Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In which my orange polyester doubleknit pants split in the back while I am at the blackboard

You may remember my stunning seventh-grade wardrobe. No jeans for me. No sir. Not windowpane jeans or the kind with the seam going up the back of the leg and hugging the butt and then going back down the other leg. No gauchos. No wrap-around sweaters. No tube tops.

I wore clothes I made myself.

It wasn't that my mother didn't try to take me shopping. She did. But I refused to go. So she sewed some of my clothes and I sewed the rest.

For my first day of seventh grade, I wore a doubleknit polyester pantsuit with a halter top. My shoulders were modestly covered by the jacket, of course. We did have a dress code at our school. This was Texas, not some heathen godforsaken place where boys and girls exposed their hormone-throbbing junior high midriffs and shoulders to one another. [Have things changed that much since then or are the writers of Friday Night Lights completely out of touch? I promise that when I was in high school in Texas, nobody was allowed to dress like that.]

The elastic-waisted pants were a green and white floral pattern. The green short-sleeved jacket had white piping and white buttons. The halter top was the reverse pattern of the pants. The pants and jacket could also be worn with a white blouse and I have a photo of myself in that very outfit, long white sleeves emerging from under the short sleeves of the jacket for indeed that was the fashion of the day.

Shut up. It was adorable. My mother made it for me. My mother is a heck of a seamstress. She can make bound buttonholes and make a tailored jacket. She doesn't do it anymore because she (and I) have discovered the beauty of consignment shopping and why not just live off the fat of the land instead of spending all those hours sewing? Now you can get a nice outfit, halfway well made, for less than the cost of the fabric to make something.

My mom couldn't hold a candle to our modista in Spain, though. That woman was amazing. She would come to our house to sew. [I know! My dad was a captain in the air force and we had our own seamstress? And a maid? It was like we were rich or something! The something = Spain was extremely poor in the early 70s and a dollar went a long way.] It wasn't just that she could sew well. It was that we could show her a photo - a mere photo - of what we wanted and she would nod, throw back her shoulders, cut and tear fabric, sew, sew, sew and voila! a reproduction of the desired outfit, only live and in person. She did not need a pattern. She was incredible.

She made my favorite dress in third grade - a maxi dress with ruffles around the bodice and the hem. I loved that dress. Loved it. The only person I've found since with close to that talent was a young seamstress I met in Chile who did some alterations (turned the collar of the jeans jacket my college boyfriend had given to me when the collar wore through - they can do that if you wear them all the time for 10 years, you know) and a little bit of sewing for me. She did not need a pattern, either. Just a photo. She was in college, studying to be a civil engineer. She had the right intuitive sense for it, I think.

Back to my seventh-grade wardrobe. No jeans. Lots of polyester. Funny-looking glasses. I was a fashion icon, all right.

My pants were all variations on a theme: elastic-waisted, doubleknit polyester. In many colors. The pants of many colors that my mother made for me. She had stumbled across a huge remnant sale at Hancock Fabrics or TG&Y or whoever was the reigning fabric store in Lubbock at the time. Bunches and bunches of remnants, almost all polyester, for it was the 70s and that was how we rolled back then - the fabric that didn't need to be ironed! - for a quarter apiece.

For a thrifty household manager who knew how to sew, this was a sign. A sign to sew her children's clothes from these remnants. At least, her child who was not in Catholic school and who did not wear a uniform to school.

Fine by me. I didn't like shopping. Still don't. Hate to look at myself in a mirror. If I owned a women's clothing store, the first thing I would do is install soft lighting and skinny mirrors in the dressing room. Why would anyone want to buy clothes after seeing herself in florescent light?

I had a dozen pairs of polyester doubleknit pants with an elastic waistband. With the pants, I wore either bought shirts or t-shirts I had made, for I, too, had mad sewing skills.

My favorite t-shirt had black trains running across a white background. Set-in sleeves. I was more advanced than raglan sleeves by this point.

I wore that shirt with the pants of many colors that my mother made for me, because black and white go with anything, including neon orange or lime green, right?

One fine day, I was wearing my orange doubleknit polyester pants with the elastic waistband and the black and white train t-shirt. I had been called to the board to do a math problem. I dropped the chalk, bent over to pick it up and felt a rip.

