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Adventures in Singledom: Part II: A First Date

July 3, 2012

Syrian Doctor cont…

The next day, Sunday I have to work from 12:45pm to 6pm. I wake up to another text message at 9:45am.

“I wish we could meet and continue our talk after I got rid of the ‘need-work’ wingman. He messed it up didn’t he.” I’m thinking this is strange. But I don’t know anything about dating anymore. I haven’t dated in over 24 years. I don’t how this works or how grown-ups operate in this situation. I can’t figure this guy out. And what does he mean by “messed up?” Messed up what? We had a brief conversation at a bar. What is this guy’s game? I reply tentatively and we exchange a couple of texts, as I get ready to meet my friend Liz for lunch. He asks if he can call me. I say I’m busy. He invites me for a glass of wine after work (on a Sunday evening). I say I need to think about it and truthfully I want to run it by Liz and see what she thinks.

“No wingman to mess it up,” he promises. He asks where I work. I ask if he’s always this persistent. “Our talk got cut short last night,” he texts. “I’d love to catch up tonight,” he pleads.

“Maybe,” I reply. “Can I get back to you later?”

“I’m on standby,” he texts back with an emoticon of a thumbs up attached. Okay. That’s cute. This guy is either the cutest, most charming man I’ve ever met or he’s a serial killer. So, I consult with Liz, giving her the rundown of Saturday night’s events.

“What do have to lose,” she asks. “Meet him at a public place. Suggest coffee.” Okay that’s a good plan. I text him asking his full name, since he has my card. I Google him to confirm that he is who he says he his. He shows up as a member of the staff at the hospital he claimed to work at. A link to a published article or two pops up. So far, so good. I ponder while sitting at the front desk of the museum and decide to suggest coffee after work.

“Absolutely,” he writes back.

Then I get really nervous. My stomach is in knots. I confide to my co-worker that I’ve just agreed to a coffee date. She laughs at me as I squirm and threaten to throw up. This is the first time I will be meeting a man since my husband and I separated some 8 months ago. I haven’t done this since I was 19 years old.

I arrive at the coffee place early and order a pot of tea and try to read nonchalantly while I await his arrival. I don’t really remember exactly what he looks like, except that he’s tall. Two minutes after the appointed time and I don’t see him so I text Liz,

“He’s not here.” Then there he is. Tall. Dark. Handsome. God help me. We exchange a friendly hug and he sits down. I like the way he’s dressed. Not too casual. Not too put together. Effortlessly stylish. He’s impressed that I’m drinking hot tea, Moroccan mint. This observation, along with his surprise at my knowing where Syria is leads me to wonder what kind of people he hangs out with. It’s just hot tea, after all. We talk and ask each other the usual getting-to-know-you questions. He talks about work. He’s funny and cute and charming. I like his accent and his mannerisms. I’m charmed. Enchanted, even. This is bad. I see myself in danger of crushing hard on this guy. He turns the conversation around to food and asks me what I like to eat. He rather strangely suggests we should get together and share a meal, he can grill and I can make a salad. Why is he moving so fast, I wonder. Sushi is mentioned and he invites me out to dinner the following night. I know the place he suggests and I tell him about the great little Thai place right next door.

“So, we’ll do sushi on Monday and Thai on Tuesday,” he suggests. I agree to meet him at the sushi place the following evening.

After about an hour or so, he gets a phone call and has to go to the hospital. A terminal AIDS patient’s family has just arrived. He leaves. I finish my tea and go home, anxious but excited. Before I know it, I’m getting more texts. Observations about the family at the hospital and the ensuing drama that he’s witnessing. I reply with brief acknowledgments. Then at about 10:30pm he calls. He wants to meet me and have a glass of wine. It’s Sunday night. I tell him no, that I’ve showered and changed and I’m done for the day. He offers to come over with a bottle promising, “Just one glass of wine and I’ll leave.” Again, I decline. He asks if I can talk to him for a while and I do. I confess my reluctance and confusion about getting back in the dating game. He knows that I’m not even divorced yet, that I haven’t dated in years. He reassures me with his smooth, accented, assuaging speech.

I become somewhat concerned when he confesses to learning to speak English by watching Fox News in Syria, the only English-language television show available. I find this disconcerting and wonder if he is conservative, a deal-breaker for me. I plan to bring up some hot-button issue like my gay little brother at dinner to test the waters.

The next day, I start getting texts early on.

“How’s your day going?”

“Looking forward to dinner.”

“You’re going to love this hole in the wall place.”

These little pleasing attentions help to alleviate my nerves at this impending event. Still, there’s a fleet of butterflies in my stomach. I can’t concentrate. I’m a basket case. That evening as I’m about to head out the door to meet him at the restaurant he texts,

“Where can I pick you up?”

“I thought we were meeting there,” I reply.

