My first jdate is with my second correspondent, who lists his profession as Educator. His messages sound intelligent, and he correctly guesses where I went to college based on my major – film – and where I grew up.
I ask him if he has any favorite movies, and he doesn’t really: Just the usual classics.
“One thing that interests me about old films is the way they give you a glimpse into the way people talked and interacted, etc. going back almost 100 years now. It one of the unique features of our age that we can have this degree of intimate and direct access to the life and culture of so long ago.”
I agree. I tell him that’s what I enjoy about genealogy, reading old documents and getting to know people: I was moved by how profoundly religious my great-great-grandfather was, when I read his will.
Yes, replies the Educator. Until recently religion was pretty much the foundation of all cultures.
Then he asks to meet me for a cup of coffee.
He suggests that maybe meeting at Starbucks might work, except that it won’t: The one that is geographically closest to both of us is basically a drive-through. I decide to risk an alternative; my favorite – at least, if you go by my Yelp reviews – coffee place, which is well-located and has places to sit. Normally I wouldn’t risk introducing a favored meeting spot to someone I potentially might not want to run into in the future, but the truth of the matter is, the only person I actually meet there is a girlfriend of mine who has her own online-dating tales to tell. If I met her there, and he showed up, she’d probably be my ally, or I could set them up on a date, and either way, I’d be doing okay.
This is how, one sunny Saturday, I found myself sitting in the back corner of a Seattle coffee house, sipping free-range coffee and admiring the rainclouds painted ironically on the ceiling.
He arrives a bit late, and is much like his profile picture: small and slightly unfocused. He first waits with the group that is trying to pick up their coffees, then discovers that he isn’t on the line to order coffee. Sorting out the ordering system takes a surprisingly long time, but things that seem obvious to me aren’t obvious to everyone. For example, although I’ve been known to pull semi-clean clothes out of my laundry basket and wear them, it strikes me as obvious that one shouldn’t do this when meeting someone.
This, too, is not obvious to everyone.
He approaches the table, rumpled and perplexed. I say hello and point to the ordering line.
Oh, he says. He walks back and gets on the line.
Eventually he returns, coffee in hand, and sits opposite me.
I’m annoyed that I put on makeup and heels, and also that I’m a quick coffee drinker – my latte is already half gone.
I ask questions, trying to start a conversation; each question results in a short monologue, about his PhD, papers he’s published, his time spent teaching in the south of England. He came here to work on a project that he hoped would turn into “something,” but it didn’t, though he doesn’t say why, and it’s fine, because he doesn’t need the income, which he doesn’t explain either.
The Educator doesn’t mention any past relationships, so I ask if he has children, and he says no, reminding me that I do have one – I mention her in my profile – but doesn’t ask about her.
He doesn’t ask anything, actually. Each time he exhausts each topic, I introduce another, which he discusses until it’s exhausted, while I listen and try to think of something else to talk about. We go back and forth like that, until I strike a nerve, asking why he left his job teaching in England.
He doesn’t want to talk about it, temper flaring as he dismisses the question.
I move on to other things, but I feel like a reporter: I ask, he answers. I sense the most interesting story is the one he doesn’t want to tell, so like a reporter, I try to draw the story out gently, approaching from different angles.
He doesn’t want to talk about it, from any angle. It was a bad situation. He was sabotaged by nasty politics. The temper flares. The conversation stops.
I’m tired of listening, and tired of thinking of things to ask him, so I don’t, and we sit there. He doesn’t know any more about me than he did when he walked in the door, a few facts he’s deduced correctly from other facts listed in my profile. I feel boring and clichéd and, mostly, unnecessary.
I say I have to go, and do.