I read a lot of novels, and the people in them are always falling in love. Maybe things start with drinks in a quiet bar. Hands touch accidentally. The couple goes home together. But then it all goes south. The gauzy cloud of infatuation turns to a mean, icy rain. Soon he’s drinking every night, and she’s cyberstalking his new girlfriend.
In real life, I avoided all of this by marrying young and staying married. My husband is adorable, our children and grandchildren treasures. My husband’s only fault is a distrust of the TV remote so extreme that he tends to panic and peck at it randomly, causing electronic chaos. But just to be clear, I love him more than life itself.
So I go about my domestic and professional business, carrying a sensible purse, taking a water exercise class, driving a Volvo station wagon.
Sometimes I take the Volvo to a car wash on Connecticut Avenue, which is where I encountered the man.
He was tall, his suit matte black and soft-looking. I wanted to touch it, but I think that was because of the fabric. He was fumbling with his papers as he paid the cashier. I’m a sucker for men who fumble with their papers.
When we got outside and watched the guys drying our cars, I stood next to him under what had become a dazzling blue sky. I realized he was gorgeous in a Clive Owen sort of way.
Did I say tall? And wearing that black suit? Did I mention the artless bed-head hair? Did I say he was probably in an age range that would make him old enough to be president and young enough to be somebody’s son?
I wanted to hear him speak. So I said, “How do you like your Saab?”
I was pleased with this gambit, but later when I told my grown daughter, she said, “Oh, my God, Mom.” And not in a good way.
He spoke with a slight English accent. I felt dizzy.
He said, “Oh, now’s not the time to ask about my car. I just had to replace the clutch. But it was probably my fault . . . .”
He said the words “my fault.” In the history of humanity, what man has ever said those words?
I told him it couldn’t have been his fault, that the car people only wanted him to think it was his fault. I may have babbled slightly, but then he started babbling, too.
We talked about our cars. About how they handled in bad weather. About whether they were fun to drive. About gas mileage and tires.
Then my car was finished and someone was standing by it, waiting for me to get in.
I wanted to hear the man’s voice again. Just a few more minutes!
As I left, he called after me: “I like your bumper sticker!”
So he was perfect. The hair, the voice, the suit, the face, the humble suggestion of potential fault. And on top of that, he agreed with my politics.
I’ll probably never see him again, although I’ll admit to driving by the car wash a few times when my car wasn’t dirty. I have no idea where he lives—I didn’t notice the tags on his Saab.
Was he wearing a wedding ring? Don’t know. What does he do for a living? No idea.
Does he fail to put the CDs back in their cases? Does he snort when he laughs? I’ll never have to find out.