9.08.2009

what i overheard

Starbucks, a weekend afternoon. A man in a suit is sitting at the table across from me, looking anxiously from his watch to the door and back again. A woman approximately his age, mid 60s I’d say, walks in, looking nicely put together, and begins to look around. They make eye contact, and the man stands and approaches her. They shake hands and speak as they walk to the counter to order. I continued working; reading or writing for one class or another. They return with their coffees and sit. Their conversation, which I cannot help overhearing, is about the day, the weather, other mundane topics, but with a tenseness not fitting with the casual conversation. I think maybe it’s a job interview. After a few more minutes of stiff banter it becomes clear that it is not a job interview, but a blind date. I am now much more interested in their conversation.
Taking a chance that weekend afternoon, after who knows how many weeks or years of being single, widowed, divorced, they sat at this neutral and public place, over coffee, not too much of a time commitment in case it really goes bust, and took a gamble that I imagine must be difficult.
Now they’re talking about his digestive system. Something going on with that, but it doesn’t sound too serious. I find myself wishing him off that topic. No, not on a first date! Don’t bring up your colon on a first date! I am his fan, I am rooting for him, hopeful for him, and I wish I could coach him from behind her back; gesture my finger across my neck to signal cut that topic short. He stops as though he hears me, and says in best barroom cliché fashion, “Enough about me, tell me about yourself.”
She tells him about where she works; management, or executive secretary, or some such. Not a job she wants to spend a lot of time talking about, and she doesn’t, moving on to another safe if unremarkable point. They chat back and forth this way, and I find myself attending to my work but pricking an ear up if the conversation sounds like it might go somewhere. It is mostly first date-ish, sheltered and shallow and nervous. The date itself is enough of a risk; no need to push things. Not at that age.
The date starts winding down. Maybe one of them had to be somewhere, or maybe one of them built in an escape mechanism as recommended on match.com. The woman excuses herself to the restroom and picks up her handbag. The man politely stands as she does, having grown up in an era when that was still routine, an era foreign to most of the people at Starbucks that day. A minute passes. The man takes a sip of his coffee and looks at his watch. Not impatiently, just habit. He says softly to no one, “I really enjoyed myself today, and if you’d like, we could do this again sometime.” He pauses and looks down at his now-empty cup. “I really enjoyed myself today, and I’d like to see you again.” He shakes his head slightly. I am looking at his reflection in the window, trying to seem uninterested or out of range of his earnest rehearsals. “I really enjoyed myself today, and if you’d like, maybe we could go to dinner.” Yes, that’s the one. That tells her not only would you like to see her again, but you’d like it to be a longer and more relaxed time, I coach.
The freshened woman approaches the table. He stands again, and they agree that it’s time to be leaving. “I really enjoyed myself today, and if you’d like, maybe we could go to dinner.” She agrees. He will call her. They leave, the three of us happy and hopeful.

8 comments:

  1. I love this. It made me cry.

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  3. interesting (as ever) - reminds me of a date from last year (when I was doing such things), people at next table leaned over and asked, "is this a first date?" - apparently they'd had a bet.

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  4. OK, I don't know how (maybe amplify your voice somehow to make it equally about you?), but put a spin on this so that you can send it to the Globe's Sunday magazine Coupling section. Loved it.

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  5. These things are called "Meet and Greets". I know from a girlfriend who finds herself poised on the edge of this late life dating abyss. There is a predesignated time limit on such dates! Keeps the pressure off.Love your subconscience coaching.I'd like to think he was picking up on your advice through the ether. Sweet.

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  6. Monique, you are a wonderful storyteller. Your writing voice rings clear and true. I'm looking forward to reading much more.

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  7. You're so awesome! I came looking for the one about son going off to college...and the part about when they are little and you don't know that it's the last time they sit on your lap...keeps ringing in my ears...linking you now on my blog. xoxoxoj

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