Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wing Man

Last year I decided to do something different during the holidays. I just couldn't stand the thought of sitting around on New Year's Eve by myself. So when a dear friend invited me to visit her in New York City that seemed the perfect solution: New Year in New York.
    Traveling to Manhattan, the trip was charmed. Planes departed as scheduled. The bus lingered outside the LaGuardia baggage claim until the moment I alighted from my flight, as if it waited just for me. Trains and subway lines picked up speed and arrived at my stations early. I was never in a hurry and never stressed about travel, and every logistic unfolded without mishap. I even extended my trip a few days to go to Washington D.C. for the swearing in ceremony of a friend who'd just been elected to the Senate. At each turn, I met very kind, generous people—both friends and strangers—who took me in, made me laugh and served me food for thought. 
   As I neared the end of my vacation, one thing had not occurred on my New Year's Trip that I hoped would happen: I had not found romance on my travels. No, I was not looking for a one-night stand. (Shame on you, for thinking that! I was upholding my Buddhist Vows, thank you very much.) But I had considered that it would be very nice to meet someone handsome and interesting while I was out and about. I'm a hopeful romantic, remember? And I was down one Prince Charming.
  Yet, upon departing D.C., I was happy and content, having just enjoyed a quiet morning strolling around Georgetown by myself. After breakfast, I rode the Metro to Union Station to catch the train to BWI, where I had a direct flight back to Birmingham. The train lets out at a substation near the airport and requires passengers to board a shuttle bus, which goes to the terminal. My luck held. The shuttle was waiting for me when the train arrived, and a good thing too since— feeling cocky about my logistic good fortune—I had not provided extra time to catch this flight. As the bus lurched forward and lumbered toward the airport, the man sitting next to me began to cough. Ever the good Samaritan, I dug into my purse and extracted a lozenge. 
   "Zinc?" I asked him. 
   "No thanks," he replied. "Keep it." 
   I thought his response a bit terse, but I let it go after noticing he was a cross between Matt LaBlanc and Matthew Broderick with just a smidgeon of Tony Shalhoub thrown in for good measure. His tone softened when he turned to look at me, the lowly cough drop offerer in my urban-chic traveler togs: black leggings, black mini-skirt and black suede boots. We struck up a conversation and discovered we were on the same flight to Birmingham. As we began flirting, I took note that his left ring finger was quite definitely bare. All good.
   By the time we boarded the aircraft, there was no doubt that we would find two seats together. Cough Drop was cute and funny and, apparently, very smitten with me. I actually pinched him once to make sure he was real. Realizing this very well might be too good to be true, as we buckled our seat belts, I asked, "So your wife or girlfriend isn't gonna to be mad at you for flirting with me?"
    "No," he said, laughing. "No one's gonna be mad." 
   In turn, I told him about my separation and impending divorce, and that I had a son. 
   "That's all great," he said. "Thanks for being so honest with me. Really, that's perfect!"
   Before the plane took to the skies, we had a date planned for Saturday night. I couldn't believe my luck. As it turned out he was 35 (I asked to see his driver's license) and I slyly dismissed his query about my age, saying coyly, "I'm older than you. Does it really matter?" Apparently, it didn't. Descending into Alabama airspace, he mentioned a recent donation to a children's hospital. That was the altruistic icing on the cake. I just met a cute, compassionate guy on the last leg of my travels, and he even lived in my hometown. Perfect. 
   As we walked through the concourse in Birmingham, Cough Drop gave me his phone number. Then he said something unexpected, "My Mom's picking me up downstairs, would you like to meet her?"
   "No," I said, laughing. "That's quite alright."
    And although I hoped he didn't still live with his mother, the fact that he would have introduced me to her made me feel more confident about going out with him.  
 On Saturday night, I took a long, hot bath and spent more time than usual curling my hair and applying make-up. It was my first date in sixteen years. Understandably I was a bit nervous and excited, but I didn't have expectations of Cough Drop. He was smart, nice and funny, but I just wanted a fun night out with a cute guy. And yes, I did think about how nice it would be to kiss him. That's the Buddhist truth. And as we sat at the bar and kissed before God and Man and a few dozen sports fans watching ESPN, it was nice, really nice, actually.
