Thursday, September 4, 2008

Everyone's Got a Story

My sister Leah is a real pain. Thank goodness I love her, but still. Outside of Mom, she's the one who nags me the most about this whole "being an author" thing.

"What are you wearing to the conference?" I pull out the brown slacks. "No," she summarily dismisses my best pants. "That's not the story you want to create. What do you want your clothes to say?"

That sort of thing - good for me, but still makes my eyes roll back in my head.

And one of the things she harps on the most is this blog. What usually happens is I tell her what I'm going to write on for the week, and she says, "But that's not showing any romance. You've got to create a tale that proves you know romance."

And I roll my eyes.

She's really good at this - she teaches drama and could set a scene in her sleep. So today I'm going to do what she says. Again.

Everyone's got a story. This is mine.

My dear friend Becca was marrying another good friend, Jim. Black tie formal, interfaith ceremony. And I had a date.

Oh, not a date. Erik is one of my oldest guy friends going back to a marathon floor hockey game, and we were all good college buddies. But still, I wasn't going to my first big social outing in Chicago - my first big outing in over a year - alone. I had a date.

And then I didn't. Erik got himself a girlfriend, and I was escortless.

I knew exactly two people in Chicago, and they were marrying each other. I had only been at my first post-grad school job for 2 months, and the office was mostly populated by women and Mike, the married accounting manager.

I did not want to go to a black tie wedding alone. I had had exactly two almost dates in grad school - including one with a bouncer named Creature, but that's another blog - and both had ended in a handshake.

I believe desperate is the word to use here.

In a fit of despair, I found myself explaining this to Mike and his assistant, a lovely older woman named Robin, in the kitchen. I was whining, sure. But Mike - with a mouth like a sailor - was actually listening - to a woman who wasn't his wife complain about men.

Even then, I knew it was odd.

And then he said the magic words:

"I know a guy you could take."


Mike went on to explain that there was a guy who used to work there who was single. Nice guy, Mike says.

And Robin got that excited look on her face and said the best line I've ever heard:

And I quote - "You mean Jason?" She turned to me and said, "Oh, he's perfect for you! He's blind!"

Let that sink in a bit. He's perfect for you! He's blind! Okay, ready to move on? Good.

Mike hissed, "I wasn't gonna tell her that!" as I whimpered, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Robin quickly backpedaled as she blushed so hard I thought she might faint. "I didn't mean that - I could barely tell he was blind at all - he can see and stuff - I just meant -"

Mike interrupted. "I'll give you his number. He's a great guy. Not that blind."

Not that blind? What the hell??

A blind blind date. My dad still thinks this is the best joke he's ever heard.

I sat on the number for a week. My mom called, and I told her about the whole pitiful story. "Are you going to call him?" No, Mom, I'm not going to call up a strange man who may or may not be blind and ask him to my best friends' wedding. And Mom, God bless her, said, "But honey, when was the last time you had a date?" This from a woman who wouldn't let me call boys I already knew in high school.

But she had a point. So, pitifully desperate, I called. And hung up on his snarky answering machine. Same thing next night.

The third time, still getting the machine, I gave up. "Hi, my name is Sarah, Mike gave me your number. I'm sorry I've been hanging up on your machine, but if you want to call me back, here's my number." And then I went shopping for supportive undergarments for my dress for the wedding.

I got home an hour later to find that he'd called me back 10 minutes later. He'd been screening his calls, and my number came up as unlisted, he explained. And he promised he'd pick up if I called him again.

So I spent several long minutes taking deep breaths while trying not to hyperventilate. And I called.

We agreed to meet at a small coffee house, and I would drive us to dinner - he knew a nice Chinese restaurant. "Would it be okay if you drove me home afterward?" he asked, sounding a little nervous.

The big white blind elephant in the room.

"Not a problem," I replied.

I spent the rest of the week spazing out about my closet. I had a very interesting conversation with my sister Hannah, who insisted I clean my apartment, just in case I brought him home with me. And Leah, as usual, told me what to wear.

Friday rolled around. I got no work done. I went to the coffee shop feeling like I was going to throw up at any second.

He was already there. Taller than I am, with close cropped dark brown hair. Slim, with a nice striped shirt. And his eyes moved a little funny, but he held the door for me. No cane, no dog. I directed him towards my little red car, and he found the door without feeling around or anything.

Not that blind, apparently.

After we made it to the restaurant, he read the menu and asked for chopsticks. Once the tea got on the table, things began to flow.

