Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Two
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Three
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 4
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 6
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 12
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 11
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 14
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 15
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 16
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 20
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21
Recently divorced Anna Waite is learning to appreciate life after first love. With the support of her best friend Kira, and a solid sense of humor, Anna tackles the world of dating. This is her coming of middle age story.
THE DATE WHERE I GO TO A PLAY
I love musicals. Bright lights glaring down on a scenery-laden stage. Actors with intricate costumes. The predictable flow of emotions leading to happily ever after. None of the ugly middles where the main character cries in the shower for twenty minutes because she doesn’t have the energy to shave her legs.
Just as an example.
A guy I met online asked me to see Les Misérables with him, and I accepted the invitation. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Greg, a 45-year-old salesman with four kids and a cringey comb-over, I needed legitimate plans to avoid the ex-hole.
Mike asked if I wanted to meet him and the boys for a movie. Just like old times, he said. First, weird. Second, hard pass. He seemed disappointed I said no, but his asking me out injects a shuddery feeling inside. Like when I spot a big spider or wake up to the sound of a retching child. And knowing every word to every song in Les Misérables means this date will be more fun than “old times.”
Pulling up to the building, I find a place to park. A small retirement center occupies the space where I expect a theater. I double-check the address in my GPS.
A knock on the window scares the hair off my unshaven legs. Outside my van stands a man, his forehead shrouded in a cornhusk of slicked, blond hair. His wide smile glows in the moonlight, and he holds a bouquet of flowers.
I cover my racing heart and roll down the window. “Hi. You must be Greg.” The comb-over is a dead giveaway. “Are we at the right place?”
“Yep. I’m glad you found it.” He adjusts the flowers, a beautiful arrangement of roses, lilies, and daisies.
“Isn’t this a care center?” I ask, even though the lit sign reads Serenity Lakes Senior Facility.
“Don’t worry about that. The cast is doing a special performance,” he says.
“Oh.” What kind of professional troupe sets up at a rest home? “How did you get tickets to this…special performance?”
“My daughter plays Fantine.” He nods, imploring me to be impressed. But if I recall, he doesn’t have a kid old enough to play a prostitute who shaves her head to feed her illegitimate child.
“How old is your daughter?”
“Twelve. This is Les Mis Junior. Obviously, some of the songs have been edited for content.”
Les Mis Junior? I feel lied to. Cheated. I add another shudder to my list: Mike asking me out, spiders, stomach flu, and LES MIS JUNIOR. With no delicate way to abandon the date, I roll up the window and leave my car. The little black dress I wear hugs my curves, a more revealing ensemble than I would have chosen for the elderly population. Fancier as well.
Greg extends the flowers, and I move to take them, a thank you on my lips. But he uses his elbow to shut the van’s door and yanks the bouquet away. “These are for my daughter.”
“Ummm, sorry.” I blink my eyes and sigh, sensing another date failure in the making.
“It’s fine,” he says. “Let’s go in.”
My heels click on the tile as we make our way past the front desk. A small foyer leads to a cafeteria. Long tables press against the wall, and rows of chairs fill the center of the room. A sea of gray hair occupies the seats. At the front, a tiny stage rises a few feet off the floor. It resembles an elementary school set up more than a theater.
Greg grabs two “programs” of folded white paper printed with the cast and a song list. Of course, he wants to sit in the middle, and he takes my hand, dragging me along. I mutter, excuse me, and sorry, tripping over orthopedic shoes and the occasional cane before finally finding a seat.
The woman next to him sneezes, casting a suspicious glare at the bouquet. Oh no, I hope she’s not allergic.
“Sarah, that’s my daughter, has worked so hard in this role.” Greg ignores the sneezing woman and brags about his daughter’s singing, acting, and dancing lessons. All the lessons that will one day provide a big payout in the form of fame. Supposedly.
Another sneeze. “Are those daisies?” the woman asks.
“Why don’t you let me hold the flowers.” I offer to take the bouquet, giving our sneezing friend some space. Greg glares and holds them tighter as if I want to pry them from his daughter’s deserving hands. I’m really not that desperate for flowers, Greg.
A woman walks on stage, tapping a microphone, and feedback squeaks through the speakers. She thanks everyone for coming and talks about the challenges of directing Les Mis Junior. A buzz from my purse alerts me to a text, and I tune her out in favor of checking my phone.
The name Dylan Pound flashes on the screen, and an excited flutter dances in my belly. Millions of fireflies flapping wings and lighting up in blitzing warmth. I cast a side glance at Greg, who focuses on the stage. Daisy Allergy sneezes again, and I open my message.
Dylan: Would jeans and a sports coat be acceptable for tomorrow?
We texted a little last night, but he was busy. Then I put my kids in bed, a long, drawn-out process, and our messages got further and further apart. At least we managed the biggest details; agreeing to meet at Kira’s, me sending the address, an overview of what offends Mrs. Song (everything), and how to respond (smile and nod). Apparently, dress code didn’t get covered, though.
Me: Yes. I’ll be wearing a blue dress with pink hibiscus flowers. Kira bought it for me.
