It’s Been a While…

Mt. Dora, Florida

It’s been a few days since the last post. Last week was pretty eventful with both highs and lows. I wanted to share one of the highs with you all.

I had a date this weekend.

A real date. Not one of those, “hey, what are you up for tonight? Why don’t we just grab a quick bite to eat and rent a movie?” kinda things, but a real “I’ll make the plans, pick you up and show you a good time” deal. Haven’t had one of those in what seems to be an eternity.

Was it a good time? Hell yes. We both had a blast. Sounds like there might be a follow-up, too.

Alright, let’s get the obvious questions out of the way:

Who is she?

How did you meet?

What did you do?

I’ll call her “E” here for her own privacy. I think that’s fair. Very rarely will you ever see me mention someone’s full name on the posts just out of respect for them and any possibility that I might disclose more than they would be comfortable with.

E is an authentic red-haired southern Belle; divorced with two fantastic kids (ages 8 and 7). She teaches kindergarten at a local private school. She’s active and self-made, raising her two kids on her own since the youngest was a month old. I’ve learned a lot about overcoming adversity and maintaining a good heart along the way by listening to her story. I’ve met the fruits of her labor: her children. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what little time we’ve all spent together.

E is also exactly what you would expect in a kindergarten teacher: conservative, quiet, patient, intelligent and cute as a damned button. She also has a sense of dignity and class that one doesn’t encounter often these days. Odd, I guess, considering that I met her in a bar.

Yeah, I was saddled up to a bar about two weeks ago, minding my own business reading a book (go figure). She was there with a couple of friends, just sipping her Sam Adams. I tried not to fault her for her choice in beverages. She’s not a drinker, though. I’m pretty certain that the bottle lasted her most of the night. I’m not entirely sure how our conversation started. I slid down a couple of chairs so that she and her friends could sit (one of them was chatting up a bloke a few seats away) and E and I just started talking.

Side note: meeting people in a bar is odd for me sometimes. Casual conversations are great they way they just “happen.” But I’ve never been the type to target someone to meet and approach with a line or whatever. First off because I’ve never had to (because I had someone to go home to), second because it just – I don’t know – seems so damned cheap. I’m also surprisingly shy most of the time. I’m comfortable with sitting alone and reading a book, watching the freak show around me, and not partaking in the 2:00 a.m. scramble that happens after last call. I can go home alone. Christ, I’m used to it. But if I do meet someone, it’s great just talking allowing whatever tangents to occur naturally without participating in that ever-present “objective” found in every single bar. The process of that objective is, however, fun to watch. Most of the people are lonely in some sense. Some are desperate. Others are just out with their friends and don’t want to be bothered by a stranger out to fill some unknown void. Me? I don’t want to sit around watching TV all night. I like people, I like meeting them. Bars are better than fiction. Its a full house of stories: some funny, some tragic, others just pathetic. And there is a thread of humanity that runs through all of it. They all have a few things in common: to be around others, having a good time and a sip. Where it ends up almost always depends on the individual.

That night ended after a couple of hours of talking with E. We exchanged numbers in an interest in snorkeling together sometime. It wasn’t a guise for either of us, no hidden objective. We had a great time chatting and wanted to learn more about each other. No complaints with that. I walked her to her car and we shook hands. She went home to relieve the baby-sitter, I went back to my book.

So, that’s how E and I met.

We have a lot in common, both in ideas and hobbies. She’s a water bug, too, and loves to snorkel (in fact, she provides swimming lessons to toddlers and youngsters out of her home four nights a week). We both have a lot of interest in exploring new places and being outdoors just doing something. We know enough about each other’s past to understand that issues regarding her ex-husband and my late wife need to be approached with respect and compassion. We also recognize that we each have absolutely no experience in regards to the other’s realm.

There’s one other pretty major difference which hasn’t been approached yet: E is a devout Catholic. I was once. But, me and god don’t get on too well these days. I avoid mass at every possible chance. E takes her kids every Sunday. I’ve got my own issues with the big guy. Other peoples’ relationships with him have helped me out in a lot of different ways and I’m eternally grateful for that. I just see that this is a difference with E and I – just as it is with a number of my friends – that might bother her more than it does me.

E and I have spoken on the phone a number of times, usually after the swimming lessons are over and her kids are in bed. How she has energy for half of her life is beyond me. Eight hours of dealing with 20 five-year-olds would be enough to make me want to lie down for a week. Instead, E goes home to feed and tend to two of her own and then teach six or seven more how to swim. I’m tired just typing that out. But she still has time to chat with me. I’m thankful for a few minutes of her time considering the days she has. I have to admit that it’s pretty flattering, too.

So, last Friday night the planets aligned and it turned out that both of her kids were off to a sleep-over/birthday party. The only role she had to play that night was “E – the adult”.

Understanding that this opportunity probably doesn’t happen often, I wanted to make the most of it. Obviously, she doesn’t get out without the kids much. I hoped to show her a good time on the town, away from any other concerns and in mutually neutral territory. Considering some of the other things that had arisen for me during the same week, I needed a break too.

I didn’t tell her where we were going but that dancing would probably be involved. Nothing too formal, though.

I arrived to pick her up and she was still in the middle of getting ready. Hair and makeup was done to classy perfection. She just needed to dress. The kids were already gone so I played with the dog in the living room as she finished.

