Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | February 9, 2009

Chapter I – Dreamboat

 

CHAPTER I

 DREAMBOAT

Copyright  2009  Patrice Fitzgerald

 

He was very handsome in the photo.  Tall.  Wavy blondish hair, and broad shoulders.  A year older than me. 

He’d lost his wife, and was looking for love.  Aren’t we all?  He had lots of things going on; tennis, skiing, travel, photography.  Funny how active all the guys were online!  It’s a wonder they had time to go to work, what with all the windsurfing, running, and boating they did.  (Dreamboat’s long list of non-work activities was a clue, but I didn’t realize that right away….)

We emailed a bit back and forth, then made a date for a nice restaurant in the heart of West Hartford Center, a pretty happening place.

I put on the full metal date armor:  contacts and makeup, an industrial strength perky bra, and a skirt that fell at exactly the right length between spinster and slut.  With legs smoothed down and hair puffed up, I slid into my flirty black sandals and walked out the door.

I get there and Dreamboat is waiting out front, standing by the café tables full of chattering Saturday night revelers.  He is handsome.  Not quite as handsome as he looked in his photo, but plenty cute.  I pinch myself.  Is this guy really here for me?  I can hardly believe that I made such a find so quickly on Catch.com.

We greet with a quick hug, slightly self-conscious.  I am aware of his bigness, next to my short self.  He smells good.

We sit down inside in one of the booths.  The restaurant has quirky décor, with lopsided cubicles around each table.  The pictures hang on a slant.  It’s a little noisy, with patrons two-deep at the bar, and a crowded dining room.  Airplanes and other miniature flying machines float over the retro banquettes.  I can hear the sizzle of the kitchen and smell the aroma of everything from beef to garlic.  It’s a lively Saturday night, and the wait staff is hustling. 

“So, how do I look?” he asks.  “Do I look like my picture?”

“You look great.”  I smile shyly.  I feel shy.

“So do you.” 

He lets me take the comfy side of the booth, and I slide in.  This is looking very promising!  Greg orders a scotch, and I order a glass of pinot grigio.  We start out with the small talk.

“How long have you been on Catch?” I ask.

“Just two months.  Since I lost my wife.”

“Oh.  Wow.  Your wife died that recently?”

“Yeah.  I’m pretty lonely.” 

Aw.  Poor man.  My heart goes out to him.  But it does seem a wee bit premature, perhaps, for him to be dating.

He doesn’t say anything more for a moment.  And then, he starts to cry.  First a small tear sliding down his cheek.  Then outright weeping.  And then big, snorting moans.

I don’t know exactly how to respond.  

“I’m so sorry!  My goodness.  How… how did she die?”  This may not actually be the best question to ask.

“Cancer.  I’m so alone.  She was my everything.”

“That’s… that’s terrible.  I am so sorry for your loss.  Um… are you sure that you’re ready to start dating?  I mean, it was so recent –”

“I have to.  I need someone.  Right away.”  He clutches my hand across the table, while the other hand motions our server for another double scotch.  “Do you believe in angels?”

“What?”

“Do you believe in angels?”  He looks annoyed.

“Angels.  I’m not sure.”

“Because she sent me some.”

“She did?  Are they here?”  I look around at the crowded restaurant.  Lots of things are flying overhead, but no angels, as far as I can see.  “Ah – they’re invisible!” I say, trying to be cooperative.

He throws me a look as though he thinks I am making fun of him.  He releases my hand.

“Of course they’re not here.  She sent them to me the day of the funeral.”

“Of course.”

“I was walking on the path we used to take, before she got sick, in this beautiful park, in the woods.  It was spring.”  A tear starts down his cheek again, and he grabs my napkin and sobs into it noisily, then swabs his nose.  I gulp, and when he realizes it’s mine, and tries to hand it back, I wave it away.

“I was in the woods” (sniff) “and walking alone” (snort) “and there was suddenly a young man, maybe 18, in country clothes, like he was from another time.”

“Umm hmm,” I say, wondering how much per hour I would be getting for this if I had a license.

“And he just smiled at me” (sob) “and said ‘it’s a beautiful day for us.’”

The sobs are loud enough now that other patrons turn around to look, probably wondering what awful thing I’m saying to the big handsome 50-year-old to make him cry like a baby.

“Are you okay?” I reach for his hand, really worried.

At this point, the waiter, who has been hovering for a moment behind my date in an attempt not to embarrass him, sets down our plates.  Conversation resumes on a less dramatic plane.  I discover that Dreamboat does, in fact, have plenty of time for all of his outdoor activities, since he doesn’t have a job.  He’s probably about to lose his house.  It’s okay, though, he says.  His therapist says that it will take time to find his bearings again, and that’s natural.  It occurs to me that when the checks start bouncing, she might not find it so natural. 

He looks up at me.  “We’ll split the bill, right?”  He grins a little sheepishly.

