I willed the fog away.
And so we met, two and a half hours later than initially planned. As the plane approached the dock, I tried to act casual in meeting my doc. I fought to suppress a sudden image from “Fantasy Island”. Why did I immediately connect to the role of Tatttoo, instead of Mr. Roarke? “Ða plane, da plane!” On that old TV show, lonely souls retreated to a quiet resort to ultimately find love forty-eight minutes later. Oh, what a fantasy. Here we were fleeing our quiet paradises attempting to find love (or something like it) in the urban jungle.
As so often happens, reality hit within seconds of sighting my date. It was easy to spot one another. He was the only black man disembarking and I was the only guy with a schnauzer at his feet. Roland walked through the Arrivals gate and the date was DOA.
I skipped both hug and handshake, opting for a simple “Hi” instead. Roland smiled, I smiled. Everything was perfectly civil.
Initially Roland had arranged his flights to allow a six-hour visit. I’d tried to be tactful in reply, saying that seemed too long for a first meeting. He dutifully booked an earlier return flight, still leaving almost four hours. I figured we could walk around Stanley Park. Two, three times. Let the dog stop and mark every tree in sight.
The flight delays proved to be a blessing, cutting our time to allow a quick lunch and nothing more. As I drove toward a vegan place I’d discovered in Kitsilano—why not make the most out of this?—he disclosed that he was 54, not 45. “You can take me right back to the terminal if that offends you.” Perplexing, but not offensive. “Guys my age are out of shape,” he continued. “And no one will look at me online if I provide my real age.”
In that moment, my date went from being a no-go to a downer. My fifties are just around the corner. Would even the bad dates dry up? Would I recognize Mr. Last Chance before it’s too late?! Fifty is still thirteen months away. This is my biological clock ticking.
I paid for lunch. It was the least I could do since he’d gone through the expense of flying to meet me and I’d picked a restaurant that he probably didn’t like one bit. He was still in the pleasing mode, telling me the food was “really great” and he’d love to come back again. That’s when it dawned on me that the disinterest wasn’t mutual.
I was perfectly cordial throughout, but the conversation didn’t flow. I close off when I know things aren’t going anywhere. Why invest? Why provide any sort of mixed signals?
In a sense, I was relieved as Roland mentioned a number of things that are clear turn-offs to me. It’s not important to go into details. The point is that this was no longer about a lack of physical attraction. Personality-wise, he wasn’t my type either. Would I have overlooked things if he were Dr. McSteamy? Campaigned for a second date? I’d like to think not, but that’s admittedly an easy thought when McSteamy is a mere hypothetical.
I played the role of timekeeper, intent on getting him on the 5:00 flight and catching my 5:50 ferry. As I drove, he said, “I’d really like to do this again. Would you be up for it?”
Just when I needed an urgent traffic situation to pretend to require all my focus, Vancouver traffic never flowed so smoothly along Burrard Street. I pride myself in always being honest, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t glance at the man in the passenger seat and say, “I don’t feel a connection. Sorry.”
I went with a gutless, watered down assent, something like, “I suppose that could be a possibility. It is a lot of travel though.”
From his grin, he took that as a clear yes. I pulled into the drop off zone, gave him an awkward hug while still strapped in the driver’s seat and wished him a nice flight home. As he exited, he said something complimentary about my online photos not lying. He grinned again and was gone.
Driving away, I failed to wave or look back. That final grin lingered. I knew it. I’d felt it before and even flashed it a time or two, the gleeful expression on someone anticipating good things to come. I was wracked with guilt. For the flight home at least, he’d be thinking about our second date. I should have been completely honest. Better yet, I should have done something blatantly buffoonish so he’d not think a second about a second. I was raised too well.
And triple damn.