My pants had split. The seam in the back of my pants had split. As in, everyone could see my waist-high flowered underpants.*

Seventh graders are not kind. Lord of the Flies and all that, remember? Seventh graders are also very happy when the focus is on someone else's misfortune because when the focus is on someone else's misfortune, it's not on them. This time, I was the misfortune. Even if everyone else had felt sorry for me and empathetic, they would still have had to laugh, for it is funny to see someone's pants split. No matter how mean it is to laugh, it is funny.

It's just not so funny when you're the person with the split doubleknit polyester pants with the elastic waistband.

The blood drained from my face. I was already so many strikes behind cool there was no way ever to catch up - I played the violin, I rode my bike to school, I was smart, I wore glasses, I wore funny clothes, I didn't go to church on Wednesday, I was new - but split doubleknit polyester pants with an elastic waistband pushed me permanently to the loser side.

The teacher rushed me out of the room, gave me a pass, and sent me to the principal's office, where the school secretary called my mother to bring me another pair of doubleknit polyester pants with an elastic waistband. She arrived forthwith with the brown doubleknit polyester pants with an elastic waistband. I changed, slunk back to class, and prayed for disaster to befall someone else so my little event would be forgotten.

It took me years to overcome my revulsion against polyester after seventh grade. I am only now slowly coming around to accept that polyester has changed since the 70s and that my underwear will not show and my pants will not split.

* I discovered later that they could see them anyhow as the orange doubleknit polyester elastic waisted pants had a translucent quality to them that revealed the flowers on my underpants to anyone who might take more than a passing glance at my ass.

In which the orchestra teacher chews us out

When I was in seventh grade, I went from the Catholic school, St Elizabeth's, to the public school, Mackenzie, which was about two miles away from our house. There was a Catholic junior high school, but it was across town and my parents were not big fans of parent-provided transportation to school. Kids can get themselves to school was their attitude.

My dad left for work too early to be able to drop me off, anyhow. I would often wake up at 6 a.m. because I would hear the farm report from the radio turned on in the kitchen. He was up then because he had to be at work early and because he often rode his bike to work, which was 20 miles away. There was no sympathy from him that I had a mere two-mile ride on my bike.

I do wonder about the moms I see picking their kids up at school now. We live in a town where there are not school buses, but probably because no kid is more than a couple of miles from a school. We have an elementary school one block from us. The next elementary school, which is across the street from one of the two high schools, is less than a mile from our house. There is a junior high three blocks from our house. Most kids walk to school, even in the winter, and many times without the proper warm clothing, but the streets are not littered with the corpses of frozen teenagers, so they must be warm enough.

But some kids get dropped off and picked up, which makes driving at that time of day a real pain in the neck and makes me wonder about the parents: Really? Your fifth grader can't walk a mile home? What kind of tales of suffering will those kids have to tell once they are grown up? That they had slow internet? That they didn't have movies on demand?

Back to Mackenzie. I rode my bike. Cynthia E., whose dad was a botany professor at Texas Tech, lived five blocks from me at 26th and Chicago. We lived at 29th and Chicago. She would wait for me on the corner and we would ride our bikes up to 12th and Chicago together, our violins balanced across our handlebars for yes, I was just as cool in junior high as I was in grade school. Now in addition to wearing funny clothes (more about those when I tell you how I split my pants) and glasses, I also played the violin! Everyone knows how popular orchestra kids are.

Despite my fifth-grade music class of singing along with The Carpenters, Lubbock had a really good music program. String education started in sixth grade, then you could be in orchestra starting in junior high. I missed the sixth-grade classes because I was in Catholic school and we didn't have violin lessons there, but when I got to Mackenzie, I decided I wanted to be a musician and joined orchestra. I didn't know how to play but really, how hard could it be?

Not that hard. I already knew how to read music from taking piano when I was in third grade. My mom was a clarinetist, so between the two of us and a few books, I picked it up, going from last chair at the beginning of the year to first or second most of the end of the year.

My main competition - if you can even say that, as she was far more talented and hardworking than I - was Hannah N., who was an Only Child who got Dropped Off and Picked Up at school. Bless her heart. She was a bit of a priss, but she didn't know any better. Her mother dressed her way younger than her age in frilly, full 50s-style dresses. She had short bangs, a little curly ponytail and pouty red lips. If I saw a girl like that today, I would think she was just as cute as can be, but as a fellow outcast seventh grader, I wanted to elevate myself on the social scale and the only way I knew to do that was to climb over the other nerds. Her clothes and her innocence were blood on the water to the junior high sharks.

