The Year of Dating Dangerously (III)

#9

I get a long and incredibly eloquent letter from a man whom I’ll call the Genius. The man writes beautifully. He is an intellectual, a philosopher, a Great Mind. An inventor, a creative genius, and his letters are worth framing. I am breathless just reading them. Quite soon, he says he wants to meet for coffee. By a strange twist of fate, I have a baby again, but this time only for a fortnight. Back to the Botanical Gardens, where the waitresses must be wondering about this white woman with the brown babies and a different man every time. But hey, I like the big trees and silence and it’s known and familiar and therefore anxiety-reducing. When I meet the Genius, my immediate gut reaction is “No.” Simply that.

We have a pleasant enough time under the trees, talking about his work and kids and life, as one does. Even though it’s not really relevant to me, I am still curious to know exactly what he meant when he said he is “separated”. I see him take a bit of a breath, then he tells me he is still living with his wife and daughters. He sleeps on the couch. Their marriage has been “over for a long time”, and he is “definitely getting a divorce”. He’s just “waiting for the right time” to tell his wife. It has to be done right, so as to cause the least amount of hurt. I nod sympathetically. We go our separate ways, with vague words of “We must do this again”, but I know already. No.

After I get home, I start getting messages from him, asking what I thought of him. I don’t reply immediately. I’m stalling, not sure how to say this. I text back, “can’t talk, just driving kids around.” More messages, getting increasingly agitated about my lack of response. By early evening I finally sit down and type a polite reply. I tell him that it was nice meeting him and I have enjoyed our email exchanges immensely, but he is a married man, and I don’t feel like I can date him while he is married. His answer is abrupt: “Fair enough.” We never contact each other again.

By now I am jaded and fed up and cranky. Nine! Nine interesting, (mostly) decent people, but still no-one truly compatible. I vow it’s the convent for me. Except I’m not a Christian, so it might be a problem getting into a convent.

#10

But then I get an email from someone who looks rather familiar. An old flame! From eight years ago. We dated very briefly and had a lot of fun back then. What a nice surprise! Of course we can go out to supper to catch up. Just one small detail. I still have this baby. No problem, the man says, he likes babies. So off we go again, baby strapped to chest and having a great time watching people’s reactions when they see the white woman with the Afro baby. And the man who looks like an Italian Stallion. The Stallion is terribly charming. When the baby needs to be fed, he cuts up my food for me so I can eat with my free hand. Later on he takes the baby and sings to him in a deep and beautiful voice. The waitresses think it is the most adorable thing ever, and I do too.

We go out again a few times, without the baby, because he has by now been placed with another mother with this incurable condition (she has it in a much worse degree than me: she already has two babies! I was just helping out in a crisis. I’m in remission, but not totally cured, you see). Anyway, the Stallion and I have a few great dates and every time I see him he takes my breath away with his good looks and guitar playing and serenading. And how he makes me laugh! But, as before, this is not where my future lies.

I go back to home base and take a long hard look at the past ten months. I count the men. Ten of them. TEN! I’m due for my prize, I’ve worked hard at this, I played the numbers game! I have run out of steam. But.

There is still one man out there, who has been emailing for a few weeks, but I’m getting despondent. Still, the man seems kind, decent, intelligent, and well, what have I got to lose…? And, for a change, here is a non-smoking, non-Christian, non-married man. That is already quite encouraging.

#11

I feel sluggish and scattered but I invite him out for coffee (yes, bold and modern woman that I am). I suggest the Botanical Gardens, it’s just the easiest for me, I am too anxious to think of any new venue at this point. And I really do like it there. I arrive five minutes early. I am uncharacteristically nervous. My heart is in my throat and I swear I’m never doing this again. Ever. It’s too draining. I feel almost feverish. I turn my car’s fan up and hyperventilate a bit. Gradually I get a grip and calm down. It’s time.

I walk the short distance to the coffee shop, and spot him immediately. My heart skips a beat. A strange calm settles over me as we start talking as if we’ve known each other for ages. It’s that easy. He’s kind, funny, attractive, different… Coffee turns into lunch, and still we are nowhere near that awkward point when conversation just dries up. The waitress asks me where my baby is today. I have no option but to tell the truth about my illness. The man thinks it’s sweet.

Eventually we must leave, though. At my car, he asks if he could have a hug. I put my handbag into my car, my back turned. “Of course,” I say when I turn around. I even surprise him with a quick kiss. I drive home feeling very odd indeed. I want to see him again. I hope he wants to see me again…

We continue our conversation in cyberspace, and we agree that the date went well. I tell him that I would say yes if he should ask me out for another date. Sometimes I say the strangest things. And so he does, knowing the answer already. He suggests we go for breakfast in Franschhoek. I am nervous again and have a complete wardrobe breakdown, and there is not enough time to consult my fashion advisor. The weather is really in-between warm and cool. Should I wear my favourite dress, which is summery but has a very low neckline…? Too cold? Too revealing? Maybe my favourite white blouse? Too hot? This is so unlike me. I normally just wear whatever is clean and not too crumpled. What is wrong with me?!

Wardrobe worries are soon forgotten, though, and we have a date as smooth and harmonious as one could wish for. I am waiting for the alarm bells to go off any minute, as invariably happens within the first date or two (at which point I try my best to not ignore them). Silence. No red flashing lights. I consult my best indicator – my gut. It says not to worry. Hmmm. This is new, this is unexpected…

The third date is on the horizon. Watch this space and wish us luck.

Continues here

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