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Syrian Doctor calls me on my Shit!

October 18, 2012

In my post, “The Hazing,” I wrote about a weird after-hours experience at Pamplona’s.

Writing about it of course helped me to process it along with the appointment with my therapist the next day and some diorama-building with Liz. (see “Splat Pack” for diorama definition) My therapist questioned the wisdom of giving any weight to the opinions of people who work at a bar or who only know me through said bar. A bit harsh maybe, but point taken. “Of course, you’re guarded, Marie,” she said. “You just left a 21-year marriage. This is the way you’re supposed to be. You don’t want to make new mistakes and you open yourself us to this kind of criticism because you want to grow and be a better person.”

Liz was a bit more nuanced. “Well, I don’t see that in you but they see it and I think you should pay attention to that.” Well said, Pickle.

I tried to take the criticism under advisement while giving it the balanced weight it deserved. I don’t want to be perceived as guarded with walls around me. And, like I wrote before, that wasn’t the first time I’ve heard that criticism about myself. I can be a defensive smart-ass. Qualities that are probably less than attractive to men and not conducive to being open to moving on….perhaps….

Then something else happened, at Pamplona’s, of course.

The story of Syrian Doctor (SD) took up a lot of column inches in this blog, for a good reason. He was the first man to show interest in me since the end of my marriage. That was just a few months ago. It feels like years since that happened. I feel like a completely different person today. I had seen him a couple of places since that one date and he pretended not to know who I was which was a bit amusing to me.

One weeknight, like many others before, I decided to bike the two blocks to Pamplona’s and have a glass of wine while I read a book. I saw his car parked in the street. I walked in and there he was sitting at the bar with a group of friends, including the wingman that had been with him the night we met. I see him at Pamplona’s often and he always waves and says hello.

I walked past SD and looked him right in the eye. Nothing. I sat right next to him at the bar, though he was facing the other way. I had this attitude, this sort of cynical amusement about me. “This is going to be interesting,” I was thinking. I put my stuff down and ordered a glass of wine. I was smiling at James, the bartender and he could tell something was up. He inquired.

“I’m having a moment,” I told him and continued rather loudly and typically obnoxiously, “You ever have one of those moments when you see someone you know and they’re pretending to not know you? Well, that’s happening to me right now,” I told him. He looked around and I made a gesture with my hand indicating SD. “Are you sure he knows you,” James asked discreetly.

“Oh, yeah,” I said, smiling wryly.

I got up to go to the restroom and when I got back SD had moved away from my seat to the corner of the bar, which just gave me a better view of him.

“I’m trying to decide how to handle this,” I told James.

“Take the high road,” he wisely counseled.

“Right.” I said, “The high road is always the right road.”

So, I read my book and sipped my wine, all the while catching glimpses of him and making eye contact on occasion. His continuing facade of ignorance just fed my defensive cynicism and cold amusement. His friend, wingman caught my eye on occasion and smiled at me. He at least had the decency to acknowledge that we had met each other before.

Finally, the group began to disperse and head out into the evening. The place was empty except for the exiting group, me at the bar and the staff. I sort of boldly turned my body towards the exit, my knee up on the next stool with a gesture of familiarity. I was comfortable in my smugness.

Then I watched as SD hung back a bit from the rest and started to turn back into the restaurant. “Oh, look, he’s coming back,” I told James. “What do you think? You think he’s going to try to talk to me.”

“I give it 4 to 1 odds,” James joked.

SD came back into the restaurant and went to the bathroom. Everyone else left. It was obvious that he had intentionally stayed behind. He came out of the bathroom and stood by the bar, looking down at his phone. I was still turned towards the door, the opposite direction. He wasn’t making a move. I looked at James with a smirk. I turned my head and looked at him directly. He looked at me and said, “Is that you?”

“Hi.” I said.

“Hey, I didn’t recognize you,” he lied.

I’ve been told before that the original spelling of my French last name means that my ancestors were either royal or noble. I can easily believe it because, though my family is by no means wealthy or even accomplished, we all seem to subconsciously carry this little baggage of sarcasm and a cynical view of the world that kind of says, “Yeah, I’m a little better than you.” I admit this flaw because that baggage that sometimes hangs on my shoulders was heavy that night. I knew who I was. I knew who he was. My guard was up. I was arrogantly amused. My expressions, my eyes and body language revealed the metaphorical shield and sword in my hands.

He sat down next to me, continuing the pretense that he had not recognized me until that moment. “I don’t have your number any more,” he said.

“Oh yeah?” I replied.

“Yeah, I lost my phone,” he said.

“Really?” I asked incredulously.

“Yeah, really,” he said. He continued with some story about his phone and I continued with my sarcastic, guarded replies.

And then with one shrug, with one look and one phrase he knocked that shield and sword right out of my hands. His shoulders relaxed a bit, he put his own guard and pretense aside, looked at me and said, “You keep saying, ‘oh yeah.’ That’s what you say when you don’t believe what someone is telling you. You know I don’t have to sit here and hear you say that over and over.”

Damn. That caught me completely off guard. I felt the sword fling from my hand. The shield hit the ground with a thud. I could’ve just let him go. I could’ve keep up my attitude, told him to go fuck himself and let him walk out the door. But the truth was I really wanted to talk to him. I really wanted to know what had gone wrong. I wanted to get a man’s point of view, for once. I shifted my weight a little, dropped my shoulders and exhaled. I adjusted.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I really have been wanting to talk to you.”