Hannah wore an undershirt - the kind with lace straps and a little flower on the bodice - instead of a training bra. She didn't know any bad words. One day, she asked me why everyone had laughed in social studies when the teacher read from a letter written during the Civil War with the endearment, "Puss." She asked me because I was a fellow nerd, but I didn't want to be her guide to cool. I didn't have far to fall, though, to be as un-hip as she was. For PE once, we had to choreograph a dance to music of our choice. She did her dance to a Lawrence Welk record. I did mine to a Neil Diamond song. Not a lot of space separating us on the loser scale.

Let's stop while you picture that scene in your mind. Me, in my seventh grade glory of long blonde hair (which was the one feature I had going for me, except I didn't have it cut properly into a Farrah or wings), funny glasses, and my mandated gym suit from Penney's of light blue double knit polyester shorts (a wee bit tight) and a light blue and white striped sleeveless V-neck top, also too tight. A smelly light blue and white striped sleeveless V-neck top, because I undoubtedly did not take my gym clothes home for laundering nearly enough. It was a pain in the neck to take them home, what with balancing my violin across the handlebars and all. Nothing can hold a smell like polyester.

Then me, in my blue, blue and white outfit. Dancing. To Neil Diamond. [Whom I continued to adore, so much that my senior year of high school, when I worked at the Woolco across the street and got my $38.50 in cash at the back of the store every week, I could not walk to the front of the store without detouring through the record department and buying yet another Neil Diamond album.] In all my uncoordinated, unathletic loveliness. To a song that set my classmates snickering. How uncool could I be? Neil Diamond? Really? All the cool girls danced to Barry Manilow or Paul McCartney.

Hannah was what saved me from being the lowest on the cool ladder. As soon as she put on that Lawrence Welk record, everyone forgot about me and Neil and focused on Hannah and her precise, this is the show my grandma watches movements. Thank God for Hannah is what I say.

She has since become a flight attendant, flying to Europe and Asia for work. She is also a professional musician, playing violin with an orchestra in New Mexico. She looks nice. But I don't think I'll friend her on Facebook - if she remembers me at all, it might not be with fondness.

Neither of us, however, was a loser-y as poor, bless his heart, Ryan W. He was kinda funny looking. He was skinny. And meek. Had a runny nose. Was not a very good musician. OK, he was a horrible violinist. But that's no excuse to be cruel. Yet we were mean to him. We were awful to him. During school. At Tuesday night orchestra rehearsal.

To which I did not have to ride my bike because my parents didn't want me riding that far after dark. Cynthia's parents and mine took turns taking us to practice. Note: Rehearsal was not on Wednesday. No! When we were picking the night for rehearsal at the beginning of school, Miss Bonnington, the director, asked for suggestions. Someone suggested Thursday, but that wouldn't work because of basketball, etc. I finally raised my hand and suggested Wednesday, which nobody else seemed to have thought of, and every head in the room swiveled to look at me.

Miss Bonnington laughed and said not Wednesday. I asked why not.

The girl next to me hissed, "Because we have church on Wednesday night!"

I had never heard of Wednesday night church, but then, I was one of about ten people in town who weren't Baptist. Did you know that Baptists go to church on Wednesday night? I didn't. One day a week is enough for Catholics. It was sure enough for me. Two services a week would make me seriously consider converting.

We were mean to Ryan. So mean. Not physically, although he may have been beat up by other boys. In orchestra, we we beat him up with words and with the lack of words. Who wanted to talk to Ryan and be associated with him? He could do nothing but drag you down. It hurts me even now, 35 years later, to think of that poor kid, shunned and mocked by everyone else in school. I was only moderately uncool and moderately teased and I still remember it. He was tormented.

This is how bad it was:

One day in orchestra, Miss Bonnington sent Ryan to the office on an errand. She walked to the back of the room, closed the door, and returned to her stand. She looked at us, arms crossed, and didn't say a word.

Then she began speaking softly but emphatically.

I want you to quit being mean to Ryan, she said. Stop it. Stop it this minute. Quit picking on him. Quit teasing him. I am ashamed of you all. Ashamed!

The first violins, the second violins, the violas, the cellos and the bass all dropped their collective jaw. No teacher had ever spoken like that to us. Ever. Well, to me, anyhow. No teacher had ever scolded other students for how they treated another student. It hadn't happened up to that point and it didn't happen again after, either.

But it was her tone more than anything. She wasn't yelling at us, which would have been easy to defend against. Kids can tune out yelling easily.

