So there I was on my 20th birthday, sitting in my favorite coffee shop with my mom and brother after church. There was a man across the way; a mysterious guy sitting in the corner who seemed to be extraordinarily fascinated with our particular table. The man suddenly gets up and quickly dashes out through the door. My brother meticulously notes, “Dude. That guy had a major staring problem.”
He had no longer gotten the words out of his mouth when back in through the door with a fervor is this same man. He stops mid-step about 3 feet from our table. Older, curly brown well-coiffed hair, tortoise-rimmed glasses and dressed quite smartly. All three of us look up at him in surprise. The man steps up awkwardly and says, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t leave without giving you this.” He puts down a business card in front of me with a phone number scrawled across the back. When we look up, he is gone.
Now, most 20 year old girls would perhaps respond differently than what I did in this situation. Any guesses as to what I did? Of course. I carried around his card for about two weeks (it was, by the way, perhaps the first legit business card I had ever received). One day, out of the blue, I took it out and called him.
He was an architect. I was a college student. But he thought I was ‘intriguing’ and ‘beautiful’ so naturally I accepted his dinner invite. Mom and Dad, I was responsible. I agreed on the condition that I met him at the restaurant and told lots of girls in my dorm where I was going and when I should be home and if I wasn’t to call the police. I think I might have even written his name and phone number on the white board outside my door.
Sunny Italy. I learned he had arrived at the restaurant long before our agreed meeting time. We sat at a back corner table, where it was so dark I could hardly read the menu. I wondered aloud about the name of the restaurant. The Architect smiled but didn’t laugh. “You’re funny.” I wondered silently how old he was.
We talked about intellectual things, world travels, my university and his house that he was renovating. We spoke about things I don’t recall ever having talked about with a boy up to that point in my life. He was quiet and thought for a long time before he spoke one of his perfectly crafted sentences. It was nice. I wondered how old he was.
He told me about how nervous he had been the day we had met in the cafe. I didn’t tell him that it had been quite obvious. I wondered how old he was. The stupid lighting in not-very-Sunny Italy didn’t help my guessing.
I wondered if the server assumed he was my father. My thoughts drifted and imagined him as a possible partner for my mother (my parents had recently split). Mom liked houses. Maybe The Architect would let her come over to his house to see the renovations and they would fall in love. But then that would always be strange because it would be a weird feeling to know that my stepfather was attracted to me.
The Architect slowly and deliberately sipped another glass of wine as I tried to dream up questions from which I could deduce his number of years on this planet. College, grad school, an internship, back to more grad school, a long travel vacation, and some other sort of architecture program abroad. Was he trying to confuse me? He shared that he graduated college early, but due to a hiking incident in the Grand Canyon he didn’t go on to grad school right away. So many details. Fortunately it didn’t take too many detective skills to conclude that he was quite a bit older than me…he had at least a decade or more of post-college work under his belt. I tried to weave back into the conversation that I was 20. Not even that I was almost 21, but that I was barely older than 19.
As the night wound to a close, we parted ways outside on the dark street. Of course Sunny Italy didn’t have a bright security light to view the facial features of my mystery man dinner date. He said we should do this again. I said ok. I wondered how old he was…
(to be continued…)