Sunday, March 24, 2013
May Versus December
I was invited to a Bull Roast last weekend. I agreed to go, even though I had never been to one and didn't even have a clue what a Bull Roast was. I had this image in my head of a large side of beef on a rotating spit over a roaring bonfire. Either that or something like the old celebrity roasts from the 60s with Dean Martin and his buddies, only with a cow and other farm animals making insults about the bull ("That bull is so dumb....").
The invitation came from Addie, the former principal of Reservoir High School, where my wife, Teresa, used to teach. The Bull Roast is an annual fundraiser for the athletic department of the school. The event consists of lots of good food, games, drawings, prizes, and a silent auction. Addie further explained that, a few months ago, during the school's Activity Night (which Melody and I attended), a woman who was volunteering that night at the snack counter heard the story of Teresa's death and saw Melody and me. She decided to purchase a ticket to the Bull Roast for me so that I might have a night out, which she figured I probably needed. Addie did not know this woman, but a common friend/volunteer/parent told Addie what the woman wanted to do, and Addie phoned me. I would be Addie's guest for the evening. Mom and Dad agreed to watch Melody for the night so that I could attend.
The evening of the Bull Roast, I met Addie at Savage Mill, where the event was taking place, and while checking in, we found that we were going to be seated at separate tables. I was a bit bothered by this, since I wasn't quite comfortable attending big events like this one, especially when I might not know anyone else. Addie, recognizing this, assured me that we could probably get away with sitting together at either her table or mine, since there were plenty of activities and not everyone would be eating at the same time, anyway.
Addie and I entered the ballroom where many tables were set up (the crowd was relatively sparse since it was still somewhat early in the evening), along with a buffet table, roulette wheels for prizes, a DJ, and dance floor. Soon after we entered, a woman came up to us and introduced herself as the person who bought the ticket for me to attend the Bull Roast. It became clear that she intended me to be her date for the evening, which is why I was assigned to sit at her table. I got nervous, thinking this was going to be an uncomfortable situation. The last thing I was looking for was to be set up with anyone. And I smelled a set-up. The woman seemed nice, but I could tell she was not my type. I think Addie recognized what was going on, too, and could tell I wasn't thrilled. I tried to make the best of the situation, though, and try to enjoy the evening.
We got some food at the buffet table (barbecue beef, Maryland crab soup, potato salad -- all delicious!) and sat down at the table. Addie was seated on my right, the other woman on my left. My "Date" began to throw a series of awkward personal questions my way, and I was quickly becoming uncomfortable with the whole arrangement. She told me she was really into golf, and that she had a Harley Davidson motorcycle, neither of which are things I was interested in. I really didn't like the way things were going and I thought I might just leave early. After she tried to get me onto the dance floor for a rambunctious "Booty Call", or whatever it's called, I decided it was time to go. I thanked Addie for the invitation and the "Date" for purchasing the ticket, and I made a hasty retreat.
It was still somewhat early, so I went for a drive. I was wrestling with a lot of emotions, as this was not the first time that I had been set up. There's a certain feeling of security when you're married, and Teresa and I talked about it many times. We both felt better about being out of the dating world. Neither of us enjoyed it, and we were very thankful that God had brought us together. Now, here I was, no longer with that secure feeling, trying to ward off single women (well, okay, ONE single woman) anxious to get a hold of an eligible bachelor who had been able to make a commitment to marriage at one point. It made me sad to think this was the stage my life was at.
I decided to stop at a frozen yogurt shop for a nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt shake. I would drink away my problems the only way I knew how: with ice cream, minus the sugar. I ordered, and then sat down at a table to enjoy my shake. It was about 8 p.m. and the place was empty, other than the teen-aged boy behind the counter. Suddenly, the door opened and a very attractive woman entered the store. And when I say "entered", I mean she commanded the attention of everyone in the place. She was very tall, almost six feet (though she wore incredibly high heeled shoes). She had very curly, very long fiery red hair, and a pretty, angelic face. She looked to be in her mid 20s. She walked very confidently with long, graceful strides. She was wearing a long trench coat, but it was clear she had a very nice figure, with a subtle athletic build. I figured she must be a model.
She walked up to the counter and asked the clearly flustered teenager for a nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt shake. Her voice was soft, smooth, confident, and articulate, very much like a newscaster’s. I watched as the boy attempted to make her yogurt shake, but he was so nervous that he dropped the cup on the floor because his hands were shaking so much. He was obviously intimidated by her. His second attempt ended up spraying the entire counter with milk because the setting on the mixer was too high. I felt for the kid, since I could see myself reacting in the same way in the presence of a beautiful and confident woman, but it was quite humorous to watch. I used to get flustered by Teresa this way quite often when she would turn on her confident charm (though, fortunately, not in public...).
