Never date a man who
asks you to touch
a body part - any body part!
He asked me to meet him at the California Cafe at the Mall of America; my favorite restaurant.
"I hope you don't mind if I insist on buying your dinner," he said. "I want to make a good first impression. Will you let me make a good first impression?"
His name was Randy, and the impression thus far was fabulous.
Randy was a retired Vice President from Cargill; a former basketball center from the University of Michigan and, if true to his emails, a bit of a poet.
Tell me what to do,
Tell me when your heart is free,
Let me come to you."
That kind of thing.
His profile on Match.Com was brief - Randy wasn't looking for a date, he said. He was looking for me; a single woman who understands how important it is to be in a real friendship with a good man.
And I was ready. After three years of accidental meetings with closeted married men, disastrous coffee dates, brunches and dead-end happy hour rendezvous, I no longer wanted anything to do with the dating scene.
No more dates. I knew what I wanted. One man. Perhaps Randy.
"Don't bother trying to charm me," I told him when he phoned. "I don't care about charm. I want to get on with this thing."
"I'm with you," he said. "I hate getting acquainted. I want to know someone. And if I don't know her, I want to pretend I know her and get to know her while I'm pretending."
It seemed like an ideal arrangement - a man who was ready to fake what I was eager to receive.
We agreed to meet on a Wednesday after work.
Of course, we had not yet laid eyes on each other. Neither one of us knew what the other would look like.
He told me he would wear a sport coat and tie. I laughed and said he would stick out like sore thumb at the Mall.
I told him I'd wear my new white cotton sundress to match his elegance.
"Speaking of thumbs," he said, "remind you to tell you about my hands."
It was an odd statement and I ignored it. Big, big mistake.
"You're yummy," he licked his lips and I winced.
"That's a little on the rude side, Randy," I said as I straightened my skirt across my thighs and cleared my throat.
"Oh, sorry," his earnest eyes caught mine. "It's just that you're better looking than I thought you would be. A little obnoxious, huh?"
I nodded and motioned for the waiter.
"So, what can I say to fix this? I mean, here I go, screwing this whole thing up at the get-go."
I assured him he was fine, and I suggested we look at the menu. Was he going to buy me a glass of wine? He nodded. Of course, he said. Of course.
"But all that aside," Randy leaned across the table, "you have to know I think you're a babe. Tell me, what would it take for a woman like you to go out again with a bum like me?"
I suggested he was way ahead of himself. I tapped the menu and suggested he pick something for dinner.
He looked at the menu cover, never opened it and looked into my eyes.
"You haven't asked about my hands. Want to see my hands?"he whispered.
"Why would I want to see your hands?" I asked.
"Not see them, I guess," he said. "Stab them. Want to stab my hands?"
"Stab them?" I slid my napkin to my lap and found the seat of the cafe chair and took hold. Something solid, under me, for support.
"Yeah," Randy grinned. "Most women don't believe me when I tell them about my hands."
I was afraid to ask, but of course I did.
And so he told me.
He fell, he said, two years prior. On a basketball court, trying to block an opponent during a pick-up game at Linwood Park.
"When I awoke," he said,"I was at St. Mary's in Rochester. The Mayo Clinic."
Paralyzed at the extremities, Randy entered rehabilitation where he worked for three months to regain use of his arms and legs.
"Can you walk?" I asked. I glanced around the restaurant, expecting a wheel chair, tucked away, hidden from immediate view.
"You bet," he said. "And I can use my hands and feet like anyone else. Except for one thing."
The waiter approached with two large glasses of water. Thankful for his bright-eyed, friendly presence, I ordered a glass of pinot grigio and held my breath.
"What one thing?" I asked.
"I have no feeling in my hands. Nothing."
His hands lay on the table, flat and large like two flesh-colored pork chops.
"That's too bad." I said.
"So," he smiled, "you want to stab one?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Stab one. To prove I can't feel anything."
I declined, downed the glass of water and eyed the exit.
"I'm serious," he said. "You can if you want."
I waved for the waiter.
"Okay," Randy laughed, "that's okay. If you don't want, I'll do it for you." He reached for his silverware, rolled in a linen napkin on our table.
"That won't be necessary, Randy." In my peripheral vision I saw our waiter approach, sensing my anxiety.
"No. I want to. Watch this," Randy picked up his fork with his right hand and flattened his left on the table of the California Cafe.
He lifted the fork over his head like a mad ripper, prongs aimed for a brief moment at me, and then at his other hand.
In one swift, uninterrupted lurch, Randy stabbed his left hand; the blood spurted across the table cloth. I think I screamed.
"Are you okay?" our waiter rushed to his side.
"Okay? Hell, I'm terrific!" Randy waved his blood-gushing hand into the air, swinging his red cells over my wine glass, my dress, my dinner plate and the white linen of the California Cafe's table.
The waiter's face lost color and I thought he might faint.
"Oh, my goodness, my goodness," he mopped the blood with his apron. When it was soaked in red, he used the towel across his arm. Randy continued to bleed and laugh.
"Do need any help? Anything. . . ?" I watched the waiter's young face twist in horror as blood flowed, unclotted, from Randy's left hand.
"Hey, I don't need nothing. Only one thing, young man." Randy announced. "All I need is love!"
He looked into my eyes and winked.
I stood, reached for my purse, and took the young, pale waiter's arm.
"Walk me to Bloomingdales," I whispered. "My car's in the lot. Please walk me to Bloomingdales."
The stunned waiter took my arm and together we walked away from the California Cafe, from Randy and the gore of that Wednesday afternoon.
The young man did not leave me at the door of the parking lot. Instead, he escorted me to my Volkswagen Beetle, opened my door, and deposited me inside.
"Lady," his voice trembled, "I thought I'd seen it all . . ."
"You haven't seen anything," I assured him, "until you try dating after fifty."
The ride home took over forty minutes in rush hour. Two drops of hot-red blood stained my fresh, white summer dress.
It slid off my shoulders and over my hips for the last time. Stuffed into the garbage, I sent it packing along with Randy's telephone number and his poetry.
Another close call.