I thought you’d appreciate this true short story as it happened some years ago. It speaks to the unpredictability of romance in a man’s life.
I had gone for a job interview only a few years removed from college. An offer didn’t materialize but serendipity did—or so I thought. Having exited the meeting and making my way to my vehicle, I briefly caught the eye of a woman, a resident employee of the company.
She looked to be my own age at the time and I immediately sensed the curiosity in her eyes. I smiled, then disappeared behind the closing elevator doors. My own curiosity descended with me. I left it there. But somehow or another—the details are hazy—we made contact shortly thereafter.
Her phone voice was invitational in its sweet thinness–but direct, chatterless, as if subtly conducting her own interview. She didn’t hold sway in the company, I gathered, and, besides, she didn’t know my character nor work ethic to proffer a recommendation on my behalf.
I suggested, in deference to my budget, that we meet for sandwiches, and if she had a favorite burger hub in the Inland Valley, it’d be my treat. She apparently had an In-N-Out burger fetish. “OK, double-doubles on me,” I offered, “and some of those fresh-cut fries you like.”
She laughed at my comedic assumption and held onto her ‘yes’ for a moment, but I sensed a breakthrough. Funny, we never actually got burgers; instead, we ended up at Starbucks on what was a crisp fall night—a Friday it was.
I was take-the-room-when-you-arrive tardy. My drive was much longer than hers. She was seated with her handset to her ear, probably past ready to bail in angst. And then I walked in. She kept talking but her eyes couldn’t escape me as I approached her. “I apologize for keeping you,” I gave sincerely. She extended her arm to me and I clasped her hand. She said goodbye to her itinerant phone mate.
She rose from her seat and her eye level was parallel to my chin. Tall, distinctive, short, naturally curly hair, and spirit-lifting bronze eyes. And a fragrance only Eden could produce. She didn’t leave. She stayed with me, long enough, at ease enough to take my passenger seat and be driven to her impromptu suggestion—a quaint Chinese eatery only a couple of miles west.
Our talk was small yet engaging, intermittent laughter, though she noted I was rather serious for my age, a contrast to the California unseriousness to which she’d perhaps become accustomed. We didn’t talk about dreams and aspirations so much as what were the current circumstances of our lives.
I’ve always been a top-of-the-pack listener. As such, I’d learned to listen also to body jargon and what unspoken words may mean in the moment. I sensed her withholding. Though she very well could’ve said as much about me, looking back on it. She did, however, mention what she liked to do in the way of entertainment, alone-time, athletics. The Santa Anita Race Track.
That one really intrigued me. I hadn’t experienced horse racing to that point in my life and told her I’d love to go. For some reason, I was really looking forward to going to the track with her. She had been the only one to suggest that particular outing.
We never made it to the track.
In a subsequent phone call, our conversation now more relaxed, I invited her dancing. She accepted. We left heel marks, we had so much fun. The band then slowed the tempo. “I promise not to get too close for your comfort,” I suggested, my hand extended for her reply. Her gaze answered in the affirmative and I escorted her to near mid-floor. Having kept my word, she eased closer, unclasped her right hand from my left and placed it on my shoulder. And rested her temple against my lower jaw.
And the band played on.
And we held on. Into the night.
A couple days had passed and we again found ourselves in phone conversation. Again, I sensed withholding. Which, looking back, I was quite amenable to considering I had met her on a whim and at an unstable, still-formulating juncture in my own life.
When I mentioned the still-unexperienced burgers and the race track, she gave no answer this time. Her withholding was even more palpable. She had gone as far as she could go. Or as far as what circumstances would allow. The interview had reached adjournment.
“You know what, Nicole,” I released, “I feel like I don’t have enough time, like if I don’t hurry and get it all in, my time with you . . . . You don’t have time to get to know me, do you?”
She had no reply. Or simply couldn’t.
We never spoke again.
The mystery of it all, Oprah? The race track. I had reminisced on what might have happened—one of two scenarios. What if we’d gone and disaster struck? Like a jockey losing balance in mid-race, his stallion spooked, and they both tumbled tragically, causing a domino effect of fallen horses and riders, to the horror of spectators? And she’d have been sorely disappointed for me, saddened by the tragic events on my inaugural track visit.
Or, what if it had been a blue-sky, sunsplashed Southern California race day in which all riders and mares stayed upright, edge-of-seat galloping to a hair pin photo finish and the winning horse is the one I’d whimsically placed a $5 dollar bet on at 200-to-one odds?
Had the second scenario played out, what if I had taken my $1,000 winnings and given her $500, exactly half, for having invited and introduced me to the track? And then, what if I’d suggested, “Let’s each put $100 of our mutual winnings into a ‘getaway fund’ for an on-a-whim outing of your choosing”?
Ahh, the mystery.
We’ll never know. Because I wasn’t suppose to.
But I know what romance feels like.
I thank her for that.
Would you like to go with me to the track . . . on Pamper-Her-Friday? -Rg2
© 2015 Romance by Rg2®