Though it was so long ago, I vividly remember arriving at the appointed time at the restaurant named Chats. It was small and I hoped that after the lunch hour it would not be too busy. Living in a small town had social pitfalls –the “rumor mill” started easily with surmised tidbits of gossip.
I got there first, by chance, and bought soup and a coffee. There was a table in one corner and I settled to wait. The brief conversation the evening before had resolved how we would recognize each other. My ridiculous comments had come out of nowhere – what had I been thinking to say something as silly as “holding a rose in my teeth”. And what if he did have the tags on his coat; or worse, didn’t come at all?
A tall man appeared from the parking lot area – and he stamped snow off this boots when he entered. Nice looking I thought, but that was all. He moved toward the counter – seemingly to order – but then turned aside and stood with his focus at the front door.
No rose, no tags, and nary another person – were we each there to meet the other? I stood up and set my untouched soup and tray aside. My cheeks felt hot, the coffee was long cold. “Are you Tony?” A ghost of a smile from him, we shook hands and he pulled up the chair opposite where I’d been sitting. Unzipping his jacket, he said “I took the tags off”. My flustered reply was that “I forgot the rose”.
Nearly two hours later we were more relaxed, and deep in conversation. One subject was that how Sue and Tina just wouldn’t give up their matchmaking activities. Neither of us though was searching for a new partner. He was used to being on his own and liked his privacy and routines. The timing was too soon for me, I was still unsettled and in the throes of grief.
It seemed like we didn’t have much in common either – he loved watching television and all things sports, whereas I was not inclined to either. He had a grown family, I had no offspring. He was retired after a long career, and an avid outdoorsman. I was still working and taking evening courses to become more computer literate and stay current in a competitive work force. Tony talked about holiday destinations he and his wife had visited, the only places he travelled to alone were to visit family.
Tony’s eyebrows jerked upward when I told him about having spent several years as a working musician with my husband – that I’d played the drums. “My favorite instrument!” he exclaimed. “I don’t know anything about music though.”
When the restaurant staff began to sweep the floors and set up skewed tables, Tony looked at his watch and announced that he had to get home. The time had flown by. We walked out to the parking lot together where two vehicles, both blue in color, were parked side by side.