He was sitting in a chair, a metal walker at his side. Slightly bent over, he smiled at each person that entered the house.
“You look familiar,” he said as I neared his post. He tilted his head as if a new position would bring me sharper in focus.
“I’m a friend of Leah’s,” I said. “We met several times at her house.”
“Sit down and talk to me,” he said. “I’m a friendly guy.”
It was Saturday night, a Break the Fast at the home of friends. The place was crowded with people of varying ages. Some were lining up at the buffet that held deli trays; others had already piled their paper plates and were seated at a long table.
I took a seat on the cushioned arm of a couch next to him.
“What’s this song?” he said. “They sparkle, they bubble…”
“Them their eyes,” I said.
“Right! Them their eyes!” He looked at me admiringly, as if I was a successful game show contestant.
“So listen,” he said, “I just got an iPad and I’m enjoying the heck out of it.”
“That’s great,” I said. “Do you read books on it?”
“No, no, I just talk to my grandkids. I like the feel of real books. I’m reading ‘The Jewish Police,’” he said. “I love it. It’s by…It’s by…”
“The Jewish Policeman’s Union,” I said. “By Michael Chabon. I have it on my iPad.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Michael Chabon. How did you know that?”
“I read a lot,” I said. “Books, newspapers. I keep up with pop culture.”
“Michael Chabon,” he repeated. It seemed like he had been scotch taping his memory and the notion that someone near his age had pulled an author’s name out of a hat was astonishing.
“Can I have your phone number?” he said. “Maybe we could have coffee or something. You’re so literate.”
Then he added what he must’ve believed were the magic words that would make any single older woman swoon, “I drive.”
I looked at the walker at his side. He saw my glance. “It’s because of my arthritis. But I can still drive.”
“You don’t remember,” I said. “We went on a date after my divorce from my first husband. Leah fixed us up.”
He looked at me, perhaps trying to scoop through and find my 20-year younger version. “Sorry, I don’t remember. Did we have a good time?”
I could see that date perfectly. Martin and I met at a coffee house in Wicker Park. We sat on the patio. I wore tight jeans, a patterned silk blouse, and high-heeled boots. I looked sharp.
He was a teacher, intelligent. Up on politics and other topics we shared. I recall he was nice looking, full of himself, and having not a wit of interest in me. He never called after that first date.
This night, at the Break the Fast, I wrote my phone number on a card and handed it to him. “Maybe we can meet next week,” he said.
“No,” I said. “My daughters are coming into town. I’ll be busy all week.” This was a partial lie. They weren’t arriving until Friday. There were five days when a coffee date could’ve fit in. But, I was backing away from a tangle I didn’t want to set foot in. Tommy hadn’t been gone a year; I was skittish about dating.
“Okay,” he said.
I left to mingle. When I found Leah, I whispered in her ear, “Martin asked for my phone number.”
My friend looked at me as if I had just revealed I decided to take up skydiving. “No, no,” she said. “He’s bad news. Don’t get involved with him.”
“I didn’t know what to do?” I said. “He said I was literate. He said he drives.” We chuckled at his prideful asset.
“Promise me you won’t go out with him,” she said.
The next morning, a Sunday, Martin called. “Remember I said I’d call to make a coffee date.”
“My kids are coming to town,” I said, repeating the excuse I offered less than 24 hours ago. “Not this week. I’ll call you.”
I dialed Leah’s number. “Martin called. I didn’t know what to do so I said I’d call him back.”
“Don’t!” she said. “Did you see the shape he’s in? What do you need that for? On top of that, he’s got a temper. You know I love you and want you to one day find a boyfriend, but promise me you’ll stay away from him.”
“Not a problem,” I said. “I just won’t return his call. Maybe he’ll even forget he ever asked for my number.”