Never date a man in
That's why I could not believe he approached me at the coffee shop.
I am accustomed to doing my work alone, unobserved, sitting at the funky table where I go to write my stage plays. It never occurred to me that someone might be watching me write, considering me as a woman.
Of course, I've heard of people meeting at coffee shops, but things like that never happen to me. I write with focus; attention to my text. And I'm sixty-years-old, for heaven's sake. Those days are over.
So, imagine my surprise. Tall, gray at the temples, he resembled Harrison Ford. Okay, maybe Harrison Ford gone to seed, but the resemblance was there. No doubt about it.
"I've seen you here before," he said as his eyes moved across my body. "You're always writing. May I ask about your craft?"
My craft? My craft? At that moment, the only crafty thought in my mind was the fastest way to get this man in my life.
We chatted for over three hours about writing, the economy, the situation in Afghanistan. When we were finished he asked for my phone number.
I passed my email address; after all, this guy picked me up in a coffee shop, for crying out loud.
This man, I thought, might be the real deal.
Sexy, appealing, intelligent; he seemed to have all the qualities I had stopped expecting in anyone, least of all a male partner.
Since I had gone through my divorce eight years ago, this man was the first and only man who seemed well rounded, well read, funny and intelligent. The first in a long time to inspire me.
I studied the email. His syntax was immaculate; his punctuation perfect. Of course it was.
I decided this was too good to screw up - I would wait. Wait 24 hours before responding.
For this man, I would play the game again.
Before I went to bed, he sent two more emails.
"I understand," he wrote, "why you don't want to see me again. Please don't take my lack of energy as anything other than the effects of chemo therapy. I'm perfectly fine, except I'm going through treatment, and have occasional flashes of pain. I hope you didn't think my response to you was anything other than positive. My apologies."
So - he has cancer.
I offered that we meet soon.
And so we agreed this time on a new coffee shop, a new location for our next meeting.
"I think you're wonderful," he said when we sat together. "and I want you to know what's happening here. "
He then proceeded to tell me he had colon cancer; seventeen inches of his colon removed and all his lymph nodes. He had, he said, six months of chemo therapy before him and three behind him.
My experience as a Presbyterian pastor taught me many things; I knew his prognosis is not good.
"Difficult days behind you, " I said as I reached for his hand. "Difficult days to come."
"Not all that difficult," he said as his eyes locked into mine. "The old horn is still blowing strong. I'm looking for sex."
The old horn? His words hit me like cold water thrown on your face while sun bathing.
Stunned, I asked him to repeat himself. Could be I misunderstood.
"Nothing to understand," he said. "I'm looking for hot times. I'm not dead yet, you know."
I am open, I aid to a full-tilt-boogie relationship with a man. But there's the cart, and there's the horse. I'm clear about which comes first.
He rose and picked up his jacket.
"There's nothing more to say," he said, "we want different things."
Speechless, I watched him walk out the cafe door. He never looked ba
Off he went.
I was shocked when, several days later, he emailed me again.
Granted, there were concerns. The open port in his chest, where he received the chemo therapy, was a bit of a problem. Other than that, he was hot to trot. None of his women seemed to mind the hole close to his heart, or the threat to his immune system. .
Moreover, he wrote that his doctors all approved of all this sexual shenanigans - his oncologist prescribed Viagra for his post surgical recovery.
In his email, he wrote to assure me I would "have a great time" if I acquiesced.
I wrote back, assuring him that yes indeed, we are on different paths. I reminded him that I am a pastor; that I have a deep, rich background that he might find useful in a friend. I reminded him that I cared for him - that there is "a baby in this bathwater." I told him I was sorry he had been so scattered, so random in his affections. I told him he had a lot more to offer than he understood - and I wished him well in his hunt for his next sex partner.
He wrote back and accused me of thinking I was "too good" for him - and of course, I had to agree.
I told him that the kind of woman he hunts is easy to locate. Men and women who want sex without commitment have always found their way to each other.
He called me a fool.
I don't need to call him anything. He is a man facing the end of his life. He is frighted and running.
And who knows if he is not correct and I am indeed, a fool? The days dwindle down to a precious few. Most of us choose to spend these last decades with people we trust, love and upon whom we can rely. Facing the end of his journey, he has made another choice.
I am blessed with the sweet ignorance that holds me up and give me artificial courage. I don't know a thing of my own mortality. And so I make my own decision about love, life, my body, my spirit and my energy.
Raised by high-minded Swedes, I've landed here; if I cannot meet someone to respect, love, join as a partner, I will live alone.
It seems pious to announce. My decision has not been an easy one to make. In the beginning, after my ugly divorce I struggled against this solitude - fought against what it means, how it shadows every other part of my life.
My marriage ended because it turned ugly. But it wasn't always so. I thought I could find again what I once found. I believed in the hope.
Living alone was a shock; the same way in which entering a tub of bathwater surprises the senses, so does entering this stage of life surprise a person.
In time, the shock softens. The quiet gifts emerge. The ability to shape, craft, construct and enjoy one's life rises out of the hot pain of abandonment, the cold sting of loneliness.
I never expected to be here; never thought I would live as I do, happy in my independence, delighted in the freedom to see, know, think as I will, accommodating no one.
The man in the coffee shop does not have the luxury of lounging in the bathwater of time; negotiating affections, meeting expectations, growing an intimacy. He wants what he wants when he wants.
Me? I'm floating. The bath water temperature adapts to my requirements - my own form of denial.
The baby doesn't mind at all.