I am nervous, nervous as I drive to meet Mr. Faraway. I’m not clear whether it’s a date or not: it started as coffee during the day and morphed into dinner at a Japanese restaurant that I picked out. I try to think about things to talk about that aren’t his divorce or our kids or board business. He gets there first, so when I arrive, I see him waiting outside, wearing his suit from work and weighed down with two large tote bags, filled with books and things he wants to discuss with me.
He’s brought the conversation with him, packed it very carefully ahead of time, but even though he’s got quite the load, he steps ahead to open the door for me.
My father warned me this might happen, and lectured me about how to do this: on his last visit, he tried to hold a door for me and I crashed into it. It made him mad – not at me, but at The Departed, who, my father surmised correctly, had never held a door for me during our marriage.
I’d lost the skills I needed to let someone be gracious to me, so I reminded myself to step back a little bit, and allow Mr. Faraway to do these things. And when he does, I think, perhaps such a little thing should not be such a big thing.
I savor it anyway.
We sit at a large round table in a booth, so we’re sort of facing each other but also sort of next to each other, and I rest my arm on the back of the booth as we talk over drinks. He has a book about the history of the Latvian town my great-grandfather is from: This town is significant, he tells me, and then tells me why, and shows me the section from the book about it. There’s another book, too, that mentions some other ancient ancestor of mine, and he tries to explain it and I try to follow along. There’s a lot of information, a lot to follow. I listen and smile and mostly I’m just watching him as he talks – he leans toward me and shifts toward me and occasionally I feel his leg brush against mine with all the shifting.
Partway through dinner, though, something changes. He has started sitting back – he’s moved slightly away from me, even folding his hands at times. I don’t shift at all, and the conversation continues, but it becomes slightly more reserved, and I wonder what I’ve said to cause this.
The check arrives, and I remind myself, again, to allow him some space. I try not to glance at it, and wonder what to do. It sits, unremarked upon, while we finish our drinks and notice that it’s gotten fairly late, and I’ve got The Child at home and should probably get going.
I go to the ladies room, and when I return, the check is gone and he’s chatting with the bartender.
As we head outside, he asks where I’m parked, and I say, not far.
Okay, he says, and after a brisk hug, he says goodnight and heads off quickly in the opposite direction.