E reappeared and, people, my jaw slammed to the floor. The conservative kindergarten teacher in cute little sun dresses had officially taken the night off and was replaced by a stunning slender creature with flowing red hair in sleeveless black velvet. Every detail was met in impeccable style from the black heels to the choker to the matching tear-drop diamond ear rings and bracelet. And the way she moved…. I’ve seen her walk before when I visited her classroom after school let out. On campus, she strolled like a natural maternal guardian, aware and collected. But tonight… E didn’t just walk. She prowled in a fluid motion that was all woman.

My brain buckled and I stammered. Apparently, I blushed a bit too. What little I was able to muster consisted of “oh my god” and “you look… um… wow… spectacular.”

Eventually, I collected my jaw and we departed.

I took her to Orlando. Pleasure Island in Disney World, in fact. Dinner consisted of awesome sushi and saki at Wolfgang Puck’s. We’re both fond of eel and the variety at Wolfgang’s sushi bar rocked. I watched as male heads turned when E fell into radar. I chuckled to myself, “yeah, eat your heart of fellas. She’s here with me.”

Dinner lasted a while, the way it should, absent of any rush to pack it in. The food was exceptional and the service attentive. It was almost as if the staff realized that we were out to have a great evening and they felt it was their job to ensure it happened. We watched the crowd around us and chatted about everything under the sun. Some drunk woman wandered by and commented on what a cute couple we made. E and I blushed in that awkward, “ah jeez” kinda way.

Healthy portions of raw fish and chilled saki consumed, we turned towards the collection of nightclubs in Pleasure Island. It’s an adult playground of dance halls, comedy clubs and shows all done up in true Disney fashion with a pervasive (not perverse) attention to detail. Its a bit on the bee-boppish touristy side, but that’s okay. There’s still enough of a wild element present for anyone to have fun.

We started in one club that featured mostly hip-hop music. It didn’t strike either of our fancy so we wandered off to the next. It was a wanna-be beach club kind of thing with a live band covering Billy Idol stuff. We found more dancing elsewhere and then happened upon a little comedy sketch in a bar themed in an “colonial African explorer” style. It was amusing.

We ducked into a doorway for shelter from a sudden Floridian downpour and found an improv comedy show that had us both howling. It involved a lot of audience participation and a bit of “blue”, even for a Disney operation.

A nightclub called “Mannequins” was our final destination. Techno/Rave music pulsed throughout; the place was packed. It came equipped with a rotating dance floor, strobe lights and smoke as if it had fallen straight out of “Queer as Folk”. This was the kind of club that made you want to be there, just to experience the party.

Experience we did. We jumped onto the spinning floor and let loose. Beats thumped and strobes flashed as E simply unleashed. Thump thump thump flash thump flash thump thump flash flash flash. The music invaded your every sense until you could taste it. It jumps on your chest like an 800-pound gorilla and then throws you around the room like Samsonite luggage. This, my friends, is what I call a friggin’ good time.

Now, I’m an absolute buffoon on the dance floor, but I don’t give a damn. Letting go to music is way too easy and far too fun to hold back. Besides, there’s always that guy who is so concerned about what everyone else is thinking of him that he’s too afraid to move. He always makes the rest of us look so much better.

We didn’t stand still for what seemed like hours and it was a blast.

Like every day, the sun eventually rises and the old roles are called upon. But, we both had a great time. There were no concerns about relationships, no confusion between the single mom and the widower, and no one wishing they could chew their arm off the next morning in a desperate attempt to leave without waking the other. We were just two adults, who needed a break, enjoying each other’s company during a great night out.

I’ve been having more and more experiences like this and I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels. Someone told me a while back, “No guilt. No guilt.” It took me a while to listen, regardless of how highly I respected the opinion. I still take the emotional sucker punches pretty often, but they don’t interfere very often with me setting my own world on fire. Those flames are getting hotter and taller every day.

Will we see each other again? I’d like to. We still want to snorkel and the school year ends soon. Her kids are going to a daily summer college of sorts that will give her time to work on the children’s books she’s writing and maybe a few hours to hang out.

The nice thing is that there hasn’t been any talk or pressure of the serious nature. Nor have our actions have forced us in that direction. I get along with her kids great. Does their presence bother me? Nope, not at all. I’m hoping we’ll all become good friends who can do things together. It’s great to have the company and fascinating to see life from the perspective of E and her children. There’s no indication as of yet regarding how long I’ll be here so I do approach E and her family with courteous caution. There is a lack of expectation, too. That helps me, at least.

So, I’ve got a pal to hang out with every now and then. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get into the water whenever possible and spend as much time with Addie, Ryan and the kids as I can. I’m meeting a lot of people around town through Addie and Ryan, all of whom have been welcoming and a lot of fun.

Mt. Dora has been fascinating and beautiful. With a population of 9,000, an average age in the late 50’s, most people are retired seniors with the exception of a small – but growing – group of young families. No, I don’t exactly fit into Mayberry and that’s okay. I’m still convinced that there’s a Twin Peaks element somewhere hidden in the soft underbelly of this central Florida town. I expect to be sitting somewhere over a cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie when a crazy woman walks in talking to a log. It hasn’t happened yet, but when it does, you’ll be the next to know. Until then, here’s to you and yours.

Now, go out and dance, damnit.