SJ was my friend Suzanne’s college pal from Texas. Over the years she’d gush about him, particularly that he was tall, and a nice guy. I’d actually met him a few years earlier on one of his previous visits, when I was still coming off a fresh break up and looking forward to my overseas assignment. I hadn’t really had a second thought about him in the 4 years since I met him, and I believe we both knew dating to be geographically “impossible” (not only DC-Texas, but from overseas). Now back in D.C, Suzanne was entreating me to entertain her old pal SJ on that October evening in 1991; he was coming to town for a visit, and she and her husband had theater tickets his arrival night. I smelled the set-up a mile away, demurred, but felt I owed her a favor or two, and agreed to take him to dinner.
That first dinner was enjoyable, and I found myself dubiously surprised. I believe it helped that I had no expectations, had just let down my guard, and was myself. I wasn’t trying to impress or be what I thought he expected. I didn’t even go there in my head that this was a possible suitor or someone I’d get to know better. I still enjoyed our evening, and was a little surprised that he asked me to join him and our friends the next day for a trip to the Virginia wine country. I accepted.
Sitting in the back seat together that sunny autumn day, and rolling our eyes over the obviousness of our matchmakers’ intentions, we managed to enjoy each other’s good humor. The next day we all went to have Dim Sum, SJ’s first experience (and he was to tell me later how snobby and rude he thought us “D.C. people,” to not explain the process of choosing mysterious Chinese “appetizers” off rolling carts–I found on Wikipedia: ” Dim sum is usually eaten in groups of people and at lunch. It is not traditionally eaten by romantic couples.”). As I always enjoy cooking, I invited them all over for dinner that night at my townhouse. I wrote in my journal how impressed I was that SJ helped to wash up after the meal, and how it was kinda nice that my small galley kitchen caused us to bump into each other a lot “accidentally on purpose.”
On his last evening, SJ invited me to dinner, alone. He chose a very nice romantic French restaurant in Old Town Alexandria, (I’m sure suggested by Suzanne) and we had a lovely meal. We both opened up quite a bit for a “first date” in terms of who we were, our families and friends, and things we were looking for “in life.” Turned out we seemed to be looking for the same things. Go figure.
As we left the restaurant, I recall pausing on the sidewalk and preparing for the awkward farewells. I’d enjoyed my time with SJ, but I didn’t have expectations. I think we gave a chaste and friendly hug, and then he asked me.
“Would you like to visit me in Houston sometime?”
“I’d like that,” I responded, still unsure that something like this could really work out.
But I sensed he was an honorable and nice guy who would not lead me on or give false hopes.