Saturday, September 22, 2007

Just Call Me Bob

Oh, there is so nothing in the world to put things in perspective like a good friend. I was bummed last night. I was still bummed this morning. It was in a rather somber mood that I wrote to a friend this morning explaining why. This is what I got back:

Oh, my God. I re-read the Kelly saga. I cannot stop laughing out loud. It is sooooooo funny. Please tell me you could hardly keep from laughing all night long. Your voice today with those words re-telling your thoughts [I'm guessing she meant the Paris remark, but that was so out loud]---oh it was so funny. I'll read that anytime I want to get happy. You have got to write a book. Got to.

"Wrong wrong, wrong," Just too funny, every word of that tale.
Ohhh-kay then. So I tried re-reading it myself. I had tears in my eyes, I was laughing so hard. It is funny now. Hilarious. Last night and this morning I was just too busy licking my wounded ego to see it. So, I'll share. I would change the names, but no one in this town reads this blog anyway, and if Kelly does, hopefully she'll get a laugh too, because God knows I'm not taking a run at those shields again soon.

Last September, John came out and I took him skydiving. That evening, we stopped by a local bar/restaurant. Behind the bar was Kelly. Kelly was friendly. Kelly was a single mom. Kelly seemed like someone who had it all together. She seemed bright. She was in awesome shape. She was energetic, burning more calories per hour behind the bar than I do on a five-mile run. She was a delight to talk to. Right after we all traded names, she went back to the register to do something, and in profile, I saw her say my name. The look on her face, the way she said it, hadn't been matched since my first wife, whose particular way of saying it likely had something to do with my marrying her. That that marriage lasted all of three weeks should have been a warning, but no. I'm apparently a very slow learner. That moment, seeing Kelly say it, took me back to those earlier moments. And the way she said it, not knowing that I was watching, led me to believe that meeting me was as much a delight to her as meeting her was to me. It probably won't spoil the rest of this story to tell you that I was, um, how shall I put this . . . mistaken.

At any rate, I wasn't in a place to do anything about my impressions then. I was busy trying, and actually harboring some hope of success, to finally get it right with the woman I had been very much in love with for over 20 years. I didn't forget that moment though, and at some point, actually months later, I wrote a thank you note, anonymously, that I considered leaving at the bar for her. I never did though.

Then, this summer, I learned that I was really the only person interested in putting any more effort into getting right what 20+ years had amply demonstrated wasn't working. So, I did, finally, drop off that thank you note for Kelly about a week ago, along with my number, and a brief note that some things in my life had changed, and that if she might ever be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee sometime, I hoped she would call. Seemed unassuming enough to me. That she didn't call wasn't so much of a surprise, but it also occurred to me that maybe the person with whom I'd left the card never delivered it.

So yesterday, I called. She was actually quite fun to talk to, and seemed comfortable enough. No she hadn't gotten the card. I told her with whom I'd left it. I invited her, on the phone, to have coffee after work. She couldn't. She had to work until nine. Had to pick up the kids. "Okay. I understand. But you should find that card."

Between the phone conversation and the prospect, late yesterday at work, of a rather challenging adventure with which to fill the next year, I was feeling pretty bulletproof when I left the office, came home, got out of my flight suit, showered, dressed and left to say hello to Kelly in person.

I suppose what I failed to take into account is that Kelly, working behind a bar, must get hit on about a dozen times a night, and not by guys who are actually interested in getting to know her. I had thought I was someone special. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. She asked if I wanted to stay and have a drink. Okay. I did. But then, she made no particular effort to talk to me. Shortly thereafter, I noticed, sadly, that whenever she took any customer's name, she said it aloud--to aid her memory, perhaps, or merely to make a point that her saying mine (remember the Thank You card) was nothing special. Gradually, I became aware that she had more layers of shielding up than the starship Enterprise in full battle dress. I was sitting right under an AC vent blowing cold air, but the more I think about it, the chill was more than that.

Eventually, I asked if she might be interested in having coffee sometime.

Her response and change in demeanor was as sudden and only slightly less frightening than Bilbo's reaching for the ring in Rivendell. "You need to get to know me better before you start asking me out." "Sorry. Thought that's what I was trying to do. I wasn't suggesting that we fly to Paris for the weekend. I just thought it might be nice to have a conversation." From there, it just went downhill.

In hindsight, I suppose I was hoping for something like the little twirl that my first wife did 26 years ago when I looked her up two years after first meeting. Kelly twirled alright, but she was swinging a mace when she did. :-{ I could have carried that memory of last September forever, and enjoyed it.

I had left the office feeling like the world was full of promise and ready to take it on. I left the restaurant feeling like I needed to find a hole and crawl into it. I pride myself on having a pretty thick skin, a fairly unassailable ego. Maybe not so much. I can't remember ever, in my life, having been shot down so thoroughly, or having felt so bad afterward. Maybe it was because of the magnitude of the difference between the reception I expected/hoped for and the one I got. Maybe it was the pure shock of having misread something so, so badly. One thing I certainly took away: I'll think long and hard before lifting the dome on a dream or a memory in the future.

And the next time a cute girl behind the bar asks my name, I think it's gonna be Bob . . . just to be on the safe side.