She was calm, measured. She went for the "I expected better of you" tack, which is a far better method of shaming kids, at least children whom have been reared with a modicum of human decency. Who wants to feel that she has failed to live up to the standards set by someone she respects? We did know better. We knew we were wrong to tease Ryan so mercilessly. And we had done it anyhow.

There was not a sound from the students as she continued. We hung our heads in shame.

I don't remember what happened after that, although I would guess that after a short honeymoon, we slowly slipped back into our old, tribal, junior high ways. Ryan did not return to orchestra in 8th grade - you actually had to try out and he just couldn't play. I hope he is an internet millionaire somewhere, hanging out with his nerd internet millionaire friends and his sweet wife who loves him for the nice guy he probably was.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In which Missy G says she'll be my friend but only if I don't tell anyone at school

We moved to Lubbock when I was in fifth grade, in the middle of the school year. For the first time in my life, we weren't in base housing (except the year my dad was in Vietnam and the rest of us lived in an apartment 35 miles away from my grandparents) and for the first time in my life, except for the first two months of kindergarten, I wasn't in a base school. The house my mom and dad bought was across the street from Bowie Elementary School, so that's where my brother, sister and I were sent to school.

[Of course you know who Jim Bowie was! The guy who fought at the Alamo and whom the knife is named after! Didn't you have Texas history in 7th grade?]

There is nothing like being the new weird kid in the class in the middle of the school year in a school where kids aren't in and out all the time. On base schools, there are always new kids. New alliances form and disband, as they do anywhere, but nobody has the advantage of having been at the school since kindergarten. Everyone is new.

But I was the only new one in the fifth grade at Bowie. There were two girls of note in my class: Jennifer C., with her cool aviator-frame glasses, her long brown wavy hair and her yellow gingham double-knit polyester pantsuit, and Sandy M., who was an early developer, which is not such a great thing for a fifth-grade girl to be.

Jennifer was the arbiter of cool.

I was not cool.

Not that anyone in the class was really cool, unless you think that a music class that consisted of the teacher handing out a mimeo with lyrics so we could sing along with Karen Carpenter and her brother once the teacher touched the needle to the record was cool.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe every fifth grader really wanted to know all the words to Yesterday Once More, We've Only Just Begun, and Rainy Days and Mondays by heart.

Yes, I still know those songs.

It's just what you want your ten year old to sing, isn't it?

Talking to myself and feeling old
Sometimes I'd like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hangin around, nothing to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

What I've got they used to call the blues
Nothing is really wrong
Feeling like I don't belong
Walking around some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Depression, not fitting in. This song is the fifth-grade anthem.

I did not make any friends those few months. I did, however, get glasses, as the school nurse, doing a routine vision screening, identified my myopia. I didn't know I couldn't see the board. I mean, I knew I couldn't read it from my desk, but I had no idea that wasn't normal. Despite my vision problems, I still skipped a grade and always read with the class ahead of me. It didn't hurt me academically. I could see up close.

I couldn't see up close fast, though. The highlight of my school athletic career was at Bowie when I hit a softball that was pitched to me. The problem was that I hit it after it had passed my bat, so I hit it into my mouth.

It hurt.

Yes I was always picked last for any team. Why do you ask?

My brother made friends. Lynn O lived next door with his sister Lisa and brother Lanny. His mom and dad were very nice. Mr O was a morning radio show host and would play Malaguena for my mother. Mrs O had her pretensions - she acted fancy and name dropped a lot [My mother would roll her eyes and mutter, "Yeah, I know your uncle is a congressman. You already told me. Like 400 times.] - but she let me come over and play their piano whenever I wanted. That made up for the time that she gave my mom a bunch of Lisa's outgrown clothes for me and then asked to have them back a few weeks later because she wanted to have a garage sale. I didn't care: Lisa had reached the age where she needed to be wearing deodorant but nobody had supplied her with such, if you know what I mean.

My sister always makes friends. People flock to her.

But I was weird. Kinda funny looking. Well, not really, but I thought I was.

The next school year, my parents put us in the Catholic school that was about a mile from us. It's not there any more - there's a golf course in its place. The three of us rode our bikes to school through the cotton fields, which wasn't as great as it might sound because there are frequent windstorms in Lubbock and wind + dirt = duststorm. That dirt gets everywhere. We would ride the long way through Lubbock Christian College to avoid the dirt, but that didn't always help.

