A man meets a woman and finds out if she’s compatible… (11/2002)
As soon as he opened the door, Robert Sherman suddenly felt heavy, like he always felt when going out to a bar. He’d all but given up hope that he’d find Ms. Right at a place where people attempted to turn slurred speech into glamour. He felt heavy from the apparent futility of it all.
Robert stood just inside the doorway for a minute and allowed his eyes to adjust to the bar’s relative darkness compared to the glaring outer lights that served as a beacon for the young flesh hunters in the area. As his eyes adjusted, he could see his friend, Dan, sitting atop a barstool at the long bar across the room. The place was full of hazy, noxious cigarette and cigar smoke.
Robert crossed the room and grabbed Dan’s shoulder. “Hey Dan.”
“Hey buddy. Good to see you. What do you want to drink?”
“I don’t know… how about a gin and tonic?”
“A Tanqueray and tonic, bartender,” said Dan to the bartender, who had kept an eye out for Dan, one of his bigger tippers. A few moments later, the drink arrived. Dan handed it to Robert, who was leaning against the bar looking out over the crowded scene.
“Thanks buddy. I’ve got the next one.”
Robert and Dan had worked together years ago. Now, the two men were just friends trying to maintain a friendship in the midst of two very busy professional lives. They made a point to try to see each other once every week or two for drinks.
Dan had proposed the idea. Robert wondered how Dan’s wife felt about their “boy’s night out,” but was happy to have the time with his friend. Dan, while also happy to spend time with his friend, had actually proposed the nights out in an effort to get Robert to meet people, women in particular. One, right woman, ideally. Like he had.
Robert asked Dan how Betsy, his wife, was doing. Dan asked Robert how work was treating him. Back and forth, to and fro. They discussed the weeks’ world events, books they’d read recently and the local sports teams.
The two men were chatting when they both noticed a beautiful woman enter the room from the back hallway wearing a red dress elegant in its simplicity. Robert looked at Dan to see if he’d noticed. He had – he was alive after all. Dan gave Robert a look that said, “Oh well, I’m married anyway.” Robert’s look said, “She’s way out of my league, but she’s probably a bitch anyway.”
Robert watched the woman approach the bar. She turned her narrow hips slightly and slipped deftly between the stool next to Robert and the one beyond that. The bartender spotted her and a few moments later handed her a drink. Apparently, the bartender knew her drink order.
The woman took a small sip of her drink and then turned away from the bar to face the room, and sat atop the stool one away from Robert. She seemed to be surveying the room and had what Robert read as a look of disappointment or perhaps frustration on her face. He didn’t realize that it was the same look he’d had on his face on so many nights.
The woman turned and looked directly at Robert. She was, simply, a vision. She had shoulder length dark brown hair and even darker brown eyes. She wore very little make up. Robert smiled and said hello. She smiled back and Robert was immediately smitten by her radiant smile. She had perfect teeth and tender lips.
“Hi. My name is Robert.”
“Hi. I’m Jacqueline.”
“Nice to meet you Jacqueline.”
Pleased that Robert hadn’t immediately shortened her name to “Jackie” like so many men had done in the past and attracted to his charming, imperfect grin, Jacqueline returned the favor, “Nice to meet you too, Robert.” She slid over to the stool between them. They shook hands. He felt long delicate fingers. She felt firmness but also tenderness.
Dan noticed what was happening and just as Jacqueline got comfortable next to Robert, he got up and put his hand on Robert’s shoulder. To Jacqueline he said a simple but warm “Hi.” To Robert he fibbed, “Robert, I see an old buddy over there. I’m going to say hello. I’ll see you later.” For the next hour and a half, Robert would not notice his very good friend Dan sitting alone watching the game on the television that hung in the corner of the room.
Robert turned his attention to Jacqueline. It wasn’t hard. As beautiful as she was, he also somehow sensed that she was not just another pretty face as they say. He didn’t want to get his hopes up only to be squashed like a bug under the boot of a disinterested passerby, but something deep inside compelled him to open himself up to the possibility that this woman was someone special.
“Jacqueline, would you mind if I asked you ten questions to see if we’re compatible from my perspective?”
Jacqueline was surprised to hear such a direct request, at least that didn’t involve a sex act. Boy, had she had her share of those kinds of come-ons from bozos, drunk and sober alike. She noticed the last three words that Robert had spoken. “From my perspective.” She took this to mean, correctly, that this man realized that just because he might think she was right for him, she might not necessarily think he was right for her. Intrigued by this man and curious what his questions would be, she replied, “Sure. Ask away.”
Robert had fantasized about doing this “ten questions” bit for years. He’d talked about it with his friends, Dan included. They all thought it was a great idea; it was just that none of them had the courage to try it. Well, neither had he until tonight. In his wildest imagination when dreaming of how women would react to such a question, he never guessed that a woman would simply say, “Sure, ask away.” It was no longer a “bit” – it was a chance to try to get to better know a woman that might somehow be important in his life.
Robert smiled, and then began. “Ok, here we go. Do you smoke?”
“No. I can’t stand it. Places like this drive me crazy. I have to wash my clothes immediately after coming home because they pick up the smell so bad.” One for one, Robert thought to himself.
“Do you have a sense of humor?”
“Well, I think I’m funny.”
Robert liked this quirky answer. He suspected that he’d find her funny too.
“Are you active? Do you like being outdoors, playing sports?”
“Is that one question or two?” Jacqueline quipped with a wry smile.
“Smart ass,” Robert quipped.
For a brief moment, he worried that he’d gone too far, become too familiar too quickly. Or that she’d resent the profanity. Her smile told him he hadn’t and that she didn’t.
