My first year in the big city, my heart would beat rapidly at the thought of all of the libraries within close proximity. Not just one! That winter, as my schedule was not completely full with lessons yet, I quelled bouts of homesickness with books and pilgrimages to libraries.
One one such trip, I had discovered a new treasure: Melanie Benjamin’s Mrs. Tom Thumb. I was eagerly reading the jacket, when a man walked by me, lightly brushing my arm. “Hello,” he said, shyly. I smiled.
As I read, I felt aware that there was someone directly across from me in the next stack, and realized it was the same man. He was Kenyan, dressed nicely in khakis, and a blue and white plaid cotton shirt. Polite, unassuming, modest. It seemed like the sojourn through his aisle was mirroring mine, and I hoped this was accidental. But then, suddenly, he showed up in my aisle.
“How are you today?” he asked.
“I’m good, thanks. How are you?”
“Oh, very well, thank you. Would you… like to go next door and get a coffee?”
“Ummm…” I hesitated. I felt a little weird. No one (except in romantic comedies) walks up to you at a library and asks you out. And although while watching said comedies, you may have wistfully wished for something similar to happen (running into a man dressed as a bottle of ketchup in the street, maybe?), when it actually happens, it feels like – What are you doing? I was minding my business in my introvert bubble. Are you a weirdo?
“You see,” he said, “I just moved to the country, and I don’t know many people yet.” Oh, he’s lonely! Maybe this wouldn’t be weird. And I was lonely too. I knew how it was to be somewhere you didn’t have any roots. I said no to the coffee, but gave him my phone number with the promise of getting to know him better, and then “seeing from there.”
He called – not too often, but often enough that I knew he was interested. He was slightly flirtatious, but never obnoxious. Always polite and tasteful. Finally, I felt safe enough to say yes to a dinner date, in public. We decided on 6:30 at a burger place.
The day of, he said work was detaining him. Could we meet at 8 instead? Sure, why not? I said.
We met. It was a nice date. He was thoughtful, pulling out my chair for me. We had an interesting conversation. He told me about Kenya, and his mom and family, and a little about work. I talked about my friends, the band I was in, my faith. He said he was Catholic, too.
Dinner was going well, so we walked down the street for a drink. Somehow, age came up. He joked about being “old for me,” and I said something like, “I don’t think so. Is it rude to ask your age?”. I do remember him saying, “I am….35?” in a slightly questioning way, which I interpreted as him testing me to see if I thought that was ancient. And I laughed. I suggested walking by the river, but he said that, since it was late and the riverside was more secluded, he wanted to make sure I was staying safe. How thoughtful of him!
I had an Adoration hour at midnight that night (which made me feel a little like Cinderella, having to dash before the clock struck 12!) As I entered the chapel, I felt queasy. It didn’t make sense. The date had been fun. It had all been good. So, what was this feeling?
It just so happened that I couldn’t sleep that night, so I turned to the modern version of the Magic 8 Ball, Google. I typed in “Gut feeling,” and got a variety of responses, most from a site called tinybuddha, saying why it’s so important to trust your gut.
Google is also like a rabbit-hole (the metaphors are endless!), and somehow, I ended up thinking that maybe I should Google this guy to see if I could set my mind at ease. All I had was a first name (had I learned nothing in all my years of dating?) and a phone number. But the phone number kept pulling up a white woman in her forties with a foreign-sounding last name, who was associated with good works, charities, and prayer chains. This didn’t make sense. But then, eventually, her name and his appeared to be linked. And then, I found a website where they were written about as a husband and wife team doing charitable things all over the world. And that wasn’t all. It said that this guy was 44. And there was more. On Facebook, I saw a cute picture of him, his wife, and a daughter who looked like a student I might teach, all smiling contentedly at the camera.
It seemed I had my answer, but I couldn’t believe it was true. As I thought through the date, I realized that I’d felt uncomfortable because he did not share anything about any people in his life. He made it sound like he went to work, and then came home to an empty apartment each day. He shared things about his distant past, but nothing about his life here. And somewhere in there, my intuition started crying foul.
So the next day, he texted something like, “Hello, hotness!” Well, I wanted to just disappear. I felt embarrassed and ashamed for going on a date with this apparently sweet woman’s husband, even if I didn’t know. But I decided it couldn’t hurt to question him on it. So, I texted back, “Are you married?”
There was no reply, for hours and hours. The next day, my phone buzzed, and I saw it was from him: “I was going to bring that up. Why?”
Oh, yeah, whoops. Sorry, it slipped my mind! I am married. What’s the issue?
I decided it was best just not to reply ever again. So, I didn’t.