It’s 8:30 PM on a Saturday and I am shopping for a gift that I need for the next afternoon. The shopping center keeps shrinking in size as the minutes left in the shopping day speed past. You are forcing yourself to pick out something, anything; you NEED a gift.
“Damn, blue or green?” “Green.” I look up and a woman standing on the other side of the display is watching me; and, apparently, within ear shot of my talking to myself. My fellow shopper mocks deep thought by rubbing her chin, “I’m not quite sure what shade ‘damn blue’ is,” she laughs, “sorry.”
“No, I should be the one who’s sorry for the inappropriate comment. It’s a gift.”
“Easy guess. You have zipped through the department like it is closing in a few minutes.”
“Well it closes in a half hour, right?”
“No, the store closes at ten…weekend hours,” she’s amused.
“Guess I can slow down. Do you like this one?”
“It’s OK for Holly, but I like blue;” she caught me off guard. “Of course I’m not partial to damn blue, maybe ‘darn’ blue.” She laughs.
Wonderful smile, “I saw you talking to Holly. The ‘oh’ on your face when you remembered her party. We work together. ”
Karen, shifts the bag she is holding from right to left hand, hesitation, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Not sure…we just met,” smiling.
“I have a feeling you and I were supposed to meet tomorrow at Holly’s. Are you single by any chance?” Reading my reaction, “Uppps, let me rephrase that. Although, I’m not sure how to rephrase it…OK, Holly has been after me to meet her neighbor.” Seeing my ‘is this for real’ reaction, “Are you Holly’s neighbor?”
“Yes, it’s me, I’m single,” lowering my head in mock shame. “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Since you answered mine, I’ll let you.”
“This vase does not pass your gift test, does it?”
“Not a very personal question, but, no.”
“That wrought iron plant stool,” she points, nice nails, “shell love it.”
“Thanks. Can I ask another question?”
“Wait, one personal question per night. OK, since the first one was really shopping assistance, ask.”
“Do you have time to stop for coffee?”
“Oh, a real personal question, which deserves a personal answer. Yes.”
We enjoyed coffee together. Karen, short for Katrina Elizabeth, never ceased to amaze me. The best way to describe her is like the softness of an endlessly fresh watercolor, the paper still wet and vibrant with the brightness of freshly applied paint.
“Can I call you Katrina?”
She considers this, “Why?”
“It’s a beautiful name and I like the sound when I say it.” Silence. She makes believe that her coffee cup deserves more attention then I do. “You don’t let just anyone call you Katrina, do you?”
“Then I withdraw my request.”
“Are you always this polite?”
“No, I falter like everyone else. And you?”
“I’m…why are you laughing?”
“Because you were probably going to tell me that you’re perfect and I would have to point out that you just dropped a piece of cake on your lap.”
She looks, picks up the piece of cake, pops it in her mouth, and tries to gently brush away the remaining crumbs. “Did you want that piece of cake?”
“I thought about it, but you munched it down too quickly.”
“You need to be quick when you come from a large family.”
“I’ll keep that in mind Karen if I ever drop money.”
“You’re taking a big leap of faith that I’ll see you again…but, since you seem harmless…”
“You’re the safety engineer.”
“I deal with physical things…why are you smiling…workplace physical…darn, you have a way about you that makes me careful of what I am saying!”
“Good or bad?”
“Flirting, that’s it; you flirt with words.”
“I also smile; that counts too.”
“It counts for a lot. I would not be sitting here with you if it weren’t for your smile.”
I knew right away that I liked Karen and ‘like’ could easily turn into seriousness. Had I met Karen soon after becoming single again, I doubt if I would have had the strength to resist the desire. Karen did not want a relationship. She wanted to be desired as a woman, not as the target of a suitor.
Our first date was Holly’s party. Which let Holly off the hook of finding a way to maneuver us to be alone. To allow for that awkward minute of ‘let the two talk while we ease drop in the other room, congratulating ourselves for being successful matchmakers’ minute.
On our second date Karen took me to an art gallery opening reception; she was one of the featured artists. I viewed her work. “You seem to veer towards contrasts of blues, blacks, and silvers.”
“This time. Other times I get lost in fall colors…amber, oranges.”
I’m looking at one of the paintings. Silence; I am searching for words. She looks slightly away from me, and asks “Why are you so quiet?”
“I was thinking about color association; your eyes…they’re steel gray.”
Still not looking directly at me, “And?”
“And these works reflect them. On the surface the works are non-threatening, but I know better. They reflect a mood. The same mood when I asked if I could call you Katrina. Your eyes flashed with such intensity they left no room for negotiation.”
She turns towards me, “Do you still want to call me Katrina?”
“Good, just don’t make my eyes, what did you say…flash with intensity.”
“Katrina, you don’t trust men do you?”
One day, even with the ground rules known, it had become too difficult for me not to think about her as a wife, and it was those recurring thoughts, silent, but obviously apparent, that finally came between us. We stopped seeing each other on as friendly of terms as the day we met.
(Adventures in Dating :Karen is work of fiction, copyright 2010, Steven S. Walsky, all rights reserved, and is adapted from Through A Stranger’s Eyes, copyright 2005, Steven S. Walsky, all rights reserved.)