“Sure,” I say.  I wonder why he asked me out to a nice place if he couldn’t afford dinner.  I don’t mind sharing the cost of dating, but I figure the guy could at least come prepared to treat the first time.

It was dawning on me that this was going to be the only time. 

We finish up, but not before he has one more double, one more good strong crying jag, and one more angel encounter to share. This one was a black man who met him moments later on the same path and said the exact same thing!

I ask how he knows they were angels.

He shoots me that familiar look, the petulant anger of a boy who is not used to being thwarted.

“I know they were angels because –” he begins to tick off the points on his fingers, “one, my wife used to say it’s a beautiful day all the time, two, these people were wearing really old-time clothes, and three, there was a Japanese family that I passed in the woods right after, and they didn’t see anyone at all.”  He spreads his long arms, and his hands hit the sides of our cubicle.  “So, you see, they disappeared.”

“The Japanese family disappeared?”

Angry look.  “No.  The angels!

“Wow.  That’s really… something.”

“And,” he says, punctuating the thought with a fist on the table, which makes the plates – and me – jump, “there are no black people in that park!”

I nod at this.  What is there to say? 

We pay the bill (actually, I pay the whole thing, because I know he can’t afford it, and I just want to get going).  I consider asking him if his angels carry cash, but think better of it. 

Out back, in the parking lot, he pulls out a cigarette.  One of my few firm requirements on the Catch.com site search is that I don’t want to date smokers.  He had also listed his income as something over six figures.  Maybe that was what he used to make?

Oh well.  So he didn’t tell the truth.  We all exaggerate.  I make a note to update my search parameters to list no first-date weepers, no heavy drinkers, and no men who see angels.

“Can I show you something?  In my car?”  He points to his Volvo, just a row away from mine.  I want to get going, but I can see that he is truly fragile, and though he’s not date material, I know I need to be kind.

“You’re a writer, right?” he asks, opening the door to his car.

“I am.”  He hands me some pages.  I read them quickly.  He’s written down the story of seeing the angels, country clothing and all.

“What do you think?  I figure with the photography that I’m doing – wait, I’ll show you some.”  He grabs another folder and pulls out some shots of sunsets.  “So, I figure that I can get this published, and between that and the photos, I’ll make a pretty good living.”

Fortunately for me, he isn’t really looking for an answer.  I nod my head and smile.  I shiver and wrap my arms around myself, realizing that it’s gotten chilly.  He walks me back to my car, and then reaches in for a kiss.  He tastes smoky and feels needy, but I can understand that.  He seems to be going for a prolonged lip lock. 

I gently extricate myself from his arms.  It’s nice to be kissed.  I’m still suffering from a kiss deficit.  But I don’t think I’d be doing either of us any favors by encouraging him.

We part ways, and I give a sigh of relief as I head home.  I’m pretty confident that I won’t hear from Dreamboat again, and that’s just fine with me.  I think both of us realize that he’s just too tender to be considering a new relationship at this point.

Just before midnight, as I’m turning off the light, the phone rings.

“How did I do?” a voice asks.  It’s him.  My goodness.

I want to be gentle.

“I think you’re very attractive, and have lots of wonderful qualities.  But I think you may not be quite ready to date –“

“Well, you’re a little too heavy for me,” he cuts in.  “I’ve never gone out with someone in quite your dress size.”

I didn’t see this coming.

“Okay,” I say.  Funny how he didn’t have any trouble wrapping his arms – and his tongue – around me when we were out in the parking lot just a couple of hours ago.  But I’m not going to argue with him.

“So.  Where are we going with this?” he asks.

Now I’m really puzzled.  I told him I wasn’t interested, he responded by saying he wasn’t into me anyway, and now he wants to know where we’re going?

“We’re not going anywhere,” I answer. 

“Really?”

“You just said that you weren’t attracted to me.”

“Well, maybe I could get used to it.”

“Um.  No, I don’t think so.”

“Well I didn’t want you anyway.”

“Good night.”

What I learned from Mr. Dreamboat

The Goods

He was great to look at.  I could attract a handsome man.  Woo hoo!

The Bads

Tears, scotch, cigarette breath, unemployment.  I’m not against angels – I think we all have our angels at certain times in our lives.  But I wasn’t certain that Mr. Dreamboat was capable of telling the difference between reality and fantasy.

What I learned about myself

Don’t judge a book by its cover?  Okay, trite, but… something like that.  Here’s this hot man who turns out to be someone who is not even a little bit tempting.  I also learned that it isn’t the end of the world when someone says he won’t date me because he doesn’t find me attractive.  Of course, it was easy this time, since I wasn’t interested in pursuing him. 

This would be a lesson that I would have to learn over and over.

Later sightings

I saw his photo on Catch.com for months after that, and then I didn’t see it again.  So maybe he found just the right woman.  In the right dress size. 

She’s welcome to him.  

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