We started speaking every night.
It was such a relief just to be able to talk to someone about how the day went. And also to listen. It had been a few years since her husband passed, but the scars never really go away she told me. You just learn to live with them.
We spoke about many, many things.
Cancer, running, hospitals, mourning, faith, food, friends. Children and parents. Dogs and cats.
She told me what it was like to grow up in Australia. I told her about crazy days at Colgate.
And drinking coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. One night, or maybe it was in the wee hours of the morning, I suggested something.
“You know, it’s a little weird. For weeks and weeks we have spoken for hours and hours. Yet we have never met. I don’t really know what you look like. Maybe we should get together for some coffee.”
“Are you sure you are ready for that?”
“Ready? What do you mean? I’ve been drinking coffee for years. I mean I am NOT suggesting we go on a date. Nothing like that. Just coffee.”
“Really, it’s wouldn’t be a date. I will wear a sweatshirt and old jeans.”
“I won’t bathe. I may even forget how to speak English.”
“It’s OK. No worries.”
We decided to meet halfway between Neve Daniel and Bet Shemesh. When I first drove up, I felt utterly ridiculous. I mean, despite my declaration that I was not in any way, shape, or form, going on a date, I had to admit, I was a single guy about to sit with a single woman.
And honestly, that thought was pretty scary.
We had had great conversations on the phone. And even great e-mails. I was sure that her looks would match her cool Aussie accent. But what if she took one look at me and fled? Hmm… Good thing I really had taken a shower. But maybe I should have tried to do one more run that morning.
How was my breath? Yikes! I need breath mints, where are the damn breath mints? I’m crawling on the floor of the car looking for a stick of gum or something.
I found myself looking in the rear view mirror of the parked car at all different angles.
What the hell! Did I suddenly revert to 18?
It was very scary. I mean would we still be able to have our ultra-marathon phone calls until 2 AM once she saw what I looked like? I guess I would know if she drove up, met me, and then remembered that she had forgotten to feed the cat.
OK, now I was damn nervous. I almost drove away before she got there.
I looked at the sky and thought of Stella and what she would think.
And I knew she would be very disappointed if I drove away and left this lady alone. That would be rude and not what Stella would expect of me. (It is a very good thing having your own guardian angel with you at all times.)
So I waited. And when she drove up I recognized her immediately.
And I became a little less nervous.
We sat and I was about to order coffee. She suggested I try tea with nana (mint.) Why not, I thought. Maybe it IS time for something new. Something different.
We drank our tea.
And we talked.
Of cats and dogs, and Australia and Colgate, and cancer, and running, dying and living, and everything else under the sun.
And when we finished our drinks, I asked if we could meet again. And she said yes, she would like that. And so I drove home.
And when I looked in the rearview mirror, I found myself smiling for the first time in what felt like years.