Missy was in my class, one of the other four girls. There were six boys. We had our own Girl Scout troop and met after school in the cafeteria. One of the girl's mothers, who was Mexican, gave us a lesson in making flour tortillas from scratch. The secret is lard. Sorry if that bothers you, but it's true. Lard is also the secret to pie crust. It won't kill you. My grandfather ate bacon grease on his toast and he lived to 82. It was the smoking that killed him. Not the pig fat.

Missy lived only three blocks from me and also rode her bike to school. We would ride together, our plaid skirts pushed up to accommodate the crossbar and our pants underneath our uniforms to keep us warm. Lubbock might be in Texas, but that doesn't mean it's warm in the winter. It's in the high plains. Blizzards, etc.

I have to tell you a Lubbock joke. When I was in the Peace Corps in Chile, another volunteer, who was from New York, was planning to get a PhD and was applying to various programs, including Texas Tech (which is in Lubbock). This volunteer liked his beer.

You know Lubbock is dry, right? I asked him.

He looked at me, puzzled. Yeah, I know it doesn't rain a lot there. So what?

I laughed. He did not know this dry of which I spoke.

Back to Missy. We rode our bikes to school together. We spent afternoons at her house. We were in Girl Scouts together. We learned American Sign Language from our brothers' Cub Scout handbooks together so we could communicate across the classroom without the teacher knowing. (I had my glasses by now so it worked.)

Until we got caught, we stole pecans together from the lawn of the old lady in the big house with the huge pecan trees on Slide Road. The old lady saw our bikes leaning against her tree, saw us picking up pecans and stuffing them in our pockets, and came out to scold us.

Are you Baptist? she asked. [Maybe she asked if we were saved. I can't remember. It's the same difference to some people.]

No, we answered. We go to St Elizabeth's. We're Catholic.

Of course we were heathens. We did not say "No ma'am." NO MANNERS.

She shook her head and sighed. Oh bless your [pagan, anti-Christ] hearts, she told us. I'll pray for you.

I thought Missy and I were friends.

But again, I was not a cool kid. In St Elizabeth's sixth-grade class, Steve S. and Steve R. were the ones who decided who was in and who was not. I don't know why Steve R. should have been a cool decider - he was about as nerdy as they come, with his nerd glasses repaired with tape and his skinny, sixth-grade body. But he was Steve S's best friend and Steve S. was a good looking blond kid from a rich family who lived on Slide Road near the fancy pecan lady who was going to pray for us.

Missy valued their opinion and esteem.

So one afternoon, she laid it out for me: I'll be friends with you, she said, but you can't tell anyone at school.

The right answer would have been, Go to hell. Either we're friends or we're not.

But this was way before the self-esteem movement. It was back when kids handled their own problems without involving the adults. It was back when most kids had a strong intuitive grasp of realpolitik.

The answer was obvious.

I could either have self respect. Or I could have a friend.

I shrugged and said, OK.

Unfortunately, our friendship lasted only until the end of the year. Once we started junior high, she went to the Catholic junior high and I was back in public school. But more about that later.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

In which I stand a guy up for a good reason but he doesn't believe me

Austin, late 80s. I was at a restaurant after work, holding a table for eight, waiting for my friends to show up. I do not remember the name of the restaurant, but I can tell you exactly where it was: at MoPac and 2222, just west of the grocery store (Safeway, I think) and just north of a 50s ranch house with a stone exterior and wood floors that I considered buying for $50,000. I didn't, which was maybe idiocy, because that house would probably sell for $300,000 today simply because of the location. But I had seen one housing bubble already in Texas and did not trust it wouldn't happen again.

Yes, the current housing bubble was no surprise to me or to anyone who lived in Texas at that time. How can something like this happen? people have moaned. Housing prices have never declined before!

Oh yes they have you idiots. You just weren't paying attention. I have a friend who stayed living in her house with her ex-husband for a few years after their divorce because they couldn't afford to sell it. It's a good thing it was a relatively amicable divorce.

Back to the restaurant. I was at the MoPac/2222 location.

But guess what?

The restaurant also had a Hwy 183 location near the big Whole Foods.

That's where all my friends were waiting.

I was at MoPac/2222. They were at 183.

This was back in the day before cellphones, so I couldn't call to triangulate. I just sat waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

All alone at a table for eight.

I felt like an idiot. To save face, I pulled my grocery list out of my purse and started doodling, noting that I needed eggs and milk and that I needed to change the kitty litter.

After what seemed like hours but was probably a few minutes, the waiter came over and handed me a note.

May I buy you a drink? the note said.

