I arrived 20 minutes early. I sat in my car for the first 10, and then slowly made my way towards the front door of the restaurant located in the corner of small shopping strip off the main street. I wore my off white sleeveless silk blouse, tucked into navy blue fabric pants that cut off at the ankle, with shiny black pumps. I wanted to dress as though I was going to a job interview at a law firm – not like I was getting paid to go to dinner with a man who could almost pass as my grandfather. I was the only person around, he surely had the advantage – he could drive past, see me, change his mind and gun it in the opposite direction…
He did not, however. Only a few short moments went by before I saw a man pull up in a shiny new BMW. He stepped out, and I knew right away it was him.
He was short. Very short – much shorter than me, with round thick rimmed glasses, black beard, and smiling, boyish eyes. He wore khaki slacks and a dark button down beneath a warm brown vest. He approached me with a wide smile and took my hand in his. I felt relieved. I liked him right away.
“Excuse me,” he said, “but I was not expecting you to be early as well – I need to make a quick stop at the store next door. It’s right here.”
I was friendly and easy going. “Of course! Would you like me to come with you?” He shrugged with those same smiling eyes of his and gestured towards the store, offering for me to accompany him. We stepped inside and he walked straight for the ATM. Oh right, I thought. No shame here. Is he going to just hand it to me? Nope. He took out his wallet and put the bills inside, and we walked back out towards the restaurant.
We were the only english speakers in the small and homey yet upscale Japanese eatery where all of the servers and wait staff knew him by name. The very same exact name (first and last) as my great uncle who I adore, ironically. I will call him Mr. Fox.
“Shall we bring you your bottle Mr. Fox?”
The waitress brought out a tall half-full bottle of sake with a tag around the neck that read “Fox.” I wondered briefly about the young lady whom he had surely started this particular bottle with that we would now be finishing together. The waitress poured us each a glass, and when she was finished he asked for two more glasses. When they were brought to our table, he filled them with sake, walked over to the bar and set them on the ledge for the chef and server. When the server noticed, he brought his glass of sake over to our table, bowed and took a drink with Mr. Fox, then exited. Well that was different. How thoughtful…
There we were, sitting, facing each other across a very small candle lit table. I felt very natural and very calm. Just your run-of-the-mill dinner date… but I am 26, and he is 62, and he handed me a blank white envelope with $160 dollars inside. For what? Meeting him for dinner, no strings attached.
He was married once, then divorced many years ago. No children. Another lifetime, he said. These days he is single and alone, or more accurately, lonely. We sat there eating various forms of raw fish and rice and drinking sake and talked for 2 and a half hours. We talked about film, art, music, shared stories.
“I’ll give you $300 if you can guess what I majored in!” He challenged with that mischievous look. Well, I thought, It can’t be anything obvious… surely not computer science, or mathematics. He gave me 3 tries – but I struck out each time. “Early childhood development!” He said triumphantly. I must admit that I was amused and surprised that this successful tech executive from the Midwest who had landed himself out on the West Coast kicked off his career as a Kindergarden teacher.
He continued. “Now, for $1000, guess what my next job was.” Shoot, I thought. I’m not going to get this right – but how nice would that be! I gave it a shot but low and behold I had no idea. Ready?
Who knew. He liked this guessing game, and he liked to amuse. Mostly, he liked to talk, and to share his life, which worked out just fine for me. I loved to listen.
He was kind, nice, smart, funny, and easy to talk to and I did not even notice the time fly by. After I left, he messaged me with a few film titles that he recommended I watch, and told me that he had had a wonderful time and would love to see me again.
I had a nice time too, Mr. Fox. But I do not see us progressing romantically. It was lovely to meet you. I’m sorry we will not work out, but I am thankful for dinner, great conversation, stories… and for the cash of course. While this may have been my first rodeo, I am no stranger to letting a man down easy.
Would I do this a hundred times over? Yes, I am afraid so.
What can I say. I am just a girl.