“No. I want to pick you up,” he writes with a little smiley face emoticon.  Shit. I told myself I wouldn’t get into a car with him. Okay. Fine. I decide to text my address, despite some embarrassment about his seeing the apartment I live in. Well, this is who I am, I think. Take it or leave it. I text Liz that I’m getting in a car with him, for safe measure. He pulls up in a nice, black convertible. Typical young doctor’s car. I meet him on the steps. We hug hello and we go off to the sushi place. The dinner goes well. I’m being myself. I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I say what I’m thinking. No holding back. The food is very good. We talk about many things. We talk politics more, which I like. I casually bring up the gay little brother and he doesn’t skip a beat. Okay. Good. Not conservative, though he does later make the argument that George W. Bush is responsible for the Arab Spring. A stretch, perhaps and hard for me to swallow, but he’s a thinker and I like that.

We leave the restaurant and he puts the top down. He plays me a song he likes. Stevie Nicks. A song about post-Katrina New Orleans, where he lived for a while. Interesting taste. We find an open bar. (It’s Monday evening, after all.) A pool hall of sorts with a big deck. The bartender laughs when I ask for a wine list. We order cheap wine and sit outside. The conversation continues to flow easily and as I predicted I’m crushing pretty hard. Sensing my reluctance to move as fast as he has thus far suggested, he pulls out various identifications from his wallet. “Here’s my doctor’s license,” he says. “Here’s my business card. Here’s my driver’s license.” etc… I find this cute and charming.

I ask about his family, about their safety, given the turmoil and violence there. He claims they’re safe because they’re in a Christian area. I ask about living in Syria. He begins to describe its geographical location and I comment, “You mean, the fertile crescent.” Surprised he says, “Yes!” and again remarks at how smart I am. And again I wonder what kind of women he’s accustomed to dating. I’m guessing not so much with educated or professional women? He’s not very interested in music or the arts. He doesn’t partake in the plethora of live music available here. We laugh when the bartender doesn’t know how to uncork a bottle of wine and I take it over and do it for her.

His interest perks when we turn to movies. He likes movies. Comedies, mainly. His taste is bit shallow here. Language and meaning of words is an obvious topic, given that English is his third language. This leads me to mention the movie, “Lost in Translation,” which I find an amusing reference. It’s one of my favorite movies, a beautiful movie about love and friendship, though I doubt it’s his cup of tea.

“Let’s go watch it now,” he says. “I need to get into some air conditioning.” By then we were both getting bitten by mosquitoes and the company inside the bar was questionable. We’ve both had three refills on our wine by now. I’m reluctant to go to his home.

“I just got an apple TV,” he says, “We can watch it on Netflix.” This is where my better angels should have chimed in. I had already had more to drink than I should have on a first date.

“You know,” I say to him, “It’s not very lady like to go home with a man on a first date.” He kicks in the relaxed charm and says,

“So what? It’s just a movie. Life is short. We’re just going to enjoy each other’s company and relax.” That this sort of speech should work on me seems ridiculous but that lyrical, smooth accent is working with his good looks, his coloring, his height, his cropped curly hair and the wine and he has been in his web. So, I agree with a mild sigh of protest. As we’re walking to the car I look at him with God knows what look in my eyes. He looks at me and laughs and says,

“What?”

“You’re really cute,” I confess.

His townhouse is predictably nice but strangely sparse.

“I’m OCD,” he says to explain the neatness. There’s a large, L-shaped and ample sofa. The usual TV, desk etc… He shows me around, giving me a tour of every room, seeming to invite me into every nook and cranny, including the closet in his bedroom, which I don’t enter. He seems to be projecting a sort of I’m-an-open-book message to me. He pours himself whiskey on the rocks and offers me more wine. I accept and he places a large, full glass of red wine in front of me as I find the movie on Netflix. We settle in to watch it, shoes off, holding hands and rather intimately configured for two practical strangers. I’m thinking and possibly saying out loud,

“This is bad. This is so bad. I’m going to fall for this guy and he’s going to break my heart.” We watch the movie, we laugh and talk and shift around on the big sofa. Later on there’s kissing. The first man I’ve kissed other than my husband in over two decades and probably only about the 8th person I’ve ever kissed. The endorphins are flowing and the wine is doing its work on my brain. The movie winds to an end and I go upstairs to use the bathroom. I walk into his bedroom and pause for a minute. By now, I’ve had the equivalent of at least a bottle of wine. The light in the closet is still on and the door is open. I peak inside and see a row of neatly hung, colorful ties. I like ties. I liked buying ties for my husband. I look a little further, my inhibitions severely compromised and something catches my eye. On a shelf is what looks like a miniature version of a 50s-style ladies’ handbag. Something you’d see Audrey Hepburn carrying in a black and white movie but about quarter-scaled. What is that? I wonder. I pick it up. I open it. Inside are a passport and several packets of pills, like the kind of packets cold medicine comes in. Suddenly, finally, my better angels wake up and I say to myself, What are you doing?! I put the little satchel back on the shelf and I walk out to the bathroom. Just as I do so he walks into the bedroom and plops himself across his bed. I use the bathroom and come back out.

“You need to take me home,” I say to him as he’s lying there.

“Why don’t you just stay in the guest room,” he says.

“No,” I insist, “you need to drive me home.” We go downstairs, put our shoes on. I ask if he’s okay to drive and he drives me home. He gives me a nice, warm kiss goodnight, his hand caressing my face gently. I say goodnight and go upstairs.

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