As previously stated, I keep a small circle of close friends. I don't talk to strangers, and I have no interest in small talk. I am loyal to those who are closest to me.
Still, I often wonder if that's the best practice.
A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I had lunch with my undergraduate advisor (still my advisor in many ways) and a mutual friend of ours at a fromagerie and bistro.
As we ate and discussed the ins and outs of English professorship, I noticed a waitress, whose beauty I found so astounding that I found it difficult to concentrate on anything else. My company, being older, wiser, and always eager to help me find love in unexpected places, encouraged me to strike up a conversation with her. I obviously demurred, finding it preferable to hide behind my cheeseburger.
Of course, after we parted ways, I realized there was no way I could not talk to her and still live with myself, so I went back inside.
I told the waitress behind the counter that one of her coworkers was wearing a gray, v-neck sweater and inquired about her name. She poked her head around the corner and confirmed my beloved's identity. I asked if I could talk to her for a moment and was told I could find her upstairs at the bar.
The bar was crowded, despite being near closing time. I found her washing a dish (let's say), quite magnificently. I only had a minute to survey the scene and plan my approach before she whipped around and appeared right in front of me, taller than I'd realized.
I greeted her warmly and introduced myself before asking if she'd like to have dinner somewhere, sometime.
I don't know if women rehearse their reaction to these sorts of inquiries, but she seemed genuinely taken aback and managed to find the words explaining she had just broken up with her boyfriend days earlier.
I offered my condolences and asked how she was doing, to which she responded, "Not good."
They had been together for a year, and I explained that my last relationship, despite being equally "brief," had also had the depth of one lasting several times that. She seemed consoled by it, and then proceeded to thank me for my invitation because—even though she had to reject me—it was exactly what she needed to hear on this particular day. I said I was happy to help, and perhaps another time would suit us better.
After I left her, I realized I could not in good conscious leave without providing my contact information. I tore a page out of my Field Notes and scrawled the following note:
Pretty Lady Whose Name I Will Not Disclose on This Blog,
It was wonderful to meet you. I hope you feel better soon.
(In case you could ever use an extra friend.)
I slipped the note to the waitress behind the counter, giving her explicit instructions that it was for its intended recipient only, and she promised to deliver it promptly. I thanked her, said "Happy Thanksgiving!", and left.
I share this story because I'm beginning to think action is preferable to passivity when it comes to relationships. I have no desire to befriend every person I meet or clutter my life with acquaintances, but I also can never be sure whether that person over there might be one who changes my life.
I like to think we each have several people walking the earth who possess the capacity to turn us into the best version of ourself. Maybe we won't meet the one who does until five years from now. Maybe we'll meet them tomorrow. Or maybe we already have.
But it can't hurt to say hello.