After hitting send, I wonder why I told him that. It’s not like we’re going to prom, and he needs to pick up my corsage. My phone rings, Dylan calling, and I scan down the aisle, wondering if it’s possible to vault the arthritic legs of Serenity Lake to take it. But, no. No, it isn’t.
It absolutely kills me to decline, but I text a quick reply.
Me: Can’t talk. I’m at a “play.”
Dylan: Why the “quotes?”
The lights in the cafeteria dim, all except the bulbs along the perimeter. Care center workers, in their scrubs and sensible shoes, serve as ushers, hovering nearby.
Dylan: Never mind. Sorry. I don’t mean to bother you at the “play.”
His copying of the quotation marks makes me smile. One of my cardinal rules of dating is to put my phone away, giving the other person my full attention. But with Dylan’s words illuminating the screen and the music crackling through the second-rate speakers, I decide to break the code.
Me: You’re doing me a favor. This is Les Mis Junior. Jean Valjean looks like a ten-year-old wearing a fake beard.
Dylan: Ha! How’d you end up there?
Do I tell him I’m on a date? It’s not like we’re exclusive. Or, you know, have even been on a date yet. I go with honesty.
Me: This guy asked me out to see Les Misérables. I was fooled into thinking it was a professional production.
Dylan: You’re kidding, right?
Me: I wish I was.
A pre-recorded song runs, and the kid misses his cue. He tries to catch up, jamming the words in double time. I clench my teeth, pained to hear the musical massacre; grateful to text and distract myself from what would otherwise test the limits of my patience.
Dylan: Wow. The strangest things happen to you. I’m almost jealous. My life is boring by comparison.
Me: This is nothing. You should hear what happened at my son’s last soccer game.
Dylan: Okay, you can’t leave me hanging. Spill!
Greg watches the stage like the world’s greatest production is playing out. So, I keep texting. I tell Dylan about Frank. The smell of Tequila. A forced attempt to show me his new tattoo. Police pulling the half-naked man from where he collapsed on me.
Dylan: Now you’re just making things up.
Me: I have the public lewdness police report to prove it.
Dylan: I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.
The memory of Dylan’s laughter escapes from my mental locket. I can imagine his eyes crinkling, the gray brilliant with humor. His smile curving upwards and making his face almost too beautiful to look at. I’d still look, though. And bask in its glory, grateful I even had the chance to see it.
Greg reaches over to take my hand, knocking my phone. It lands face down in my lap, and I start to apologize for texting during the show. But he stares straight ahead, unconcerned with my rudeness, tears glistening in the corners of his eyes. Ah…Fantine’s solo.
His daughter stands center stage, wearing a tattered costume and singing about dreaming a dream. The wireless microphone cuts in and out. But her voice is lovely, and it carries in the cafeteria. Greg’s lips move, mouthing each line, and the stranglehold he keeps on my hand attests to his nerves. I couldn’t pull away if I tried.
Our friend with the daisy allergy sucks in shallow breaths, charging up a sneeze. Greg’s grip on my hand tightens until my knuckles squeeze together in pain. The lady explodes in a loud ah-choo. Then again, right as Fantine goes for the crescendo.
Before I can say gesundheit, the flowers fly as Greg bats the woman on top of the head with the bouquet. A chorus of outraged protests joins the fading notes of Fantine’s song. It all happens so fast, a large man (who must be named Brick or Tank) escorts us from the care center. By Greg’s wide, blinking eyes, I’d guess he wonders how we ended up on the sidewalk in front of Serenity Lakes too. Brick/Tank guards the front doors. His elephantine arms crossed over his gorilla chest. The scrubs say care center employee, but the muscles scream bouncer.
Greg marches up for re-entrance. “Excuse me!”
“Hey, Greg,” I shout loud enough to temporarily distract him. “I’m going to head home. Your daughter has a beautiful voice.”
His expression freezes somewhere between graciousness and grumpiness. But he offers a half-smile and a partial wave. A buzz rumbles my purse. I assume a text from Dylan. My restraint astounds me, and I wait until I sit in the van before checking my phone.
Dylan: So…is the “play” any good?
A giggle catches in my chest as I picture Greg wielding the mighty daisies.
Me: We got kicked out.
Yes, kicked out. Of Les Mis Junior. Either the universe hates me, or it really loves Dylan’s laugh. Probably the latter; I’ve heard it myself.
Dylan: You’re kidding, right?
Me: I wish I was.
We repeat the exact words from earlier, and the warmth of budding familiarity buzzes. I wonder if he feels it, too, this growing connection.
Dylan: I can’t wait to hear about it. In person.
Take a breath. Stay casual. Like I don’t know the exact number of hours and minutes until I see him.
Me: Oh yeah. I guess we have something tomorrow.
Dylan: We do have something.
Did he leave off the word tomorrow on purpose? Did he intend the double meaning? The fireflies return, lighting my insides, and I think about taking a screenshot of the sentence. Or maybe needle pointing it on a throw pillow. Because every time my eyes pass over the words, a buoyancy lifts me into the realm of hope.
Now, I just need that something to survive dinner with Mrs. Song.