Just back from a late and long lunch with co-worker K. Daily Grill on M Street. (No crying.) I think The Powers That Be have been kind to me today, soothing my foul mood with a productive morning of work, a heartwarming e-card from my family in Israel, a phone call from my older baby brother (he moved to Israel last month so I'm really feeling his absence this year -- Be'er Sheva is so much farther away than Boston), and a run-in with an extremely handsome stranger at my favorite lunch place.
Have you ever had a missed connection with someone -- say, you fail to chat up an attractive stranger who smiles at you on the subway, and for the next few weeks you alternately kick yourself and fantasize about the introduction you wish you'd had the chutzpah to make? That's what happened to me a few weeks ago.
I was in line at the sushi bar reaching for some spicy tuna when someone next to me said, "Hey, I wanted that piece!" It's possible he had his heart set on that particular bit of maki, but his tone was more flirting than fighting. I half-glanced at him and snarked back, "It's good to want things." It was the first thing that came to mind, and it was so stupid. Honestly, he made me nervous: There's a big part of me that still feels like a shy, awkward, funny-looking teenager. It's not that I don't know how to talk to men now, just that I get flustered when the flirting takes place under circumstances not of my own creation or control. Again, so stupid. But I am what I am.
I put the lid on my sushi and hustled over to the checkout line, where the guy shuffled in behind me a moment later. I could feel him looking at me. Jesus, he was so cute. I kept my eyes forward. The man at the register took my cash and said, "See you tomorrow!" and I made sure to reply loud enough so Handsome could hear, "Yep, every day!" Three weeks later I still regret not turning around and saying something witty, something goofy, just something. Silly girl!
I conjured up a little fantasy about running into Handsome on my birthday. I'd be wearing a conversation piece, maybe an "It's My Birthday!" pin that would beg the question, "So, how old are you?" I'd feign indignance -- "A lady never tells!" -- then playfully squeeze his arm and say, "Just kidding, I'm 30 today." And then he would tell me I don't look a day over 24, and spirit me away on one of those old-fashioned dates in a restaurant with a smug maitre d' and award-winning Cabernet.
In reality things did not play out exactly that way. But they did play out: When K and I left the office for Daily Grill today we walked down M Street past the same lunch place, and not 20 paces ahead of me I saw Handsome heading inside.
"K," I breathed, "I cannot pass up this opportunity. I need to at least go in and see if he's wearing a wedding ring."
We sauntered in, smooth like British secret agents, grabbed a couple sodas and swooped into the checkout line directly behind Handsome. (No wedding ring, no ring of any kind.) I can't presume to know what he was thinking, but he definitely noticed I was there. I smiled. He smiled. I started talking to K about tonight's BIRTHDAY DINNER, and how I had brought my camera to work intending to record THE FIRST DAY OF MY THIRTIES in pictures but got bored after one photo of the morning bus and lost my momentum. He was listening for sure. He kept glancing at me. After he paid he took his sweet time collecting his things, then moseyed over to the condiments bar and didn't head for the exit until I did.
I think he wanted to talk to me. I hope he did. K noticed that he had a coupon card all the regulars carry, so he's got to be back at my lunch spot soon. K also observed that he probably would have spoken to me if I hadn't been there with a friend. "That's really intimidating for men," she said. "If you see him again and you're alone, you're totally in."
Well I may never see him again, or if I do it might turn out he's not interested. Or gay -- maybe he just likes my accessories... though I doubt a gay man would leave the house in pants that short. (I said he was good looking, not well dressed.) But it's all good, because today's little run-in, however fruitless, totally restored my faith in wishin' and hopin'. Maybe willing a stranger to cross your path can influence your fate -- even in a small way that makes an enormous difference in the rest of your day.