Friday, December 9, 2011

How We Met

So beautiful a day in June
and to know it would end so soon
would have seemed insane.

We wed and traveled the world
made babies and danced and twirled.
Was it all in vain?

We lived as fully as we could.
But a year for a day I would
trade to see you again.

"Hi John, how are you?"
"Hey, what's up?"
"What are you doing Saturday?"
"I dunno.  Probably just gonna stay home.  Maybe read. Maybe just watch TV."
"You should come out with us.  Some of us are going to a party."
"I don't know.  I was kind of thinking of just staying home."
"No, come out with us.  It'll be fun!  It's a surprise birthday party for a friend's ex-girlfriend."


"It'll be fun!" she continued.
"I think I'll just stay home."
"My friend is coming.  The three of us could go out to dinner together."
"Yeah!  I think you'll like her. Come out with us!"

That's how it all started.  A set-up.  A blind date. I met my beloved on a blind date.

Except that she just wasn't my date...

I was 33.  Single.  Again.  An early 20-something divorce, a serious live-in relationship and a couple passing relationships along with five years of therapy led me to this place.  A walk-up apartment in a chi-chi part of up-and-coming Arlington, VA, sprinkled with young couples and singles trying to change the world.  I had just taken a big deep re-examine-my-life-breathe when a good friend called asking me to go to a party with her and a friend I had never met.   It had taken me a while to get comfortable in my own skin.  And maybe for the first time in my life felt okay.  I mean really okay with myself.  And staying in on a weekend, once a clear mark of looser-ness or loneliness, was something I kind of looked forward to.

But who was this 'friend'?

Intrigued, I said yes.

My friend, Alev, lived just a few blocks from me.  We had been friends for a few years and we tended to look out for each other.  We've drifted apart over the years, but I still love her as a friend.  There is a word for brotherly love, but not one for sisterly love.  Too bad.  That would fit.

Anyway, I got ready for the night.  Dressed casually, but cool.  Jeans, black t-shirt, untucked and unbuttoned oxford.  It worked in college and it still worked.  I walked over to her apartment.  I was  nervous.  I took a deep breath.  I knocked on the doorbell and the door opened.  There was the 'friend'.

You know that moment when you first see someone?  From across the room and everything else fades away?  You feel that instant connection and you just know?

This was not that time.


For a moment the thought dashed through my mind: "Sorry, not feeling well; tried calling; thought I'd walk over instead and let you know that I just can't make it."  But no.  That would be too dick-ish.  And I didn't have the balls to pull it off.  We exchanged pleasantries.  Where we work.  How we know Alev.  Small talk.  And I began suspecting she experienced the same expectation failure as I.

We went to dinner.  I nice mexican restaurant in the building next door that has menu items such as "Benitos Platter" and "Gordos Enchiladas."  They bring you chips and salsa right after you are seated and you are obliged to drink a frozen margarita or a Dos Equis with a lime wedge stuffed in the bottle.

More small talk.

We ate our dinner and it was pleasant enough.  But it was time to move on with the night.

In fact, we had a deadline.  The party.  The birthday party for a friend of a friend's ex-girlfriend was at a nightclub and if we got there before 9:00 pm we got a $0.25 rail drink.  My friend had coupons! Okay!  This was news.  And good news at that!

So off we went.  I was a passenger, with a belly of mexican food and frozen margaritas anticipating a nice drink.  Something with scotch I fantasized...

Studebaker's is a B-minus night club attached to a Courtyard Marriott in Tyson's Corner, Virginia.  If you don't know the area, close your eyes and imagine suburbia and strip malls run amok trying to be cool.  That is Studebaker's.  At least that was Studebaker's in 1999.

The three of us parked and went in.  It was early.  Too early.  Throughout the cavernous pitch black dance floor blared the latest club music.  Strobes flashed and green lasers scanned the floor.  Red lights illuminated the too-hip DJ as he held one side of his headphone to one ear and queued up the next song for the crowd of, of, well, of no one.  It was completely empty aside from a small clutch standing off to the side near the bar.  We made a beeline to the bar and dutifully ordered our $0.25 drinks.  We added ourselves to the circle that now numbered about 12.  We stood there.  A few spoke.  There was nervous laughter.  We tried to gently dance to the music, but not obviously.  We studied our drinks.  I was transported back to one of any of several non-descript, uncomfortable high-school dances.  It sucked.

As my eyes adjusted I found myself standing next to a young women.  I don't remember if she had been there the whole time or had just appeared.  Petite. Dark-hair, best I could tell in the light. Skirt. Nice legs.  And there we were.  I mean, who shows up at a night club at 8:45 p.m. anyway?  Losers, that's who.  Or those of us with a $0.25 drink coupon.

I was looking for anything.  Something to pull me out of this.
"So," I started, "I guess you here for the twenty-five cent drinks?"
She turned to me. Her eyes lit up.  "Yes!"
She was equally interested in moving past this discomfort.
"Yes - I am here for the twenty-five cent drinks.  And speaking of quarter-drinks," she continued, "have you seen the new quarters?"

The new state quarters had just been issued and Delaware had just come out!  What a line.

I had something in common with her.  It was quite the stretch but anything, ANYTHING, to get out of this awkwardness. "Yes," I said, "I have seen the new quarters!"
And we talked about the quarters for a bit.
"And have you seen the new twenty-dollar bill?"
"Yes, I have!  And what is the deal with Jackson's big head."
She laughed and said something.
I laughed and said something back.

And we were off.  We talked about everything and nothing.  We got drinks.  Shared stories.  Laughed some more.

And danced.

Madonna's Ray of Light had just came out and when the DJ played it she grabbed my arm and we ran to the dance floor.  It was wonderful.  She was beautiful and sexy and fun.  And a great dancer. I remember that moment like a scene from a movie where the camera pans around the couple in the opposite direction of their spinning.

I was dizzy.  I didn't know it at the time but I was falling in love.  After we danced we talked some more and I asked for her phone number so I could call her the next day and ask her out on a date.  Which is what I did.  It was a wonderful first date.  Followed by another.  And eventually we got married on that day in June.

We danced for just over ten years.  Along the way we settled into a comfortable rhythm.  We added two young dance partners.  We were traveling the world in time and space. We had our moments, but we mostly had fun.  And we danced up until the end.

I mentioned to a close friend recently that you never know when a dance is to be the last dance.  You just never know which goodbye or hug or love making will be the last one.  And how could you?

I'm glad for the memories, bittersweet though they are.  And now I hold onto my new moments and memories maybe a little more tenderly as they are each so precious.  And I never know which one will be the last.