We made plans to go out to dinner the following Wednesday. It turned out Wednesdays and Sundays were Iris’s nights off. In the meantime, I couldn’t stop thinking about her, so by the time Wednesday arrived, I had such high expectations I was worried I might be disappointed.
That night, I waited for her outside the Japanese restaurant in little Tokyo that I’d picked. She arrived right on time, and when I saw her approaching from down the street, I found myself grinning stupidly because I couldn’t get over how stunning she was.
“Hi,” she said when she reached me.
“Hi, you look amazing,” I said, and she smiled like she was embarrassed by the compliment.
As the two of us went inside, I admit I was proud to be seen with her. She was here with me, as my date, and I was brimming with confidence. Then the two of us were seated and I looked at her from across the table and I didn't know what to say. I hadn’t anticipated this because it had been so easy the other night. Everything had come so naturally then.
We looked at our menus, and then the waitress came and took our order. Once she left it was just us with nothing to say. I took a sip of my tea, desperately trying to think of some combination of words that would get the ball rolling, but all I managed was another stupid smile. But she smiled back as if she knew how I was feeling, and everything was okay. Suddenly it was like we were totally alone, and there was nothing to distract me from her.
“Stop looking at me like that!” she said, still smiling.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I still can’t get over the fact that I’m sitting here about to have dinner with you after all these years.”
Now Iris took a sip of tea and again we went quiet. Then I remembered the thought I’d had two nights before.
“So are you seeing anyone?” I blurted out.
Iris gave me this puzzled look that I didn’t know how to interpret.
“Would I be out on a date with you if I was?” she countered.
“I don’t know. Maybe. You could have told your boyfriend that you ran into an old friend and was having dinner with him. He might be the type that would be okay with that.”
“I don't think any guy is the type that would be okay with that, but no, I’m not seeing anyone. Actually, to tell you the truth, I haven’t been with anyone in a long time. How about you? Are you seeing someone?”
“No, not right now,” I said.
I was glad she was single of course, but it made me wonder how someone like her could still not be taken. I knew what was wrong with me, why I was alone, but it made no sense that she didn’t have someone.
Then I realized what it could be, and before I even knew what I was saying, I recited a quote from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story.
“There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice,” I said.
Iris stared at me blankly until she asked, “What was that?”
“It’s from a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald,” I said.
“I know the story, I recognize the line, but why did you say it?” she asked, and then she started to smile.
“I was just trying to understand how someone like you could still be single. Then that story popped into my head, and I wondered if it was because you were still trying to get over someone from your past, trying to experience the same thing with the same person.”
“I like that story too, but no, that’s not why I’m single, is that why you are?”
“No, I think it’s obvious why I’m single.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, who would want to go out with a guy my age that has pretty much nothing going for him. I see nothing wrong with a girl wanting a guy that’s more established.”
“You know, financially stable, with a good job, and a bright future, that sort of thing.”
“Well, what if I told you I could care less about those things.”
“I don't know if I'd believe you. What else would you care about?”
“Whether you’re a good person or not.”
I realized not only that she was right, but that I’d been so caught up in my shortcomings I’d forgotten that there was more to life than having a fancy car and a nice place to live. It was actually quite eye opening for me, and I saw for the first time that ever since I’d finished college, it felt like all I’d been concerned with was making money.
I looked at Iris and realized it was really her that was eye-opening. How could I have gotten so lucky? I thought. I asked myself what I'd done to deserve this, and then I thought this is too perfect, there must be a catch.
Then as if reading my mind, Iris said, “There’s something I need to tell you, Simon.”
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