In the meantime, the woman seemed to be oblivious to the young man's problems. She had her cell phone out and was attempting to make a call. I saw her mouth the words, "Battery's dead". She had a look of concern on her face. She put the phone back in her pocket, and then she looked around and turned my way for the first time. I hadn't realized I was staring, so when she smiled at me, I was a bit embarrassed. She noticed. She walked over to me and said, "Hi. My car just died and now my phone is dead. I hate to ask, but is there a chance you have a cell phone I can use to call AAA?" I did, so I handed my phone to her. She made the call and, after about 5 minutes of giving the operator directions, she sat down at my table and handed me my phone. She thanked me profusely and offered to pay for the call. I told her to forget about it.
We made small talk for a few minutes and she told me a little bit about herself. Her name was Erin. She's 27. She was originally from Indiana, PA, (Jimmy Stewart's home town, and a favorite of mine). She attended school at Indiana University in Pennsylvania. She played basketball there, which didn't surprise me, since she was so tall. She majored in Business, and she received a job offer with a small company in DC. Unfortunately, the job didn't work out, so she decided to go back to school for her Masters degree and is currently a grad student at the University of Maryland in College Park. She's been in the area for a few years now, but it doesn't feel like home. She is a huge Steelers fan. To make ends meet and help pay her school bills, she started working as a waitress at the restaurant next door. She said the only reason she was working there was because the tips were so good, and working there helped her pay for her grad school. She was heading home, but then her car wouldn't start. She came into the yogurt shop to call AAA and wait for a tow truck, and then discovered that her cell phone was dead.
As I listened to her talk, everything seemed to slow down. I was really taken by her, and not just because she was so articulate and beautiful. She had such a warm personality, and I was very comfortable talking with her. I told her a little about me and my situation, and I told her the story of Teresa's death, and all about my daughter, Melody. We continued talking for quite some time, and I was struck by the irony of the situation. I had spent the first part of the evening feeling sorry for myself, and here I was, with this beautiful young woman, connecting like we had known each other for years.
The teenage employee finally called Erin over to get her shake, so she went back up to the counter to pay for it. It was quite a mess, as was the young man behind the counter. There was milk splattered everywhere, including all over his face, apron, and hair. She thanked him and noticed for the first time that we had ordered the same thing. This made her laugh. I noticed outside the flashing yellow lights of a tow truck, and I told Erin that her "ride" was here. I went outside with her.
The man driving the tow truck was a big burly guy, very gruff and not very friendly. He looked like he had just rolled out of bed. He reminded me of a very greasy version of John Goodman, except without any hair. Erin whispered in my ear, asking if I would pretend to be her boyfriend so that the driver wouldn't take advantage of her or anything. I said I would. She put her arm in mine and pointed out her car -- a bright yellow Mazda MX-5 convertible (another coincidence -- I have one, too, though mine is black!)! The driver asked where she wanted it towed, and I suggested to Erin the same Mazda dealership I get mine serviced at, in Burtonsville. Erin asked if I would mind if she rode with me (instead of the tow truck). This was fine with me. I really wanted to continue talking to this beautiful lady, and this would certainly be a way to do that. It was apparent she felt the same way. I think we both knew we had made a connection. I told the driver where we wanted the car towed, and he knew where that was. It was about a 15-minute drive. We followed him over and he dropped the car off. The dealer was closed for the evening, so Erin would have to call them in the morning.
The driver left and I offered to drive Erin home, since it was on the way home to my place. She asked if there was somewhere else we could go to talk. I suggested the Bull Roast at Savage Mill (no, not really). I knew there were a few restaurants that were open late in Columbia. I started to sweat! I mean, here I am, 40+, a somewhat out-of-shape father of a young daughter, hanging out in the middle of the night with a significantly younger, very beautiful woman. This kind of thing just doesn't happen to me! I didn't say anything, but my body language must have given her the impression that I felt a bit out of place. Well, she pulled me close and surprised me with a nice little peck on the cheek. She laughed, then said, "C'mon, let’s find something to do!"
With that, we continued our journey: a journey looking for a place to talk, and a journey towards a new and fast growing relationship. We found a nearby restaurant and talked for several hours. She really is pretty awesome.
It was coming up on 1 a.m., and I knew we really should call it a night. She hinted that it might be fun to watch the sun rise, but my heavy eyelids persuaded her that we should head home. I drove her to her house and walked her to her door. And then we said goodnight.
I walked on air back to my car, glancing back at her just before she shut her door. She smiled and winked. Then I went home. Even though it was right around the corner, it was one of the longest drives I could remember.
So now I don't know what to do. When I arrived home, I couldn't sleep. All I could think about was Erin. Self-doubt entered the picture, though, as I began to think about our age difference. That always seems to be a hang up for me. It has been a week now and though we have talked to each other on the phone, we have not seen each other. So now what do I do?