I sat at a table, untouched drink in hand, near an exit sign in case I needed to make a speedy getaway. I had come to hear a man I’d recently met play in a band. Actually, this was the sixth time I had showed up some place where he was playing, hoping that we might actually go out on a date. I was fifty-six and he was sixty.
When mutual friends introduced us at one of his gigs, I showed up prepared to get his attention. Our friends had asked me if I’d like to meet a very nice guy—retired library director and jazz musician—and I said sure. (They had not asked him if he wanted to meet me. They thought that might have scared him off.)
I had been told, “He doesn’t talk. He’s very shy.” So I’d thought of at least ten good questions for conversation starters: How long have you played the clarinet? Do you play other instruments? Do you play in other places? My question strategy worked, and he did talk to me.
“Do you know much about jazz?” he asked.
“No,” I replied, truthfully. “But I’d like to learn.”
Smiling, he said, “I think I can help with that.”
Since he had answered my question about where else he played, I told him I’d try to catch the band at one of those places. He seemed pleased. So, I started showing up at his various gigs. He would always come to my table during his breaks. After the usual, “How are you?” we began to get acquainted. He actually seemed interested in learning more about me, asking about my childhood, my career, my interests.
He was very easy to talk to, and as the weeks went by, he seemed to relax and be more comfortable with our conversations. I learned that he had advanced degrees, including a PhD in French literature, so one evening I blurted out, “My daughter has a PhD in biological sciences from Carnegie Mellon.”
“Oh,” he said, grinning. “She’s a REAL doctor.”
After about a month of this I thought it was time we had a date. I couldn’t just keep stalking him in bars and restaurants. I knew he had not dated since his wife died three years earlier, and I had not dated since moving to Chicago the year before. Nor the year before that, nor the one before that, to be totally honest. Finding a husband wasn’t important to me—I was quite happy with my life—but I did think it would be nice to have a little romance in my life.
As the band went into their “break” tune, I started to get nervous. I slugged down a little of my drink, steadied my shaking hands, and told myself I could do this. I knew I’d have to be the one to broach the daunting subject of dating. If it goes badly, I thought, I’m near an exit and I can just shoot out of here.
Sure enough, when the guys put their instruments down to begin their break, he walked over to my table. Holding his usual glass of water (I felt a bit depraved with my vodka drink), he sat down. He’d brought me a CD his son had given him that he was sure I’d like. It was Norah Jones’s first album. I was pleased at his choice.
We talked a while as usual before I decided it was now or never. I said to him, “Does your band play every night?” knowing full well that they didn’t.
He said, “No, not every night.”
I plunged ahead. “Do you eat dinner every night?”
He looked a bit puzzled but said slowly, “Yes . . .”
I took a deep breath and asked, “So on one of those nights that you’re not playing but you are eating dinner, do you think we might have dinner together?”
Holding my breath, I was prepared to bolt. Before I could even break into a sweat, he reached into his pocket and whipped out his PDA, looked up and said, “I’m free Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week. Which night’s best for you?”
This nerve-wracking evening was ten years ago. We’ve now been happily married for nine years. Oh, and last year for our anniversary, he wrote a song for me. He called it, “She Found Me.”