I’m sitting at my desk at work, in the Auburn office. Tom, Callie, and I had been sent to this tiny city again, but only for a week this time. Tom is unhappy that he is sent away from his kids. This time Callie is unhappy too, her hot-shot fiancé is back in town, and she doesn’t appreciate spending time away from him. I realize I left my fruit snacks in my car, and I go to the parking lot to retrieve them. In the parking lot a shrill voice punctures my ear, and I see Callie from far away angrily talking on the phone. She sees me, her tone changes, and she says to her caller “sweetie I’ll call you back.” She gives me a smiling nod, and walks across the street.
Apparently her relationship with her intended isn’t as smooth as I imagined. She hides her troubles behind jokes and office gossip. The scene makes me realize that I know nothing about Callie, or Tom for that matter, and they know nothing about me. All we know about each other’s lives are basic facts, such as the names of significant others and children, and perhaps certain restaurants or movies we’ve gone too. We spend forty hours a week working together, exchanging dialogue, and yet we remain complete strangers to each other.
I’ve been good all week, and I’ve stayed away from Mike’s book shop. It’s Thursday night, and the used book store draws me in like a magnet, after all there is nothing wrong with wanting to a buy a used book, I’m saving money.
I walk into the store at 9 pm, and Mike is getting ready to close the store. “My most frequent customer has returned”, He announces.
“I thought I’d stop by and say hello.”
We silently look at each other. “Would you like to get some ice-cream, there’s a café, down the street”, Mike asks. I nod my head. “I see you’re not hiding behind you electric fence today”, he says, eyeing my wedding ring. “Not today”, I reply , as we walk over to the ice cream shop.
I eat raspberry ice cream with chocolate sprinkles as Mike and I politely chat about our lives. “So, are you having marital problems”, he asks.
“Of course not.”
“Well, than why are you here on a date with me?”
“First of all this isn’t a date, we’re just hanging out as friends remember. Not to mention, I could make assumptions about you too. The fact that you went out with a married lady, could mean that you have commitment issues, because you know a relationship cannot result from any interactions with me.”
“My track record would support your theory. I’ve never felt that I’ve met the right woman, well until today that is.”
“I thought you promised me decent flirting skills.”
“Well it’s been a while. I’m a little rusty. So where are you from?”
“I live in Boston, but I grew up in Chicago. I’m different from you though, I don’t have strong attachments to either place.”
“Well this place is a museum of my family’s history. We’ve lived here for over a century. I can show you the tree under which my parents had their first kiss. I can show you the church where my grandparents got married. Even the bookstore is filled with history. Twenty-five years ago it was a restaurant, and before that it was a china shop.”
“Yeah, my family is from all over. My dad also grew up in Chicago, but his mom grew up in Texas. I’m not sure where my grandpa grew up, I never asked him. As for my mom, I know nothing about her past or her relatives.”
“That must be strange. I like knowing my family’s history; it gives me a sense of identity. I know that thought is very unoriginal and corny.”
“I like the way it sounds though.”
“Do you have any children?”
“No, my immorality level isn’t that high. How about you?”
“As far I know, no children. But when you’re a man, you can’t know for certain.”
“Well there has to be some advantage to being a woman.”
“There’s plenty of advantage, for instance if you were a man, I probably would not be spending this evening with you.”
I laugh politely. We continue talking until the ice cream shop closes, and then he walks me to my car. “Would you like to come back to my place for some coffee”, Mike asks me. I do not know what to say. Although a part of me wants to say yes, a million thoughts in my brain are reminding me of the consequences. This behavior feels unnatural to me. I’ve never had one night stands. I’ve only slept with one other person besides Charlie, and he too had been a boyfriend. As for dating, most twelve year-olds have more experience than me. I know I should decline. I want to decline. However, I want to decline in a way which allows me to change my mind in the future. “I can’t. I have an early morning tomorrow, and I have to drive back to Boston tomorrow night. Can I take a rain check?”
“No problem,” Mike replies. He gives me a kiss. My excuse has worked. I reciprocate the kiss. Mike and I stand in the darkened parking lot kissing, as I try to suppress the memory of the look in Amy Miller’s eyes, when she signed my yearbook at graduation.