaginary. He is very real. He loves us all.” She paused. It was a long one. She slowly made eye contact. Her eyes were different. Glassy. “The catholic god. The pope. They’re imaginary. You should try my church. Have you heard of The Father’s House?” I shook my head no. “You might like it. It’s different. It’s fun“ Yet another long pause. She pulled her hand away. “Come to The Father’s House. When was the last time you went to church?”
Within 30 minutes I kissed her goodnight. An hour later I texted her, I got no reply.
Optimism will be the death of me.