I was sitting in the Borders in the Time Warner building. I'm a Barnes & Noble gal, but I was meeting a friend in the area within the hour. Anyone who lives in NYC knows that time travel is always apart of the package. Just like Cher's dad shouts in Clueless, nothing is more than twenty minutes away. That said, it wasn't worth it to go home, just to have to turn around and come back to midtown. So I parked my butt in the cafe and pulled out the novel I was knee deep in. Manhattan is a funny place, one with a limited amount of personal space. Think about it, we walk packed streets, sit in cubicles pressed together, ride subways where we try to pretend we aren't within kissing distance to the old lady next to us, and head home to shoebox apartments, stacked on top of each other. It's only fitting that we sit right next to each other at "different tables" in restaurants or we go ahead and ask to share a table with someone who appears to be alone. I was alone, engrossed, really, in my book when a voice broke me from my reverie.
"Is this seat taken?"
I looked up to see a tall, dark, and handsome stranger, holding a steaming mug in one hand and a bunch of books under his other arm. I saw one with a "Dummies" title, but couldn't quite make out what he was trying to become a quick study of. I shook my head and smiled. Then I went back to my book. He sat down and opened one of his own.
I looked up again to see Mr. TallDark&Handsome sipping his drink, waiting for my answer. If I said yes, it would seem like I wasn't interested in talking to him (which I was still deciding on whether or not I was-my book was that good). If I said no, it might appear like I was desperate for conversation. He might also wonder why I was reading the book in the first place.
"You should read it and find out," I replied grinning. He smiled back. Was he flirting or just being nice? I was recently out of a relationship. I was rusty on the ways of men those days.
"I should. We could have a book club," he responded. He was definitely flirting.
"We could invite Oprah." I am many things. One of them is witty, Queen of Oneliners. Hello, I'm a writer. I could volley verbally all day long.
"Eh, she's overrated. I don't think she even reads half those books. That's why she got snubbed on that A Thousand Little Pieces author." He sipped his beverage slowly. He was interested in conversation. I laid my book down, deciding I was too, and said something fiercely loyal about Oprah. We spent the next forty-five minutes covering as many details as our conversation would allow. Now, before you think this is how I met the great love of my life, know that this is a common practice in Manhattan. You end up sharing a table and or sitting next to someone and you wind up having a great conversation. Then you say, "Nice to meet you," gather your belongings, and go your separate ways, never to cross
paths again perhaps. It's just a thing here. The island is only three miles across, we're packed like sardines. It's bound to happen, repeatedly in fact.
At this point, I started wondering if this was going to end that way or if he was going to ask for my information. We had a book club to plan after all. Then he said something so normal and yet so weird at the same time. I had a clear view of his "For Dummies" book and was unsurprised to see that it was "GMAT For Dummies." He looked about the right age and due to the life and times of our economy, I had many a friend who was backing out the workfroce to head back to business school or the like. I asked him about it. That is when he said:
"Actually, I just joined the Airforce. I'm one of those guys using Uncle Sam to go to school." I was taken aback. Our country was still being ran by Bush. As a matter of fact, we were starting to realize there were no weapons of mass destruction and we were actually losing this war on terroism. It wasn't the best time to run off to Iraq, yet he was on his way. He informed me that he was leaving in a month.
We talked a while longer about the troops, about what he wanted to do when he got out, whether or not he was scared. He answered politically, stating he was doing what he had to do. He said his parents weren't happy about it, but he was an adult. He made his own decisions. He was in the middle of explaining something about fighter pilots when my phone vibrated from the table. I had already told him I was meeting a friend, so he glanced at it saying, "Ooops, looks like our time's probably up." I grabbed my phone, confirmed it was said friend, she was waiting in Columbus Circle, and sent her a quick text saying I'd be a few minutes. I started gathering my things, no longer thinking about him asking for my number. Well, I was, but only in the fact that it was pointless. I didn't want to start seeing someone who was as cool as Mr. TallDark&Handsome seemed to be only to have him constantly deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever the next war was. I'd seen the
movies, the ones where the women wait at home for their boyfriends or husbands to either come home in a box or mentally ruined. I have never been interested in members of the Armed Forces for anything other than protection from Osama Bin Laden and the like.
"It was so great meeting you," I said. "Good luck over there and with school."
"This is annoying. I want your number. I want to see you again. What about our book club?" he said before I stood up. I laughed at his book club joke, but said nothing about my number. "I know, I'm leaving. It's weird. But I'll be back eventually."
"That doesn't sound very enticing. Eventually," I said shrugging. "I'm just being honest."
"I appreciate that. And you're right. Look, here's my information," he scribbled his number and email on a piece of paper and handed it to me. I tucked it into my book. "If you feel like eventually is less than forever, hit me up."
Apparently he was good with oneliners too. I walked out of Borders, into Columbus Circle and plopped down on the fountain's ledge with my friend where I told her the whole story. Her response: "Only in New York."
I never called him. We headed off to dinner and several hours later, I found myself thinking about him, but in a really sad way. He was going off to war. It was all so dramatic. Actually, it was a definite possibility that he'd never actually see combat, but still. There was a definite connection, a chemistry. Eh, maybe eventually wasn't that far away. I rooted in my bag for my book. I came up empty-handed, already seeing exactly where it was in my head. Sitting on the ledge of the fountain. Too bad. The book was really good. I guess there'd be no book club after all.
That bitch stole my line,