  Afterwards, my very chatty traveling companion grew quiet.  
  "There's something I've been meaning to tell you." 
   Crap, I thought, this can't be good.
   In keeping with my Buddhist practice and finding the good in all events, what he told me could have been so much worse. For example, he could have said, "I am a serial killer and you're going to be my next victim." But what he confessed halted our interlude just as quickly. He hem-hawed around for a moment or two and then blurted out: "I'm married."  
  Apparently this fine fellow had been so taken with me on the bus to BWI that he removed his wedding band along with all moral underpinning—the latter of which he may never have possessed. 
 "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner," he said, as he explained that he and his wife were "having problems. Sort of like you and your husband."
 “Where is she now?" I asked, incredulous. 
   "Back at our condo. What's the problem? You're married, too!"
   "Oh my God! No, it's very different! I'm separated! My husband and I are getting divorced. There are attorneys involved and papers being drawn up! My husband already has a new girlfriend. It’s a done deal.”
    “That’s what you say.”
    “No, really,” I said. “My marriage is over. Yours, however, is not. I have to go.”
    "Listen, please, I don't want you to think I'm a bad guy,” he said. “You have to understand. You see, my wife is crazy! I mean really crazy. I spend all my time trying to keep her from going off the deep end."
 “Great! Is she going to show up here?”
   Cough Drop paused, then smiled.
   “You know, you would probably like my wife if you met her. Everyone loves her. She doesn’t seem crazy at all when you first meet her.”
 “And what does she think you’re doing right now?" I asked, but then thought better of it. "Never mind. I have to go. It’s okay. No harm. No foul. I’m not mad, but I have to go now.”
   "Please, don't go," he said. "Stay and talk to me."
 I put on my coat. I just wanted to leave this bar, get in my car, drive home and forget the whole awful mess. As I walked to the door,  Cough Drop followed me like a point guard, apologizing and begging me not to go away mad. It occurred to me then that his poor wife was probably a perfectly nice, sane person. He was the one who was crazy.
  “I just feel so sorry for you," he said. "I mean, your husband has a girlfriend and here you are, all alone.”
   “Really, I’m good," I said. "Don’t worry about me. Honestly, I’m not upset, but I should go.”
   “You know, I’d like to be your friend,” he said. “I could be your wing man. We could just go out and have fun, you know? You could call me anytime, for anything. Really. And you know, my wife really would like you. She could use a friend like you. I think you would like her, too.”
   “I'm sure I would,” I said, edging out of the door. 
   “Hey wait! I have an idea,” he said. “Maybe we could have a threesome!"  
    I did not see that coming. I'm sure my jaw dropped.
   "Not gonna happen,” I said, laughing at the absurdity of it all. “I'm leaving now. Thanks."
   So endth my official first date. I walked out of the bar and into the cold, clear night. Once in the parking lot, I sprinted to my car without looking back. I locked the doors, started the engine and sped away. I chose a circuitous route home, in case Cough Drop decided to follow me. Some houses in my neighborhood still had Christmas decorations on display, but the holidays were over. It was January. I made it through my first Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years Eve alone, without having a mental meltdown. 
   Though not an ideal entree back into the land of singledom, the date was not a total loss. I learned some important lessons. First, under the header of Be Careful What You Ask For, I learned that next time I traveled and wished for a romantic encounter, I would be more specific, as in: "I would like to meet a man, who is available and not a liar, nor a man who thinks his marital problems can be solved with a threesome." And I also knew that if a man I just met ever offered to introduce me to his mother at first blush, I would definitely take him up on it, and I would get her phone number—instead of his. 

1 comment:

  1. Haha! They all claim to have a psycho ex and I alway think, "I bet she was prefectly sane when she met you. What did you do to make her flip out?" I love dating. It is like the Spook House at the county fair - you never know what is gonna jump out at you.