Dots

It is my fourth day of unemployment and I’m already contemplating the universe, how and why I’m here, and what I’m doing.

It’s going to be a long summer.

Like a small dot on the GPS of life, I’ve been skipping along what feels like a pre-determined route. The assigned route is not necessarily the wisest way to go. It gives no consideration to traffic, weather conditions, time of day, or detours.

I suppose at some point, I’ll get to a destination of sorts, but it is folly to think that I’ll stay there. Sure as rain, some thumb somewhere will program in another address, and blindly, I’ll trip down roads and over bridges until I cross another finish line, catch my breath, eat a snack, and start out again.

***

Humankind supposedly built its first condo settlement between two and three hundred thousand years ago.

My life, in the history of humankind, is the blink of an eye. 

Modern mammals took their first breaths around 75 million years ago. Reptiles, 300 million years ago. Next to these distant cousins, my life is less than half a blink of an eye.

Astrobiologists believe that life on earth was established 2 billion years ago. The earth itself is about 4.5 billion years old.

I’m not even the beginning of a blink of an eye.

The universe is assumed to be at least as old as the oldest thing in it: 12.44 billion years, give or take. So, really, when you put it all into context, my life is not even the beginning of the impulse to blink said eye.

I’m not a nihilist. I simply take great comfort in knowing that however long this stint of unemployment may seem, it is, in truth, a painfully brief moment in time.

***

One of the coolest men I’ve met so far on my journey is an engineer who lives in Houston and works for the oil industry. Born in Mexico, raised in Italy, a rationalist by design, he’s encountered far too many synchronicitiies and magical moments in his life to continue walking with blinders on.

He thought I was part of the mystery, since I knew what he was talking about. And he believed that I was placed on the map of his life as a marker. I didn’t deny this. Two dots meet at The Park Restaurant in Houston and talk about being dots, what it means to be dots, and why they, as dots, met. They continue the conversation at the dog park (with a tiny dog dot), and then over croissants. Though he was given scant information about the dot he was laughing with, somehow, the dots connected and he was able to make sense of the story.

I’ve met a lot of interesting men so far this year and I’ve kept in touch with a few of them. My Houston dot is the only dot who has played a part in my dreams. I never gave him my phone number; he doesn’t know my real name. I successfully remained a mystery inside the mystery of his life.

The last dream I had about him was about a month ago. In the dream, he was speaking Italian and I was trying to understand him with my very poor grasp of Spanish. He was walking to his car. I told him to wait for me, that I had to take care of my dog, but he didn’t wait. He slowly walked away. He was aware of where I was, but he knew that we shouldn’t walk together.

I emailed him the dream. He asked me what I thought it meant.

“We speak a similar, but not the same language,”  wrote. “We almost understand each other, but not quite. You are as mysterious to me as I am to you and the timing isn’t right,”

In the dream, we weren’t sad and we weren’t disappointed. It was the way it was supposed to be. We both understood that.

***

The world slowly spins, singing it’s story, which I suspect goes something like this: “one day I woke up, and here I was.” The universe, the stars, the planets might sing a similar song. And we, the dots, the sorrowful and enlightened, screaming, crying, laughing, yelling, smiling, winking, watching, walking, loving – from protozoa to blue whale – sing a collective song of such beauty and resonance, that our earth, tired as she is, carries our burden and spins on her wobbly axis. Her lover, the moon, and her teacher, the sun, shine proudly on her.
My Houston dot never responded to my email. I can’t blame him. But, if life is a puzzle book and we’re stuck on the connect the dots page, I’m number one and he’s number two. The rest of the picture might remain unfinished, but the line that connects him to me is drawn in pen.

The Houston 3

It seemed like a good idea at the time, three Houston dates squeezed into a twenty four hour period. It is a feat never attempted by me before. Ever. I don’t get out much.

