A former grade school teacher of mine and I reconnected what seems like a hundred years ago when she and I were substitute teaching in an elementary school. Turned out, she subbed in both my kids’ classes and loved regaling all the other students about how, “I taught sixth grade to their mother!”
It also turned out we were only 10 years apart in age, which seemed huge when I was 12 and hugely insignificant when I was working in the same school with her decades later.
“We should have lunch out sometime when we’re not working,” I told her one afternoon as we watched the urchins in our charge slurp warm milk from tiny cartons and dip fish sticks in ketchup.
“Oh, no. I never do lunch,” she said, almost angry and clearly appalled.
Ooooookay. Seemed like it might be fun….
“Nothing personal,” she added, now apologetic for her harsh response. “It’s just that after my husband died, that’s all everyone wanted to do–lunch. I don’t know why, I swore I’d never be one of those ladies–a young widow no less–who did lunch!”
Got it. Well, not really. But okay.
I never had lunch with her. I never had a drink with her. I never saw her again after my short subbing tenure. Happily, I was able to tell her she was the single most influential teacher I ever had in terms of my writing. So it wasn’t a total loss of re-connection.
“Lunch?” came the text last Monday from the boy who’d ditched me last month.
“Working,” I texted back. Didn’t he already know that?
Frowny faces and “Awwwww” popped up on my iPhone.
“Lunch?” came the text the next morning, Tuesday.
“Working,” I texted back. I knew he knew this. “How about a drink later after you get off work tonight?”
Much later that night, when I was asleep in bed, came this text: “Just got your text. Not feeling well. Lunch tomorrow?”
“Working the next two days,” I texted back, adding, “I’m sure we’ll catch up whenever.” No response. Oh please, I thought, you are the one who instigated this nifty little invitation thread. WTF?
“Lunch?” came the text on Friday, three days later. Brilliant.
“I have plans later this afternoon, but an early lunch, sure,” I texted back. Because now I was genuinely curious about his odd persistence to meet for lunch. Surely he had finally realized his mistake in ditching me! Haha.
He chatted about nothing much. He drank three vodka crans and I downed the same number of mimosas. Right, we were perfectly comfortable with one another. The bartender hung around, telling us how he and his girlfriend were leaving to go north for the summer. What were we up to, etc.? The boy responded in generic kind about staying put “even in hurricanes.”
As far as I could tell, there was absolutely no point to this lunch.
So I asked him, “Why are we having lunch?”
“I miss you,” he replied. “And we’re buds, right?”
“You don’t miss me,” I answered, shaking my head. “And buds? Oh, okay.”
“Look I know I hurt you. But you have to test the waters before you get your feet wet, right? At least I told you how I felt. I mean, hasn’t that ever happened to you when you didn’t feel it for someone?”
Yep, time to call it a lunch.
“You didn’t hurt me,” I said. “You confused the hell out of me. And yes, I remind myself every time I think I feel badly about you, about how I didn’t feel about a couple of guys.” He smiled like he’d won something.
Except I never asked them to be my guy, I never led them to think I was crazy about them, and I never asked them to stop seeing other people, I thought but didn’t say because I’d said it before and I was very much done.
“Thank God, I never slept with you,” I said, calmly. “You probably did me a favor, ditching me like you did.”
He was a little stunned–enough not to respond for a second. Then, “Ouch!” He paused, “But yeah, maybe I did.”
“Well, you’ve forced me back into the wild whacky world of dating,” I smiled, waving the screen of my cell phone in front of him that displayed two texts, one missed call, and a voice mail from said whacky dating world.
“We’ll take the check,” said the boy to the bartender. He turned to pat Rouletta’s head. Then he was oblivious when I paid the check with my credit card.
“No, no!” he feigned concern upon realizing.
“Yeah, you leave the tip,” I mumbled. And with that I untangled Rouletta’s leash and we walked to his car. I had walked to the restaurant, but he didn’t offer me a lift home. Which was fine, because I would have declined it, anyway.
I am becoming rather skilled at deleting numbers from my cell phone and blocking those whom I’d rather never know about again from Facebook news feeds and then deleting them from email lists. Bye and bye and bye.
There’s another world out there, as whacky as it is. It’s one in which people call me first, return my calls, make plans, and call again. It is a world in which I caught my first fish and had a blast with someone I’ve known but kept at arm’s length. It is a world through which I no longer feel the need to rush.
And no doing lunch unless it’s a first date. And never again, after the fact.