You know how sometimes you get a phone call or text that is unexpected and out of the blue from someone you haven't seen in a long while. . .
Perhaps you had worked together in the past, or maybe you had just known each other as friends of friends. Then, out of no where, that person reaches out to you and you are happy to hear from them because you had a positive experience with them, and enjoyed their company.
This is exactly what happened to me.
I was knee deep into my dating experiences. I had enjoyed (?) a conga line of Knights but was fairly thread bare from doing the 'what do you do for work,' and 'what are your hobbies' convo. I had decided for a short break from dating so that I could re-focus on some of my relationships with friends I had not seen in a while due to this Death March of dating. I longed for a break from the getting to know you conversation and having to try to muddle through a challenging evening that was otherwise not working out.
Nearly as soon as I had wished for it, wa-la, I got a text from someone from my past. He and I had worked together nearly a decade ago, and I had always thought of him fondly as a good friend, and generally all-around good person.
His text warm and friendly as he had always been. It was a "Hey you! How you doin?!?"
I happily returned a text of "hey, what's up man!"
He was always such a great guy. . .it was such a pleasure to hear from him!
I had been at his wedding, we shared mutual friends, and I thought that this was a call to report in about a new job or some other of wildly successful occasion that he was reaching out to share. He asked if we could meet up for a drink and I agreed. This man had a great life, great wife and a beautiful new baby from what I had heard from friends. I wanted to hear all about his successes. I looked forward to meeting for a drink.
We decided to grab a drink at the Shannon Rose on a Tuesday evening. I threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater, wrapped my hair up into a bun and slid into my Converse sneakers. I felt that this was proper friend attire. Generally in the past we had met for lunch, but I imagined he had a full plate these days, and a quick drink after work was probably all he could fit in.
I headed down to the Shannon Rose and parked myself at the bar. I ordered up a Strongbow and patiently awaited my friend's arrival.
A few minutes after my arrival, he blew into the restaurant. He looked a bit harried, with a phone to his ear and struggling to loosen his tie while walking towards the bar.
He saw me from a few feet away, smiled, waved, pointed to his phone and put up the 'just one minute' finger. I smiled back and nodded in agreement.
He had barely aged. He looked like the same 20 year old kid I had known way back when. He was sharply dressed in a blue pinstripe suit, white shirt and navy tie. He had always been very fashion forward, and I recalled busting his balls about his keen fashion sense when we would see each other.
'Still a great dresser,' I thought to myself.
He hung up his call and then dashed over to join me at one of the only empty seats left at the bar. He gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. He grabbed me by the shoulders and held me back to take a look at me.
"My God, you don't age do you?" he proclaimed.
"And this coming from a man who doesn't seem to age either!" I responded.
"How the hell have you been?"he asked, "You look great!"
"Well I find that the Diet Coke and vodka have been the key to preserving my youthful glow," I giggled.
I hailed the bartender over for him and he ordered a Heineken Light.
He made fun of his own order. "You know we're aging when we can't have the regular beer anymore and light is the only option that doesn't make you all gross the following day."
I smiled warmly and toasted a cheers to old friends getting together.
"Seriously though," he asked. "How's life treating you?"
"Awe. I can't complain. Work is good, been traveling a ton over the last few years and well, no matter how far I move away. I just keep coming back to Jersey."
He shared that through mutual friends that he had heard about my travels and moving over seas from time to time.
We talked about where we used to work together, and shared stories of the fun we had had at happy hours and past occasions together. He inquired as to how my ex was, having heard that we were no longer together. I shared that he was now married, and doing well as far as I knew. We ordered a second beer and some light bites to eat.
He asked if I had ever gotten married. To try to make light of the situation I shared that in my 20s all the wrong ones "kept asking and I kept saying 'no', and now into my 30s, no one seemed to be asking anymore."
|Just slow your row there mister. . .|
This made him laugh. He asked if anyone new was in the picture, and I told him that I had had zero success on the dating front to this point.
I guess he could kind of read my disappointment with my perpetual single-hood and seemed to switch gears with the conversation. I appreciated this.
