Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Date # 10: Half Way Home

This date took place on a Sunday; we were to meet in front of one of my favorite Portland breakfast places, the Vita café on Alberta. I told Al, my date, that it was on 30th and Alberta. When I arrived at the Vita, I noticed, to my horror, that the Vita was not there, and in the wonderful building that had housed it, a new BBQ place was set to move in. Panic, heartbreak, woe. As I angrily began wondering what happened to the Portland I used to know, I looked across the street and saw that the Vita had just moved. Relief, joy, exhilaration. I crossed the street, parked and locked my bike, and leaned against the new Vita, which would be re-opening in a matter of days. Down the street, the church was letting people in through its doors, and there were many ushers on the street, greeting people at the entrances. As I stood there, I noticed that one well-dressed, church-going gentleman kept looking over at me. This made me nervous, as I had already had one person approach me with God materials that week, and it was all I could do to be polite about it. I was really hoping Al would show up soon so I would not have to find out what horrible things would come out of my mouth when approached once again by one of God’s army.

Thankfully, Al soon came toward me from across the street. We decided to walk around a bit, and as I was still carrying my bike bag, he offered to put it in his trunk while we walked. Though it made me nervous, I agreed; keeping my bag in his trunk would make it difficult to leave quickly if I had to, but I decided to chance it. I had brought my Tevas to wear on this date, as I was planning to go grocery shopping later and would not have room in my bag for what I was planning on buying if my boots were in my bag. Al had told me in his initial email that he wanted to walk around first before we decided to eat so we could determine whether or not we would want to sit down to a meal with each other.  This seemed like pretty sound thinking to me, made even more so by the beauty of the warm and sunny spring day.
We walked down Alberta towards MLK, and then walked over to Going street and back up. Al was quite an individual. He had traveled all over since he was very young and had worked all over the world as an IT guy for the finance industry. He had worked in Austria, Hong Kong, and New York, and by the time he reached his forties, had enough money to retire on. He was not the type of guy who seemed wealthy enough to retire; he was casually dressed in jeans and a long sleeve button down and had the air of someone who was not all that concerned with appearances. As we walked I had to ask what he did with his time since he didn’t work. I could not imagine being able to do anything you wanted with your days; I would be afraid to just fritter them away doing nothing. Al did not have this problem. He spent his time playing Bridge. Evidently, people all over the world pay other people, smart people, to play Bridge for them in order to accumulate points. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet both do this. I had never in a million years dreamed this even occurred in life. Really, I could not believe how amazing this guy was; in addition to his professional achievements, people paid him to play cards. Additionally, he stopped working after he felt like he had enough. How many people do that? How many people stop working when they have come to the realization that they don’t need anything more, how many can stop and say “enough”? Inconceivable. We also talked about our families; why we each had felt our previous relationships did not work and how our family lives might have fed into this. Al had been abused as a kid by his father. It occurred to me as he told me this that many of the guys I had met on Craigslist had this in common. Al had the ability to express his feelings on a level not many could; he was analytical and even objective about his own experiences. He spoke with an awareness I had not encountered in a very long time. More to the point, I could tell he was smarter than me.
After we had walked around for about an hour or so, Al and I were both hot and hungry, so we decided to find a place to sit and maybe eat. We chose a place on Alberta called Thai Noon, which felt sufficiently cool as we walked in through its large doorway. As we sat, I got a better look at him. I wasn’t able to see it before, but he was pretty handsome. When he spoke to me, he really looked at me, into my eyes, like he was searching for something. I have had the experience before where people look at you in a way which challenges you; without saying a word, a staring contest begins, and it is usually a challenge I am very capable of meeting. I was not sure if he was doing this or if this was how he normally held a conversation; either way, it was obvious he was pretty intense. Al also turned out to be Jewish. Oh, my poor dead mother would have loved to have heard this one; a nice Jewish boy who is retired. Really, the only other thing that would have pleased her more is if he had been a doctor, which is ironic as my cousin, whom she considered a daughter, married a doctor who ended up driving her to a very slow and painful death. It is true; if my mother were in a grave, she would be turning over in it. As it stands, she is in a box in my closet, waiting to be scattered into the Pacific Ocean. I am sure I will get to that at some point.
We sat there eating and talking for roughly three or four hours more. As we were talking about relationships, Al asked me what I was looking for, and I had to admit that I did not know, that I was trying to figure out who I was again, and because of this, I was not sure what this new person I was turning into needed in the way of a relationship. He conceded that he too had not a clue, but posited that he thought that if two people went into a relationship together, making an agreement to work towards growing together, and giving each other what the other needed, that it could work. I was skeptical; neither of us could think of a couple we had known to be a good model. I asked what about attraction, similar life paths, or my usual problem, inconsistent communication styles? He believed that none of this would matter if each person consciously worked toward giving the other person what they needed in the relationship. I was still skeptical, but I could feel myself growing to like him more and more.
My feelings were starting to throw me into a minor state of panic. I was wondering how it was that the day before I could not dream of liking two people at once, and here I was, feeling conflicted about my feelings for both Seven and Al. This is the type of situation that makes me think I am completely fucked, but luckily I am very good at throwing caution to the wind and just going with it, so that is what I did. We decided to walk a bit after our lunch, and tried to find the shade in our walk as we are both sensitive to the sun. While the long afternoon shadows were providing shade, there was not enough, and Al suggested we go to a park. I considered telling Al the truth, that I had a date with Seven later that night, but I decided against it, instead telling him I had to do some things to prepare for an early start at work the next day. He walked me to his car to get my bike bag, and then carried it for me to where my bike was locked up. I sat down on the sidewalk and took off my Tevas to reveal several blisters on the sides and bottoms of my feet which had developed over the course of our walk that morning and afternoon. Stupid Tevas; they always produce blisters the first few times I wear them every summer. We sat on the pavement together and talked about getting together again later in the week. Of course, he was wide open. We made plans for Tuesday evening, and then he leaned in and kissed me. I was a bit surprised and nervous, and as he pulled away from our kiss, I giggled nervously, and could not find the fortitude to look at him directly. Yup. It seemed I was very capable of liking two people at once.
As I jumped on my bike and rode away, I looked back to see him watching me. I didn’t know what it meant, but something inside me was scared, and I had no idea why. I figured I had time to find out, after all, I had started this experiment with the intention of being open to anything that might happen, and it seemed like that fear was telling me “anything” was coming.

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