James was drying glasses with a towel with his classic bartender motions, just sort of watching us from a far.

“You want another glass of wine?” I asked SB.

“No,” he answered. “I’ve had enough wine. You want take a walk?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’m going for a walk, James.”

We walked outside and sat on a nearby bench and had a rather strange conversation. I asked him if he really didn’t recognize me. He claimed he didn’t. “Give me a break. You’ve lost a lot of weight,” he said.

“Nice,” I thought. Insult me with a compliment. I told him how I had seen him at Wal-Mart and in the street one day. He claimed innocence. I asked him what happened and why he suddenly dropped me after pursuing me so diligently. “We didn’t sleep together, did we?” he asked.

“No, we didn’t” I said. He admitted that was probably why he didn’t call me again.

“You weren’t ready,” he said.

“No, I wasn’t,” I said.

He told me I was guarded, that I had fences up. I was defensive, not open to new experiences. When I asked him to take me home and was quiet all the way home, he knew I wasn’t ready for what he wanted, a casual uncomplicated relationship. He didn’t want to work that hard. He asked me what I was afraid of. I went into some schpeal about crushing too hard and falling for people that I have sex with. “I don’t want to get hurt,” I said.

“You think too much,” he said. “You think and you don’t do.”

I kept up some defensive nonsense. “You’re not 16 anymore, Marie,” he said.

Ouch. That hit home. That hit home in ways that he couldn’t have known or understood. He doesn’t know what I actually went through when I was 16. Suffice it to say, that’s when the post and barbed wire of my fences were installed. Shit!

This went on for about 15 minutes or so. He told me I seemed a lot different. He asked me if I was ready to put the fences down. “I have no idea,” I confessed. His demeanor was completely different than the suave SD I met months ago. He seemed more himself, more direct, more…..real.

He told me he had thought about me and how I ride my bike everywhere after a highly publicized murder happened in the area to a young woman who had been riding her bike home.

I expressed concern for his family as I followed the disturbing news about the conflict in Syria. Turns out, they lost their home to a missile strike and are staying with him at his apartment here.

I told him that I was glad that I had met him, that he had been an important part of my post-divorce recovery. I told him that he had taught me that I was still an attractive woman that men would be interested in. I thanked him.

“Well, we have each other’s numbers now,” he said. We ended the encounter on a weird, uncomfortable note. He seemed annoyed with me. He didn’t hug me goodbye but just sort of walked away awkwardly.

I thought about this encounter for days. “You’re not 16 anymore.” That phrase played in my head as I walked in the park. I cried. He was right. This critique, coming on the heels of the Pamplona incident was hitting home. I was determined to learn from it. I was going to let it sink in. I wanted to grow. One of the first books I read as I faced divorce was a long-term study on divorced families. Not a self-help book, exactly. It concluded that those individuals who used divorce as an opportunity to change and grow were the ones that survived and thrived. I was determined to do the same. I decided I wanted to see him again. I was ready, this time.

A few days later, I got up the nerve and texted him. “Been thinking about you. You called me on my shit at Pamplona’s. I’m not used to that. I was impressed. I want to see you again.” Unlike other such decisions, I didn’t consult the usual group of co-workers, friends or family. I thought about it alone. I made the decision alone. I did what my gut told me to.

Just as I was coming up with the wording of the text, Liz drove up to pick me up in her friend’s convertible to go for a drive. I showed her the text before sending it.

“Damn,” she said, impressed with my directness. I hit send. I knew he was likely to either take days to respond, or not respond at all. I took the risk. I put the fences down.

I put the phone in my purse and sat back and enjoyed the drive. It was dusk and the weather was beautiful. Less than a minute later I checked my phone. He had replied. “That’s awesome. Will be in touch soon.”

I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited and proud of myself. Liz was proud of me. I was direct. I was brave. I took a risk and it worked.

…….and then a week later, nothing.  Son of a bitch! “Well,” I thought, “he has his parents with him. He’s a doctor for Christ’s sake. I’ll give it one more try.”

I checked in with him, “Hi. How are you? How’s your family.” I got this: “I’m good. Thanks for asking. I’ve been seeing someone.”

……..and scene. OK. I give up SD. Reject me once, shame on you. Reject me twice, shame on me.

Last night I was at Pamplona’s again. It was nearly empty. James leaned over and said, “I’ve been wanting to ask you, How was your walk the other night?”

“It was good,” I told him. “It was surprising. He kind of called me out of some shit and made me think.”

“That’s good,” James said, “but no more walks since then.”

“No, I texted him and he replied that he was seeing someone. Plus I still think he was lying about not knowing who I was.”

“Yeah, I know he was,” James said. “I heard him say something about it. He told one of his friends that he wanted to move to a different spot. Something about that girl that’s sitting right there.”

So he did lie. And he really tried to keep up that pretense. Wow. Well I guess I dodged a bullet, really. He is a bit of a player and he blatantly lied and wouldn’t admit the truth all the while critiquing me about my attitude. But he was right and I learned from it.

I believe now more than ever that people are brought into your life for reasons. They are gifts or teachers. With both encounters SD taught me something. I learned from him and I applied that knowledge. After his second rejection I texted him, “Good luck with everything. Take care and thanks again. You did me a big favor.”

Look beside me. The fences are a pile of crumbled barbed wire and broken posts.

Fences down.



From → Rantings

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