I’ve had a number of people ask me what happened with Marian, the lovely woman from the grocery store. It’s a lengthy story, so it’ll be at least two parts. Here’s the beginning. Enjoy.
“That’ll be $7.64.” The kid behind the counter slides two cups of coffee across the granite slab.
“Thank you kindly,” I respond as I hand him a ten. ”Keep the change.” I move to a nearby table and prepare the two cups with generous helpings of cream and sugar, then pass one off to my companion, Candice, a.k.a. Marian the Librarian.
“Such a gentleman,” she says as she accepts the cup, passing it from hand to hand as it cools. ”What did you say this is called again?”
“A hammerhead. An Americano with two shots of espresso.” I gingerly take a sip of the scalding beverage. ”Think of it like drinking Red Bull with a No Doze kicker.”
Marian carefully drinks the coffee, then looks thoughtfully upward, making a show of smacking her lips as she considers it. Then she shudders. ”Sweet Moses, that’s foul.”
We both laugh, and she proceeds to further dull the espresso flavor with additional cream. ”I’ll never understand the urge to cover the flavor of coffee with other things,” I remark as she pours several tablespoons of sugar into her cup.
“I wouldn’t if you ordered better drinks,” she says with a wry grin. I hold my hands up in a gesture of concession.
A few minutes later, Marian and I are strolling side by side down the sidewalk. The night air is crisp and cool, and the breeze carries the scent of coming rain, as clean an aroma as I can imagine. I inhale deeply through my nose and sigh as I exhale. ”Damn do I love that smell.”
“Oh me too,” Marian answers. She looks up at the sky, at the muted streetlight reflecting back from the clouds onto the city below. ”Though I’ll be a bit annoyed with Mother Nature if she decides to open up on me when I’m not carrying an umbrella.”
“Think of it as a scene from a romantic comedy,” I suggest, “or maybe an old-school musical. Singing In The Rain did quite a number with that premise.”
“Yes, but you’re no Gene Kelly,” Marian points out.
I look at her, wide-eyed, mouth agape, putting on my best expression of shock and horror. ”Hey now, just because some of us aren’t built to be decidedly macho doesn’t mean we don’t bring something to the table,” I say, affecting offense. ”Donald O’Connor did a wonderful job in that movie, after all.”
“Yes, but you’re no Donald O’Connor,” she says, and the grin spreads across her face again.
“Don’t make me bust into an impromptu rendition of Make ‘Em Laugh,” I warn her, and she laughs again, a warm, rich sound. She nudges me with her shoulder.
We walk in silence for a moment before she says, “You don’t seem the type to watch musicals.”
“You’d be surprised how often I hear things like that.”
“Probably not, actually.” She glances over at me as she raises her no-longer-coffee to her lips. ”I get the distinct impression that I’m not the first woman you’ve wooed.”
I take a sip of my own coffee as I consider my response. ”Well… no, I suppose you’re not, though you’re one of very few who actually knew a thing or two about musicals.” Something clicks in my mind, and I smile over at her. ”Wait, does that mean I’m effectively wooing you?”
Marian shrugs and answers, noncommittally, “Maybe. I’m still trying to figure you out.”
“Meaning,” she continues, “you seem…” She ponders, choosing her words carefully. ”…too good to be true.”
I chuckle into my coffee cup. ”Care to elaborate?”
She smiles. ”Not particularly.”
“I bought you foul coffee,” I remind her.
“That you did.” She toasts me before taking another drink. Another moment to consider her words. ”I mean… It’s like you’re not a real person. You’re like an amalgamation of all the good and interesting parts of a guy. It’s like going on a date with Frankenstein’s monster version two-point-oh.”
I frown. ”De Niro’s Frankenstein, not Boris Karloff. Dude was a lot taller than me.”
“See, right there!” Marian laughs and pushes me playfully. ”Who the hell actually knows who Boris Karloff was anymore?”
“People who like old movies?”
“Yeah, see, that’s my point,” she says. ”No one likes old movies anymore. You’re literate. You’re a scientist. You’re charismatic. You know musicals. You know pop culture. You obviously work out.” She glares at me. ”People like you aren’t supposed to exist outside a Katherine Heigl movie.”
“Only guy I can remember starring alongside her is Gerard Butler. I’d kill to be that rugged.”
Marian rolls her eyes and pushes me again. ”Whatever. Point is, you’re too put together. It’s almost artificial. I’m just waiting for the downside.”
I pause and glance toward her. It’s obvious she’s into me. If she weren’t, that bit of dialogue would never have happened, not to mention the way she’s smiling into her coffee cup. She’s having a wonderful time with a guy who’s just as into her.
A guy she thinks is single.
I sigh silently and lift my coffee cup to my lips. ”I’m married.”