It was their first date. Their first actual face-to-face date. They had met and chatted on line. But this was their first see the smile, the complexion, the fingernails, the clothes, the gait, the style (it all about style, isn’t it?), the way of interacting with others and everything else that can happen only in person.
“In person,” he had mused. “In freaking person! That’s really what it boils down to: the person and what’s inside.”
He hadn’t been in a relationship for years. “Got burned,” is what his friends said about him. But, he didn’t really feel that way. Just being a bit more cautious and had come to appreciate really good friendships. “Friendships,” he would tell whoever wanted to listen, “Friendships beat hell out of any other ships I’ve ever sailed.”
She was anxious. Nervous. And that would be an understatement. As nervous as a mobile home in a tornado. As nervous as a nun in a sperm bank. As nervous as a prize turkey in November. She had been in search of Mr. Right ever since high school and had yet to find him. “But this one,” she kept telling herself, “could be the one.”
He had suggested they meet at one of his favorite dineries. Not too casual, not too fancy, good wine list. She had told him she had no dietary restrictions. “I tried the dairy-and-gluten-free fad for awhile,” she said, “but hot rolls and good butter make me giggle inside.” Lines like that from her had him grinning and eager to hear more.
So, they met. Shook hands and awkwardly hugged. They sat, ordered a bottle of wine and two glasses. “To meeting someone in person,” he toasted. “To letting go of old ideas and ways of being,” she countered.
And there was something in the clink that clicked. With him. And her. Like a tiny bell that is sounded in the Mass when bread and wine become body and blood. Like the ding from a microwave when the food is ready. Like the moment you get the joke. And it caught them both off guard and made them glad they could then sip wine in silence, because both felt something; but neither knew what to make of it.
The evening went on. They talked about jobs and dogs and weird family members. They ordered food “with lots of hot rolls and butter.” They went through the expected laughter and reflective moments – all required in the Newby Handbook. And then, like a bolt out of the blue, she asked, “Want to talk about emotional baggage?” Maybe it was just the wine talking, but a tiny spaceship landing in his Caesar salad could not have surprised him more. He stared at her for what felt like a week and a half.
“Uh.” He was struggling now. “Uh…Sure. I guess.”
“I mean,” we all have it, she said. “I’ve always felt I really wasn’t that pretty and also never sure I would have enough money. My dad died when I was young and I’ve always felt lop-sided.”
“Wow!” he murmured and gulped a half-glass of wine. “And I have always tried to prove I was manly with sports and raunchy talk. I never felt like I had any real talent.”
They sat and sipped in silence for awhile. He reach-ed across the table with an open hand. Hers met his and they squeezed. “I fly a lot for my work,” she said. “And something dawned on me recently: that you can either check your baggage or carry it on. But your carry-on is limited. Too much carry-on makes things too crowded for everyone. Checked baggage you’ll see again, but you don’t have to haul it around. I think it’s an idea worth considering,” she said. “And… you’re the first one I’ve ever shared it with.”
At the end of the evening they shared a kiss. And a smile. And an air-toast. “To limiting our carry-on she whispered.” And they both went home feeling so light they could fly.