I am NOT this high maintenance, however, these are some of the people which he is used to dealing with everyday. He fell into café ownership after college. First, a small food establishment and then a successful chain of franchised coffee shops, which he managed to break away from the corporate headquarters and create strong independent identities for. He’s impressive. A late bloomer who seems to be coming into his own personal comfort zone in his mid thirties.
We met at a small bistro. He rose from the table for a brief but friendly hug. Setting the tone. I always prefer hugs upon meeting someone. Hand shakes are so formal, they immediately create distance, a physical and emotional barrier that is impossible to break through in only 1 hour. My belief is, you have one hour to show me who you are, without pretense, without apologies. It’s like the leading paragraph of a juicy novel. Hook me. Otherwise, I won’t be interested in those other chapters. Hell, like Cormac McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses, if you try to hard, I might just get lost in your language and writing style, finding myself circling your first sentences over and over for some sense of honest simplicity, depth and meaning. Just be YOURSELF. Don’t try to impress me and don’t assume I am going to rip out your heart and serve it up like an exotic carpaccio to my girl friends. We all have pasts, we all have baggage, or at least we should. We need to live life in order to know who we are.
Late Bloomer and I started talking about all those “off-limits” topics. The ones I like. Exes, work, sex, religion. It was easy conversation. He thought he was the wrong thing by talking about his recent break up and how heart-broken he is over it. I wanted him to talk about it. I wanted him to vocalize where he is at and how he feels, internalizing isn’t good for anyone, especially post break up. Having someone to open up too and relate too is important. He meets a disproportionate number of undergrads due to the nature of his business and those people just can’t relate.
We had 4 cocktails. A light nosh of mussels for me and chicken for him. He wanted to smell my mussels, because he had never had one. He proclaimed, “I.AM.JEW”, therefore, no swine, no shellfish. He made me laugh when he proclaimed that once life is found on Mars, he is forsaking his faith and heading right to the nearest seafood restaurant for a lobster. Cockroach of the sea. Upon the end of the date, I asked if I could walk him to his car. He laughed at that, “YOU are going to walk ME to my car? I will walk YOU to the train.” It’s habit, taking control in romantic scenarios. It’s what a I did for all of my years with women.
As we turned the corner to the train, while making more small talk and pleasantries, I commented, off the cuff, that, “Under normal circumstances, I would kiss you, BUT, considering where you are, I am not sure it’s what you would want or need at the moment.” He mumbled that I could kiss him. So, I stopped him and for a few minutes was reminded of how short I am while I tip-toed to put my lips against his, nearly 9 inches higher than where I stood. As I walked away, I reflected on how he was my age and had far less romantic experience, but far more success. Perhaps this lack of romantic diversion in his twenties allowed him the freedom to focus and create the professional success he has now. I think it’s possible that many of us have it all wrong, the order of things. I am glad for my experience, but I often feel light years away from any professional success due to the time I spent nurturing failed relationships. What’s the answer? Maybe there is no special equation or perfect set of guidelines. Late Bloomer, he’s doing better than he thinks he is. He’ll get past this broken heart and be all the stronger for it. In the end, this doesn’t define him, because he is already clearly defined as a man, as a business person, as a brother, as a son and as a friend to many. The partner and lover, that will come and only enhance what he already has. I get on the train aware that I am a little bit envious of him and of the girl who he eventually finds.