Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some enchanted evening


I met a man tonight. In a restaurant. He offered to pay my bill.

It's the same restaurant I've blogged about before, nothing fancy or exotic. I love their beer-battered scallops. How can a place in the mountains serve such great scallops? Better than the Jersey shore.

So, here I am, first arrival of the dinner crowd. I have my pick of the place and choose one of my favorite booths - the one in the far corner where I usually sit facing the wall and thinking how much one of the hanging black-and-white photos looks like my son-in-law. Tonight, however, I decide to be social and sit facing the incoming patrons.

A large party arrives, very chatty, and seat themselves way up front near the windows. I order a glass of red wine and my scallops. Soon, a gent comes in and chooses the booth right in front of me. I'm reading the paper and pretending not to notice that he has now sat down facing me rather than sitting on the opposite side of his booth. Heh. This is something that usually annoys me, having another solitary diner facing in my direction. Tonight, though, I'm feasting on those juicy scallops and chilling out with Merlot. Life is good.

Suddenly, I hear someone talking to me. I look up and see a smiling face who is asking what I'm having. He wants to be friendly. I suggest the scallops. He says he loves seafood but he's allergic to scallops. I recommend the night's special, baked haddock. We are starting a conversation about ten feet apart and speaking over the booth. Quite odd, but the wine has kicked in and I'm mellow. He has already ordered a Heineken. I suddenly have the urge to raise my wine glass (above the rim of the booth) and say "cheers" but I refrain. As we eat in our separate booths, we continue to make eye contact and chat a bit. He's a bit hard of hearing and certainly older than I. But he really wants to talk to me.

It's been a while since I've done small talk with a stranger. I find, though, that I don't mind revealing bits of information as his words invite a response. We start with the weather. Doesn't everyone? He has a snow blower and I have been busy shoveling. He offers to clear my sidewalk when it snows again. Oh, boy. He was in the navy almost 20 years, traveled all over the world. And now I'm thinking, where have I heard this before? Is this the guy who was the lunch partner of "Stas"? Holy Hannah! Maybe I misread their dialogue after all. He seems quite interested in me.

He orders his fish; I order my dessert. He inquires about my "husband"; I give him the lowdown on my non-marital status. He shares that he was recently widowed after 40 years of marriage. And his eyes fill up with tears as he talks about his late wife and his stepson who is an architect in Maine (who designed something for the elder Bush). Funny how spontaneous conversations can reveal so much. He owns three apartments, was born and raised in town, and regrets that he never kept a journal or picture album of all his years in the navy. He doesn't have a computer but he does have an adopted grandson. I share that my son's a doctor and my daughter lives nearby with her little girls. He tells me that I don't look old enough to be a grandmother. This is as close as I've gotten to a date in years. He wants to pay for my meal, says it would give him pleasure. I defer but let him write down his name and phone number. He wants me to phone him at the next snowfall. Now this guy was in the navy during the Korean war and married over 40 years, maybe even a part of "the greatest generation" but, still, there is something sweet and kind about him. I listen to his story and I think that touches him. Two lonely diners. I finish my dessert sitting across from him in his booth. No harm done. He knows where I work and shyly mentions that he might drop in sometime. I get up and he stands to help me into my coat.

As I leave the restaurant, I am chuckling. A chance encounter, a man who has lost a partner whom he obviously loved very much. He wanted to talk to me. I responded. Nothing more, nothing less.

And, yet, why do I feel so much more alive and buoyant as I walk over the ice and snow to my empty apartment?

22 comments:

Julie said...

Wow, what a gorgeous story!

I love it when life offers people a a small adventure and they accept. That's what youthful, light-hearted people do (or I assume they do)! It's refreshing in this day and age to get a chance to reconnect with the purer version of yourself, no?

twolimeleaves said...

Go, M! That sounds like a date to me, even if it was a spontaneous one. There are lots of good people in the world. It's nice when two of them get to share a conversation.

zeke said...

Isn't it interesting how sometimes the least-scripted things are the most profound? I think it is great that you were receptive to him talking to you at all... So many folk would have shut him out as a wierd old guy. It is a good thing you did not.

Oh, and he does have a snow blower...

Mags said...

That was absolutely beautiful. I loved your story so much. I could picture everything, and even feel the emotions. Thank you. Please keep us posted after the next snow, or if he "happens" to stop by your office.

slouching mom said...

Absolutely enchanted!

And enchanting.

moxiemomma said...

awww! this is lovely! i like him--you should definitely call him when it snows. go mater :)

cindi roo said...

HOLY HANNAH!

FOR crying out LOUD!

I PRAY for snow in MASS!@

WOW! I have have the
chills woman. CALL HIM! SNOW SNOW SNOW!!!

Cindi roo woo woo

michelledb said...

I tried commenting last night but I don't think I've quite mastered it.

This is what fairytales are made of.
This is what you see in the movies, what you see on tv, what you read in books...this is what life should be.
What a beautiful real life story.
It pays to talk to strangers sometimes.

Barb said...

so....WE had snow again last night, so........WE are all waiting to hear if you made that call. We have more snow coming tuesday just incase you missed your chance today! nudge, nudge

Jenn said...

Oh my dear Lord, this is what I get for becoming a FB Scrabble addict. I can't believe I missed this until today!

Mom, you know what I think: get that number out, baby. Give that sweet older man a call, and maybe you'll, uh, get to see his snow blower.

Thumbs up to my favorite extravert ever! xoxo

geogirl said...

That guy is probably bragging to all his friends that some sweet young thing asked for his phone number...

;-)

Meg said...

Oh my goodness! This actually made me get teary. I feel so happy for both of you. I hope you call him! It's worth a shot. Do it!!!!

katieface said...

i say call him. at the most, it is a happily ever after. at the least, he sounds like he would be a nice friend. i'm jealous--no one starts up a conversation with me anymore! :) xoxo-k

Patti McCracken said...

I can't tell you how happy this post made me. I just can't explain it.

Anyhow, besides the vicarious giddiness, this also struck me: Funny how spontaneous conversations can reveal so much.
I've spent the last dozen years just flittin' about the world, and this is the absolute truth--strangers tell you the most intimate details of their life--and it all comes straight from the heart.
Let us know how the date goes.

nono said...

This is a great story, and I can't wait to read the next chapter. It's Tuesday night, snowing here outside of Boston...so I KNOW you are getting snow too. I hope you call...even just to share a cup of coco while he warms up after plowing your drive. Enjoy this adventure...and please don't mind us as we enjoy it with you.

geogirl said...

"plowing your drive..."

Is that what they're calling it these days.

(What?!? Like you all weren't thinking it!)

babybloomr said...

You obviously still got it, Mater...

velocibadgergirl said...

:D x millions

sunt_lacrimae_rerum said...

What a fantastic post! I loved reading it.

Kate said...

What a lovely chance encounter!

Miranda said...

Hey Mater, where's Breed Em and Weep? I can't get to the site. I hope Jenn is doing OK. Much Love.

The Mater said...

Yes, I've been busy and away from the blog. No, he has not "plowed my drive". (Thanks, geo!) Yes, we have had a lot of snow. No, I haven't phoned him ... yet. I do believe he is "much" older than I but it probably wouldn't hurt to ask him back to the diner for a cuppa, eh?

All of your comments here were so sweet and caring and supportive. I promise to keep you posted.

Hugs, E