The first date: Friday afternoon

Friday morning, Sadie and I set out for an hour walk along the Bayou. I’m planning on being there a little early, maybe spend sometime exploring. I hear they have great thrift stores on Westheimer and Dunlavy.

An hour and a half later, we’re still walking.

But it’s a beautiful day, and the park is full of small surprises.

An hour and forty-five minutes later, fifteen minutes before my date, we’re still walking. And I realize: I don’t know his name. My dog’s drags behind me, surely bemoaning having chosen me as her person. The sun’s insistent on being warm and bright. My cellphone, as usual, is perilously close to running out of batteries. And the one email where he signed his name is buried amongst other queries from other gentlemen who want to discuss things like whether or not I like virgins, what I ate for dinner, and if I’d like to chat.

An hour and fifty-five minutes later, I’m sitting at the cafe, my dog curled up in the safe haven of her bag. I found his name. Doug. I will never forget his name again.

I sit at the front of the cafe with a coffee and watch my cellphone slowly die.

Ten minutes later, he walks through the door. We sit outside.

He’s handsome. He’s successful. He drives a nice car. He loves his life.

As city girl, caught up in the swirl of perpetual adolescence and stunted responsibility, I confess that I’m not used to dating stable characters. Comfort’s outside of my comfort zone.

In short, I am perplexed by people who play golf.

Doug plays golf.

He likes me, I sense, but he doesn’t understand me. He never will. I am outside his vocabulary.

But he does drive us home. Sadie is happy about that.

***

The second date: Friday evening.

11:05 p.m. I walk into Phoenicia’s, a little wine bar a few blocks from the hotel. I told him might be a little bit late.

I was. A little.

Country blue grass music spills out through the closed doors. I’m wearing my date dress with sensible black tights. And as I reach for the door handle, I realize I haven’t washed the date dress it since before the Denver jogging debacle.

I dearly miss my San Francisco dating counsel. I’m here, in Houston. And I’m alone.

The place isn’t packed. There are only a few tables filled. And I don’t see my date. I wander through the tables. I stand in the middle of the floor. Not here.

And then someone waves. A vague chimera of a one and a half inch picture manages a stiff smile and I sit down.

He’s impeccably dressed. A few years older looking than his pictures. Good shoes, perfect socks, starched button down shirt. Clean cut. Heavy heart. Hopeful eyes.

He drinks Perrier. I drink wine.

The music’s great, and we hobble out a conversation about this and that. He has a varied history: academic, software developer, lawyer, novelist. He readily discusses his higher intellect. We journey through his life in Philadelphia, New York, Houston.

Later, he tells me I’m different than everyone else. He says he likes me because he can’t tell what I’ll say next.

He’s a fascinating man, struggling to find a little satisfaction in this concrete, oil-spill town. And I am someone who doesn’t want what everyone else wants. That must be a breathe of fresh air.

12:37 a.m. I ask him if he plays golf. I don’t remember his answer.

***

Third date: Saturday morning.

7:30 a.m. Wake up.

7:45 a.m. Take a shower.

8:00 a.m. Bleary eyed, get dressed. Bleary eyed, put on make-up. Bleary eyed, find leash. Bleary eyed, find hiding dog.

8:12 a.m. Venture forth into the world, past the hotel doorman who, with an almost cruel consistency, says good morning.

9:05 a.m. Meet date at Discovery Green as my dog watches me throw and fetch her green ball in the dog park. 

9:10 a.m. Go to a hole in the wall French cafe. Fortify self with coffee. Sit outside with unruly dog who doesn’t like children. Intervene between unruly dog and child when appropriate. Once again, find yourself in the uncomfortable position of genuinely liking your date and enjoying even the silliest story of how he learned to make crepes.

11 a.m. Drive back to Discovery Green. Say good-bye. Make vague plans about next date.

11:15 a.m. Walk back to hotel and admit to self that you are a terrible scientist and a sucker for a good croissant.

12 p.m. Go to work.