"Still throwing 'bows?" he asked as he gestured with his elbows poking me in the side. He shared that he had seen me in the newspaper for roller derby a number of times, and had wanted to come and see me play.
"Ah, well it was a good run," I shared. "I am retired now. Got tired of the politics, and my body got tired of the regular beatings. It was lovely while it lasted, but retirement has been good to me."
"Well you look no worse for the wear," he shared. "I had always thought you had a great figure." This made me a bit uncomfortable coming from a married man. . .wasn't like him to come off as creepy. Odd.
"Looks like you have been staying fit," I mentioned pointing at him. "Chasing the babe is keeping you in shape I imagine? Still playing hockey?"
"Well," he began. "I barely have time for anything other than work and my kid. They moved me up in the company and I have had an insane schedule for the past three years. It's nuts."
"Oh man," I began. "You're wife must miss you terribly. How is she? She is such a great woman! Is she still working for the same company?"
His demeanor changed. He shifted in his seat a bit.
"You didn't hear I guess. . ." He seemed confused.
"I didn't hear what?" I asked. Oh God, what had happened to his wife.
"She and I divorced about 18 months ago," he began. "I don't know. I guess we just grew apart. I was never around, she changed after we had the baby, and I guess it just fell apart from there."
"Oh, geez. I am so sorry," I said, feeling awful. I really didn't mean to bring up a painful situation for him. How could I have not known. I can't recall any of our mutual friends mentioning this to me. Based upon the time frame, I must have been living in Australia at the time of his split. I guess everyone figured that I knew??
"Oh don't be sorry," he continued. She's getting re-married and he's actually a really good guy. No bad feelings between us, we just grew apart. It happens some times, I guess. I really thought you knew. . ."
Call me naive. I had no idea.
To try to switch gears to make HIM feel less awkward, I asked about his kid. He was overjoyed to share stories about his child, and he pulled out his phone to show me pictures. A LOT of pictures. He told me that every waking moment that he had available was spent with his child. He spoke of his home now looking like a Toys'R'Us, and how his fridge was stocked full of kid snacks. His idea of a great weekend was taking his child to Chuck E Cheese, and then to the zoo or the park, and crashing at 8pm.
His idea of a great weekend sounded like the ninth ring of hell for me.
He asked how I felt about not having kids, and if I thought that they were in my future. I said "never say never," but as of right now, children were the furthest thing from my mind. I still loved my evenings out, weekend trips away and mornings off reading in bed. I told him I had a ton of respect for those who had children, because at this point of my life, knowing what I knew about the investment of time and energy a child takes, I didn't feel I was a good candidate. . .
"So you really don't have any interest in kids?" he asked seemingly befuddled.
"Honestly, I'm still a big kid myself. There is a lot that I would want to do with a partner before having children, and just think that jumping into having kids in the super near future with someone I just met, might not be the best idea."
He looked nearly disappointed. Why did he look disappointed?
Wait, no way. . . I am such an idiot.
Oh God. This wasn't a friendly drink/get-together. . . this was a date. I just had no idea going into it that it was a date because I had no idea he was single! The questions about kids didn't have to do with my personal preferences per se; it had to do with whether or not I would be a good candidate to date HIM who had a child already. Now I felt like a jerk. . . .How do I save this from being the awkward silence that it could possibly be. OK make this less of a date. . .
"So have you been dating since your divorce?" I inquired.
He divulged that he had been on a few dates, but hadn't really connected with the women because of his hectic schedule with his work and trying to spend as much time as possible with his child. I offered up perhaps trying to meet single Moms through the day care or in his neighborhood. I was trying to sound cheerful and helpful, and just was failing terribly. Who was I to play dating counselor??
I think at this point in the evening the bubble had been burst for both of us. I wasn't ready to date someone with a small child, that had very limited time, and he got the picture that I wasn't the best candidate for him. We shared a few more stories of times past, finished our drinks and wished each other well on our quest for love.
I ran into him a few months later. He had met a great single Mom, and she and he were doing fantastic. I was so happy for him! In a lot of ways, it gave me hope to keep on going with this dating endeavor. And so I did. . .