“Ok, let’s count it as one. I want to go on record as saying that I think I’m being very generous here.”
“So noted, counselor,” Robert said in his best TV judge impersonation.
“So my answer is yes, yes and yes. I was born in the Northwest. Just west of Seattle. So, I’ve always been surrounded by beautiful scenery, even if a bit gray. I love the mountains. I used to hike and backpack a lot as a kid, although I haven’t done that in a while. I’m sure I’d still like it. As for sports, I play tennis and a bit of golf. I’m not particularly good at golf, but I’m pretty decent at tennis. I was on my college team. I still play pretty regularly.”
Robert wanted to ask her so many follow-up questions. Like, “What was the name of the city where you were born and raised?” He’d been to Seattle a number of times and knew the area fairly well. Like, “Where’d you go to school? What did you study?” But he only had seven questions left. He wanted to make them count.
Robert continued. Jacqueline was taken by the thoughtfulness of Robert’s questions and by their probative value. He really was trying to get to know her. The “important her,” not just the superficial stuff. Her answers got longer, providing more detail as they went.
Robert ordered another round of drinks for them both. He was so smitten with Jacqueline that he forgot to tell the bartender to use a quality gin, not some cheap house brand. Luckily, the bartender had remembered his previous order. After all, Dan the big tipper had ordered it.
Before Robert could ask his next question, Dan walked up. It took a few seconds before Robert realized his friend was standing there.
“Oh, hey Dan.”
“Oh hey yourself you big lug.”
To Jacqueline, Dan said, “Hi. I’m Dan. I’m a friend of Robert’s.”
Jacqueline replied, “Hi Dan. I’m Jacqueline. It’s nice to meet you again.”
Turning to Robert, Dan said, “Well, I’m going to take off. Give me a call tomorrow, alright?” Dan wanted to hear the details of this spectacular woman who had captivated his friend for so long.
“Uh, okay. Thanks Dan. I’ll give you a buzz from work tomorrow. And, hey, thanks for the drink earlier. I owe you one.” To himself, Robert added, “I owe you two, actually, if I count how cool you’ve been about my bailing on you to spend the evening with a woman I just met.”
“Bye kids. Y’all have fun now, ya hear.” And with that, Dan headed for the door.
“Where were we?”
“I had just finished telling you about my dreams and aspirations.”
“Right. Pretty big and awfully high, I must say. I like that.”
“Thanks. I figure if you don’t try to do something with it, life is just a waiting room.”
“Okay, next question. Do you want children?”
Jacqueline sat silent for a long while. She could have easily provided an immediate answer, “Yes, definitely, I want kids.” But she was mulling over whether she’d want to have them with this man, Robert, whom she’d just met. Amazingly, after having only talked with him for an hour and a half, she was pretty sure the answer was a definite “yes.”
Robert was worried about Jacqueline’s silence. “Was that too personal a question?”
“No. No. I was just thinking about something, that’s all. I’ll tell you about it some time. To answer your question – your ninth question if I’m counting correctly – yes, I do. I love children. They are these awe-inspiring supersaturated bundles of energy and joy. They are free of pain and guilt and fear and they are beautiful because of it. I hope to have two children, maybe more. I want to guide them and teach them, but I also expect to be taught by them. After I have them, I hope to spend every one of my remaining days wrapping them in love, and feeling the comfort of their love in return.”
Robert didn’t know what to say. Her words were so powerful, so personal. He sipped his drink for a moment to buy some time, to regain his composure. Jacqueline took a few sips of her water and let the intensity of her comments dissipate.
“Ok, last question.” Robert moved in closer to Jacqueline so that she could hear over the noise in room. Apparently, the Giants had scored a touchdown and the fans in the room were whooping it up. Leaning in towards Jacqueline, he asked, “Do you like sex?”
Jacqueline had long since decided that she liked Robert. A lot. She decided to have a little fun with him, to test his sense of humor. After all, that was on her list too.
Jacqueline put on her best look of shock and outrage and asked, “Did you just ask if I’d like to have sex with you?”
Before Robert could answer, Jacqueline reached toward the bar, grabbed her drink and splashed its remains at Robert’s face. The liquid hit him in the face and dripped down onto his shirt.
Robert, not exactly sure of what had just happened, calmly picked up a napkin and began dabbing off his face and shirt. Somehow he sensed that she wasn’t really mad at him, at least he hoped that she wasn’t.
“Uh, no, I asked you if you liked sex in general. Not whether you wanted to have sex right this minute.”
“I know,” Jacqueline beamed through a bright smile. “I was just having a little fun.”
Robert realized then that there was no odor or sweetness to the drink he was wearing. It was water. A look of recognition crossed his face, as he tasted a drop to be sure.
“Yep, that’s right. Water. I noticed your shirt was cotton, not linen or anything, so I figured I was safe.”
Robert laughed a deep belly laugh, something he hadn’t done with a woman in a long time, and continued to wipe himself off. Jacqueline reached over and gently and oh-so-seductively patted his temple, cheek and neck.
“Now do you mind if I ask you my ten questions?” She asked.
Three hours after they’d met and first said hello to each other, Robert and Jacqueline exchanged phone numbers, email addresses and hugged and kissed each other good night. They arranged to meet for breakfast the next morning. As they left, Robert found himself wishing that Weight Watchers did as much to lighten his physical frame as meeting Jacqueline had done to lighten his spirits. He was in love; there was no doubt about it.
A month later, on their honeymoon, Robert discovered the answer to his tenth question. Ten for ten.