I cleaned out my wallet last month because over the previous few months, quite a bit of crap had accumulated. There was a wad of folded up receipts, my favorite being a slip from my dry cleaner dated May 8th, 2006. Way too many coins bulged against the sides of the change purse and a collection of crinkled bills overwhelmed another slot. Sure the zipper still closed but I was tired of having to manage the clutter so as not to get papers caught in the teeth.
As I shuffled things into two piles, stuff to keep and stuff to shred, I found the business card from that guy on my Quito flight. You remember him, right? Mr. Lolliracket? Yeah, me neither. It seems I had transferred his card from my backpack to my wallet but that’s where things stalled out with a sputter and a spit. Never once had I plucked it free and pondered utilizing the noted contact information.
Staring at the card, my eyes tracing the tattered edges and scanning the formal lettering, I realized it had served a purpose and the purpose had passed. When I stood there in day old clothes with fuzzy teeth and tussled hair, his advances reminded me that there were other boys in the world. Boys who would willingly offer silly grins and nervous giggles in response to my presence. Boys who, unlike the ones from my recent past, were moving in a forward motion. Maybe it wasn’t fair that I ended things before they could ever begin but at the risk of sounding selfish, I got everything I needed out of that interaction. And so I tossed the card in the to-be-shredded pile.
Two weeks ago Sunday, I found myself talking to a guy from Boston that I had spent the previous month or so getting to know.
“I just got a ticket for going through EZPass too fast,” he grumbled.
“Yeah, um, I just found a nail in the wall of my back right tire,” I countered.
“You know, I should have just come down there. We could have had a first date and the net expense of visiting you would have easily been less than my speeding ticket,” he joked. There was a long pause, the cogs of his brain echoing and creaking. “I’ll be home in five minutes. Let me call you back.”
I was pulling into the driving range when my phone rang again.
“So I can get a flight that will land in Philly at seven o’clock this evening. And I can take an overnight train back up to Boston. What do you think?”
“I think you’re crazy,” I answered without hesitation.
“I wouldn’t offer to do it if I wasn’t interested.”
And so a few hours later, I found myself lingering outside airport security while flipping through the most recent issue of Town and Country and waiting for a boy from Boston.
We relocated to the bar at Twenty Manning where we sipped drinks and settled into first impressions. I noticed the way he held the globe of his wine glass instead of the stem. Or the way I playfully rested my hand on his knee, curling my fingers around the inner part of his thigh. With our glasses drained, we strolled two blocks down to Tinto for dinner. We sampled the Spanish cuisine and swapped more stories all the while melting deeper into the banquettes. The date continued for another few hours, ending when I dropped him at the train for a midnight journey northward. He disappeared into the station and I merged into traffic.
As I pulled off the highway and onto Broad Street, for some unexpected reason I started to cry. Nothing that involved heaving gasps or trembling moans. Just a steady stream of tears pushing over the creases of my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. With my car coasting from light to light, I ran the back of my hand across my face. It was a simple gesture that accomplished nothing. Stopped at a corner, I looked to my left. The driver, caught in the act of observing my sadness, dragged an extended finger down his face and warmly mouthed that I shouldn’t cry. I crinkled my lips into a crooked smile and spoke a hushed thank you before shifting my gaze forward and willing the light to turn.
It was at that very moment I realized that Boston like Mr. Lolliracket had served a purpose and the purpose had passed. It had been a nice evening and I had enjoyed certain aspects of the interaction. But at the core I was numb. Sitting in my idling car at a glaring red light, I realized that while there are other boys, cute and funny boys with the ability to make me laugh and make me think, I’m still not ready meet them.