And thus a cool evening not too long time ago, I was cocooned in my neighbourhood coffee shop, completely immersed in a great book, The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. I was supposed to meet a friend at 7 :30 for drinks and dinner and had thus discarded my regular uniform of a pair of jeans and a top, for a slightly more jazzed up fashionable...well...pair of jeans and a shiny slinky top. I was looking forward to some time alone before what promised to be a long, loud and fun filled evening. I seated myself, smiled at the two women at the table in front of me and opened my book. A few moments later, a guy walked in. In a coffee shop with eight empty tables, how was it that he found it fit to come and sit at a table 5 inches from where I was. Darn. But I thought nothing more of him until three minutes later when he leaned over to my table and asked me a question. I looked up rather blankly, to see a pair of huge brown eyes, a close buzz cut and a delicate face with a very very nice smile (this dentist approved of it at any rate). Now let me state just for the record, I have sat alone in coffee shops all over the world, China, US, UK, Thailand, and yet have actually had very few guys try to start a conversation with me, and no I am not talking about the gay guys who flirt with me as a cover when they come in with their mothers or the geriatrics who need help with their trays and who then thank me by telling me all about their grandchildren. But very rarely (I can count the instances on one hand...er...actually on 4 fingers) has someone spoken to me without asking me to pick up their paper napkin or if the chair next to me is available or something equally as unexciting.
Did you say something, I asked him with an expression of mild curiosity on my face (all faked, I was actually terribly curious. Maybe he was going to tell me I dropped my wallet).
The two women sitting in front of me were all of a sudden taking interest in what was transpiring here. So embarrasing for a insanely private person like me.
Can I see the book, he said. I gave him the book and looked away, just a little irritated. I mean couldn't he tell that my sole intention in sitting here was to read and what was the point if someone was going to borrow the book for a while, and leave me to ineffectively twiddle my thumbs. So I did the next best thing one does when one has nothing to do. I started messaging my friend to see if she was running on time. He held on to the book long enough for me to suspect that he was actually reading the back cover and the first chapter. It was either that or that he had pocketed the book and left the scene of the crime. But when I looked back at him, he was miraculously still there, still reading with a slight smile on his face (doctored, I suspect).
So who do you think lies more, men or women - he asks. I am blown away. For one, the question perfectly pertains to the book and how the hell had he figured it out by reading just the back cover. For two, what a brilliantly open ended question. He had already guaranteed himself an hour of conversation. Much as I tried to resist the temptation to answer, I could already see the words forming in my mind.
I think men lie more, I said. I refused to elaborate since I was still trying to not have this conversation.
I think women lie more, they just do it better, he said all the while smiling at me with those gorgeous gorgeous teeth.
So how's the book, he asked. Now I have never seen such empathy and eloquence in ones eyes when enquiring about a book. It was more appropriate for perhaps a question like - will he live?
And as I proceeded to talk about the book, he proceeded to move over to my table, much to my surprise and much to the entertainment of the two women behind me who had given up all pretense of having a conversation in favour of staring owl eyed at us. I'm guessing action in front of their eyes sure beat gossip behind someone else's back.
This, I told myself, was to make up for the fact that no one ever came up to me otherwise. Some force greater than myself was ensuring that I was now getting it in double doses.
So what do you do, he asked me.
I am a dentist, I said suddenly conscious that he'd wonder what kind of a dentist I was if I was sitting at a coffee shop at 6:30 in the evening. The lucky kind, I decided.
Oh great, he said, I need help with my teeth. Again he flashed me that perfect smile.
I seriously doubt it, I said grinning back.
We spoke about all the things people talk about when they first meet. Music, hobbies, friends, food. My book was long forgotten, which was so shocking to me since I usually open the book even before I sit. But I had forgotten that the one thing I liked even more than a great book is a fun conversation.
We discussed clubs. He told me that every time he went to a popular club he had the Chinese Box there.
What is that? Is that a game? I asked him, to which he laughed and laughed and joyfully patted my hand like I was the most endearing thing he had seen in a long time.
It's a platter that has all kinds of Chinese food on it, he educated me. He was learning more things about me than most people knew. For example he now knew that I had no taste for fine dining.
And we talked some more and laughed a lot. The two women behind us were staring at us with huge smiles as if they had personally played a role in boy meets girl. I looked at them and felt a little foolish. It was so obvious that he was flirting for all he was worth, in front of ten filled tables, approximately thirty curious people, without a care in the world. Why wasn't I telling him to bugger off? To be honest, I was more busy waiting for him to ask if I had someone special, just so that I could see his reaction when I told him I was married and had a child who had thrown up on me that morning. Or maybe I would fabricate twins. I was dying to see how he would extricate himself from a hopeless situation. Would he slink back to his table, tail between his legs? Would he get up and leave? Or would he change tracks and stop flirting so charmingly? But no, we spoke of everything but THAT.
A large chunk of our conversation revolved around him guessing my age. He started from 20, God bless him. I did give him a huge hint by telling him I was almost old enough to be his mother (did I ever tell you he looked young? Polished and well spoken and young. Could not have been more than 24 even if I added a few years to his age). He grinned back and said his mother was most definitely not 25. He added all the many years of my professional education (8) and then looked confused because that would make me much older than what he thought. I had half a mind to put him out of his misery, but this was way too much fun.
He asked for my number.
For your teeth? I asked him
Ofcourse. Whatever did you think, he grinned back.
And just like that I gave him my number. To all of you who think that it is really foolish of me to give out my number, I am DOCTOR, you people!. Everyone and their mothers have my number. Complete strangers have my number. About 200 dental companies have my number. My business board has my number. My website has my number. One more person would hardly make a difference. And so I gave him my business card with name, address, number, email and website, as I have to so many hundreds of people. I could see victory in the two women's eyes - Guy got Girl - they were thinking. Hardly, I wanted to tell them. It was more - Guy got Dentist's Number. Or Dentist got Patient, if he was really persistent and I was really lucky!!
He paid for my coffee. I tried to stop him but it seemed to involve too much of touching his arm and hand and torso and was only going to give him more pleasure than I wanted to. And so I did what the very rich do. I graciously allowed him to pay. I was only wishing I had had the foresight to order the special coffee with the hazelnuts and icecream. He said I could pay next time. I told him there would be no next time. He still paid (would have been rather awkward for him to wriggle out now). And then walked me to an auto outside. The two women probably though we were leaving together and I could literally see them judging the youth of today while secretly giving me the thumbs up.
As I walked into the restaurant where I was to meet my friend ten minutes later, I got a message from him.
'You are the sweetest thing ever'
Wow, with a line like that I now know for sure that he was probably not a day over 18! But hey, it's not everyday that I get to be called 'the sweetest thing'. And that is ageless. And so much fun.