What? What was this? This sort of thing didn't happen in real life, at least not in my real life. I looked around the restaurant, which, fortunately, was not full, or I would have felt really bad about holding a table for eight, and saw a guy looking back. He propped his wrist on the table and waved a few fingers at me in the West Texas lone pickup on the highway fashion.

I looked back over my shoulder.

He was not looking or waving behind me.

I gave him a tentative wave in return.

He smiled, then walked over to my table.

What are you writing? he asked. Are you taking notes for a book?

Had this happened today, I would have answered that I was writing down stuff for my blog, but back then, blogs didn't exist and I didn't have such a glamorous answer. No, I told him. Just my grocery and to-do list.

We chatted. I explained that I was waiting for my friends but they were no-shows and what was up with that? That was about when I figured out that they had gone to the other location. For dumb.

He was a window designer - what a cool job! - for one of the big department stores downtown. I have gone to the google to try to help me remember which one: Was it Scarborough's? Was it Joske's? Joske's was pretty fancy in my eyes, but it didn't take much to get fancier than Sears and Penney's, which were my family's mainstays for bought clothes when I was a kid.

As a young working adult, I bought my suits at Joseph Banks, but only because I did not know there were other stores that sold women's business clothes. Maybe there weren't back then. We women were kind of stuck with the boring navy suit and the cotton blouse with the stupid stupid bow tie, thank you Mr Dress for Success in Ugly Clothes.

He asked if I wanted to have lunch someday. Sure, I said.

Wow. A complete stranger, asking me on a date. How weird was that? Usually, when I was out, the men would flock to my (married) friends. I was the sidekick - the one who got the sidekick guy, if there was one. But my (married) friends were expert flirters who had no intention of ever taking anything further than dancing and a few drinks. And OK, maybe some snogging, which I wondered about. Aren't you married? Should you be kissing other men if you're married? But I kept my mouth shut, as I did not think my comments would change the situation.

He got my number and I left.

He called a few days later. We made a date.

The day we were supposed to meet, I found out about a funeral I needed to attend. The wife of an important client had died. I wasn't so close to the widower, who was the owner of the company, but I did know the controller, who handled all the insurance, quite well. We had become friends. When Rod Stewart came to town, I got four tickets, then called Controller to ask if he wanted to attend the concert because that way, I could expense it as entertainment.

There was a long pause, then Controller said, Gold digger, I am a married man.

I laughed. It hadn't occurred to me that he would interpret my invitation like that.

No, I told him. No! You, your wife, my date and me.

He was relieved.

Shortly after his boss' wife died, Controller, who was in his early 30s with a newborn daughter, learned he had cancer. He was dead in four months. I had tried early in our relationship to get him to increase the group life insurance - $5,000 - that the company gave to its employees. Even back then $5,000 was woefully low. The standard was at least one times annual earnings and was a very inexpensive benefit to give.

But Controller demurred, saying that the owner of the company thought that $5,000 was enough - it would bury someone.

After Controller was dead, I learned that he had not bought life insurance on his own and that his wife and baby had been left with a mere $5,000. Enough to bury him but not enough to begin to take care of his family. I felt sick that I had not pushed him harder.

Depressed now? OK back to the story.

I had to attend this funeral. I called Window Decorator Guy to cancel and couldn't reach him. I called several times, leaving a message with the receptionist each time. I don't know if he got my message. Either he didn't and he waited at the restaurant for me or he did and thought I was making up having to go to a funeral.

I called him a few times after that, but he never returned my calls.

A couple of weeks later, I was at the HEB on Far West Blvd, where I had stopped after going running (back then, I really sort of ran as opposed to the brisk ambling I do now) around Town Lake. I was sweaty and oh so spiffy in my old "!Espana!" t-shirt and running shorts. All I needed was kitty litter, so I didn't have a cart. But the litter was heavy. I hoisted it onto my shoulder.

There I was, walking to the register through the pet supplies aisle, and who did I see?

Window Designer Guy.

Looking quite dandy in his pressed khakis, starched button-down blue and white striped shirt, and yellow sweater tied jauntily around his shoulders.

We stopped. Exchanged awkward hellos. He didn't offer to take me out to lunch again, probably because

Me: sweaty, old t-shirt, 25 pounds of kitty litter on my shoulder

Him: dapper, clean, starched

Awkward goodbyes. I really hadn't stood him up, but he probably looked at me in the store and thought, Whew! Dodged a bullet there!