He struggled into the house as far as the living room, where he collapsed on the couch. There he stayed, unmoving, complaining of pain, for the next three hours, refusing to let me do anything, until I took matters in my own hands and made that call.
Within minutes, fifteen at most, our living room burst with big, muscular, handsome men. All sporting the uniform of our local fire department. All take-charge men who knew just how to shift my suffering husband off the couch, onto a stretcher, down
the steps of our house and into their emergency vehicle.
All the while flashing me magnetic smiles, reassuring me that everything was going to be just fine, charming me with their masculine confidence. Of course I was worried about Alan, but a corner of my psyche reeled with enchantment for these men.
Then Alan moved out. I started my search for his antithesis. He’s a white guy who rebels against rules, distrusts authority figures, lives in a world of science and ideas, is anything but macho.
For my first dalliance, I wanted the opposite. I remembered all that exciting male energy in my living room with those firefighters in their snappy uniforms and I thought, “Yep, just the thing, an African-American fireman.” Plus, I know one, the perfect one, our single fire chief, a big man around town. Even better, we’re acquainted through
The only hitch was that this philanthropic project was in the past and we rarely run into each other anymore. I couldn’t exactly call 911 and expect the chief to show up at my door.
My friend, Brenda, solved this hitch when she talked me into spending a Friday evening at a dance studio, for a group class followed by an open dance party.
Miserable is what that dance party was. Or at least, how I felt at it. Just like my worst moments as a junior high wall flower, I sat on a chair along the wall, all alone, while Brenda spun by in the arms of all sorts of students and teachers. No one asked me to dance.
Then I spotted him, Dan, our hunky fire chief, leaning in the door way, watching the dancers. I looked at him. He looked at me. No sign of recognition. “Well, maybe he doesn’t really see me,” I thought, pulled myself from my chair and headed in his direction.
I made eye contact. No visible recognition.
I was nonplussed, thinking, “What’s this? Am I racial stereotyping? Do all African-American men of a certain build and age look alike to me? This can’t be Dan.”
Since I was obviously heading directly for this good-looking guy leaning against the door jamb, I stuck to my course. When I got close enough to see it really was him, I said, “Hi Dan.”
A beat passed and no response, so I thought, “Great, he doesn’t remember me.” I say,
He said, “Yeah, I know.”
I said, “Do you want to dance?”
He said, “No.”
No. Just no.
What’s a girl to do with this kind of humiliation? Me, self-confident, attractive, accomplished me, was standing in a dance hall facing a man who’s just said, “No, I won’t dance with you.”
I growled at Alan in my head. “If it weren’t for you messing up, this wouldn’t be happening. I wouldn’t be spending Friday night at a party as the only girl no one will dance with. We’d be home, dance music on, practicing our fox trot, working our way toward our favorite horizontal dance steps. Dang you!”
Aloud I said, “What do you mean, you won’t dance with me? I love to
dance. You’re the only person I know here and you’re saying you won’t dance with me?”
“Georgia, it’s not you. I just don’t like to dance. I took lessons here and figured out I don’t like to dance. I love to watch other people dancing. So, I come here Friday
nights and that’s what I do. I watch.” He pointed out the best student dancers, told
me their stories, which is when Brenda found us.
I made introductions, we chatted a bit and drifted off in separate directions, with me thinking, “Shucks, no flames with that fireman.”
The next Friday my friend, Susie, and I are sitting in a restaurant enjoying post-orchestra drinks. We’ve each ordered an elaborate alcoholic ice cream drink, the kind I haven’t indulged in for years.
The waitress stops by our table and says, “Your drinks are being paid for by one of our patrons. He said he wants to pay for whatever you ladies ordered.”
Both our heads snap up. I can’t tell what married friend Susie is thinking, but I’m thinking, “Finally! This vixen divorcee thing is working for me.”
Susie asks, “Who is it?”
The waitress replies, “He’s one of our regulars. Comes here almost every Friday night. Sits at a corner table, drinks coffee. Dan’s a nice, nice guy.”
“So,” I think, “he comes here when the dancing’s done.”
“He’s the chief of the fire department,” the waitress adds.
Susie’s eyes widen in surprise. Bet this is the first time in her life the fire chief bought her a drink.
“I know him,” I say. “Where’s he sitting? I’d like to thank him.”
The waitress responds, “Oh, he just left.”
A nice gesture, but no flame, that’s for sure.
Six months later I’m at the same bar for a meeting after work. Dan’s at his usual table. I bring my colleague over to introduce him because in our town the fire chief’s a VIP. Never hurts to know people like him.
He greets me with the new hug. I’ve learned about this hug only since being recognized publicly as a divorced woman. It’s not the distant, no body-contact hug of which my Scandinavian mother would approve. It’s a full-body contact hug. That’s it.
A little smoke, maybe, but where there’s smoke, there’s not always fire.