He'd left the company in April, two days after he got his MBA. He had a good job as an financial analyst with a big company I had heard of. He was impressed about my MA (I did leave out the porn part, just so you know).

He was funny. Intelligent. Nice. And seemingly not that blind.

The date went well enough that we hit a Starbucks to talk some more until they closed. On the drive down to his apartment (My brain swirling - my first time driving in any of these places - how the hell was I going to get home? And was he going to try and kiss me? I am NOT going into his place - you never know - what am I going to wear on the next date? Will there be a next date? How blind is he?), we drove past a billboard for Unbreakable - that Bruce Willis movie.

"If you want, we could see that next time," Jason said.

A second date! Let me tell you, I hadn't had a second date in damn near three years. "Okay," I replied, trying not to giggle. We shook hands and he got out of the car. Didn't even try to convince me to come in. Nice guy.

I went home and called everyone. The order for every single person was, Did you have fun? Are you going out again? How blind is he? Yes, yes, and I don't know. He read the menu.

Next morning at work, I looked up the movie - and it didn't open for another month and a half. AIEE! Does that mean we aren't going out again until November? AIEE! Massive brain panic in full swing just as Mike walks back. He'd just gotten off the phone with Jason - and had the exact same panicked conversation.

"He wants to know if you want to go out again and see another movie."

And just like that, I'm back in junior high. So I pass on the news that I do want to go out and will see any other movie.

We saw Legend of the Drunken Master II. Jackie Chan rules! Only once, during a fight in the dark factory, did he ask me what happened. Awkward hug at the door of his apartment. No kiss.

Same phone conversations. Did you have fun? Are you going out again? How blind is he? Same answers. Yes, yes, and I don't know. He watched the movie.

Third date - the week before the wedding. Sunday morning, he wants to go to the Art Institute and see the Japanese scroll exhibit. I'm game. This is it, though. Third date in three weekends. Big wedding next weekend. My brain is spazing big time.

We went to the Institute, where he showed off by reading some of the Japanese scrolls to me. And I was impressed. We had dinner at a diner, and that night I kissed him. While Jimmy Buffet sang in the background.

Did you have fun? Are you going to take him to the wedding? How blind is he? Yes, I don't know, and I don't know. He reads Japanese!

I decided I liked him. A lot. And I decided that I didn't want to take him to the wedding. A loaded setting, taking a guy you are just getting to know and throwing him into a commitment-laden environment. I didn't want to put that kind of pressure on him. If I had thought it was a doomed relationship, I would have taken him and then dumped him. But I didn't. I went stag and had a great time.

And a year and a half later, I married him. I knew I would after the third date.

And he's not that blind. Just so you know.


lucylucia said...

awwww. That was a lovely, romantic story.

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Thanks! All true, all true. Leah should be proud of me. I can do romance!

Hannah said...


Erik said...

Well, since you asked for stories. . .
Standing Sally up for the wedding worked out well for Erik, too, in the long run. Choosing the road Sally chose not to travel, I took a date and dumped her later. Much later. Had I not stood Sally up, I would have been dumped myself in short order, and I would not have looked for a job in the region where that date lived.

The job was at the high school in Owensville, MO. Owensville is near Rosebud. If that doesn't help, you weren't going to find it, anyway. It's the kind of place where people are news and news travels fast and then sticks around.
I was teaching Spanish three doors down from a cute blonde science teacher named Becky. We enjoyed some good conversations, and we happened to sit together when we went to the homecoming game. "Fast" is insufficient. The entire student body knew before dawn, and soon Becky and I had a new topic of conversation--how funny the rumors about us dating were. In the meantime, in a long-overdue fit of clear thinking, I had ended things with my old wedding date.
Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas those rumors were so funny we just had to talk about them all the way to the nearest Denny's (in Kingdom City) and stay there until dawn--and a week later I dusted off my old copy of "Saucepans and the Single Girl"* and looked up the meal designed to win the heart of a world traveler (which Becky is): Stroganoff with wild rice and baked apples for dessert. I didn't take Becky to Sally and Jason's lovely wedding, and a few years later, we get to trade baby pictures with them.

*a witty little volume by Judy Morgan and Jynx Kragen, who graciously answer fan mail about a forty-year old book.

Sarah M. Anderson said...

I remember the night you called me up to tell me about all those funny rumors about you and the science teacher. And I said, "Uh huh," knowing full well that you Liked her and your students were right, and listening to you explain that you did not Like her and she was just funny and cool and smart and could s%$^& in the woods.
You were gone before you even got there.