Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My Date with a Real Girl

"There's no easy way to say this."
I sit across a coffee table from her. We're sharing lunch together and I watch as she delicately unwraps her deli sandwich.
"What? What is it?"
"My father passed away about a month ago."

I'm teary-eyed as I voice the words, but I say it with confidence, the security of release. I wait to hear her comforting words. A comfort like an warm embrace for someone who is shivering to pieces. I nearly start to cry.

"I'm so sorry. How are you doing?"
"I'll be okay. Thanks."

And I believe what I say.

"I didn't know my father so well, but I made every attempt to know the man, A.H.R. And I'm glad that I did. Because I loved that man, and I know that he loved me."

I tell her about my pilgrimage to New Jersey. And the flood of emotions I had while tracing the last steps of a dying man. He left only the slightest clues concerning his final wishes. During my stay I franticly searched through tattered files, called his acquaintances and local family members asking for details. I came up empty. So I took matters into my own hands.

"It was hell. Not without effort was I able to find a living will. A document of proof of some kind that gives me limited powers of an attorney. It was my only lead. So I acted. I drove to unfamiliar places in the counties of Elizabeth and Essex... Newark and Orange and Roselle Park. Signing forms granting me rights to his property, cashing checks made out to him several years past, etc. And I've just begun. It's rough. And I have to grieve, too?"

She sees it in my eyes. I'm in a mess and I'm about to break. She reaches for my hand and I don't retract it. We sit in silence, staring down at our lunch.

After awhile she tells me about her father.
"We're getting along better these days."

She tells me her father has made her and her mother victims physical abuse. She's very strong.

"I have countless brothers and sisters, so I'm told. But he chose to father only me. And now he's genuinely concerned about me."
"He feels regret."

We start to talk about the future.

"I've been accepted to a college in Washington for grad school!"
"No. They don't have a specialty in family therapy."
"That's too bad for them."
"Thanks. It's a small college, not far away from UWA. I'm so excited! I'm making plans. You know it's cold up there and colored folk like me might freeze to death. My friends tell me..."

She's overjoyed. I see her eyes sparkle.
I smile.

"What about you?"
"Oh, I dunno. I have an urge to travel. I don't know where I'd go, but I wanna go far, far away, just for awhile."
"'Just for awhile.' That's what they all say. You know, I don't know anyone else like you. You're unique. Truly unique. Unique people need other unique people."
"The people I work with are unique...."
"Yeah, but they're old."

We share a laugh.

"I miss caring for you! Yeah, last summer when I drove you all around town like a mad man. That was special."
"Did I drive you crazy?"
"You've changed. You're calm."


"I have a boyfriend.... Yeah, he's a boyfriend."
"Does he make you happy?"
"Well I like him and we have fun, but he doesn't believe in me."
"Break it off with him."
"That's rigid. Like you're an relationship expert."
"I'm serious. If you know he's not the one for you, don't drag it out. It's just a learning experience. Learn from your misfortunes and move on."
"How many dates did you go on during your college career up until now?"
"See. You're just having fun entering the dating scene. It's new. It's what people do. But don't be confused by your heart."
"And how do you know all this, mister skeptic?"
"I read books. But really. Trust me. Don't hurt yourself."
"Okay. But really, what's your deal?"
"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
"She's out there. GO GET HER! Why won't you believe?"
"Really. I'll be okay. I'll take care of it in time."
"Well hurry up already. It's a wonderful thing! Being loved and giving love in whatever manner."
"If you're with the right person."
"Yeah. But I'll find him. What about you?"

I leave the topic in the stale air.

"Well I've eaten all your cookies and it's been two hours."
"Yes sir!"
"Will I see you again?"
"Will you attend graduation?"
"You know I don't like formal affairs."
"So you don't wanna meet my parents?"
"Well I guess I'll be there!"

She gives me a hug and we say goodbye.

That was two weeks ago. I haven't seen her since. I don't think I'll see her ever again.

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