When you’re truly happy in your life, and loving it, that’s when things get even better–at least in my experience. I’d spent my twenties dating unsuccessfully and lamenting the fact I didn’t have a boyfriend. It became my “schtick.” Most all of my friends were coupled, and making fun of my singleness became my way of coping with it. When I turned thirty I opened myself up to meeting someone online–the advent of computer dating. What followed were a string of disastrous–albeit, funny dating experiences. (Blogs to follow!) About a year later, something changed in me. I looked around my life and realized how lucky I was. My choosy nature had surrounded me with a close knit group of friends. I had a job I excelled in, and I’d completed a long-standing dream of attending Second City’s two-year improv training program and conservatory. My life was full and happy, and my dreams were mine for the taking.
On this cold night in March I treated myself to a night out to a little neighborhood bar near my apartment. The bartenders were friendly and the crowd was usually chock full of smiling regulars. It was unlike the bars on Halsted in that it was tiny and tucked away in quiet Ravenswood. I remember it was unusually crowded that night and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time in order to get a seat at the bar. One of the bartenders hooked up me with a cocktail (probably a cosmopolitan), and as I sipped it I surveyed the people around the bar, not really looking for anything in particular. Just being. My eyes caught sight of a handsome man sitting further down where the bar turned. He looked familiar. And did I say handsome? Woof!
Then it clicked. It was Ken. This night wasn’t my actual first meeting with him. I’d first meet him a couple of months earlier (January 12 to be exact). I happened upon him that night as he sat alone against tiny bar that lined the wall, drinking a beer and scribbling on a piece of paper. Imbued with the confidence only a vodka-tonic can instill, I sat down next to him and asked what he was writing. I slid the paper away from him and toward myself and boldly read it–or rather pretended to read it. (Hey, I was just looking for an “in”, people.) We enjoyed some playful banter which somehow led the conversation to theater. He was an improviser himself. I remember being so excited to have someone to talk with about improv. I never performed professionally, as he did, but the thoughts, comments and experiences we had were common. However fun that night was, it somehow went off the rails for us through a series of misunderstandings. We parted that night abruptly, and though I was sad that it hadn’t worked out more to my satisfaction, I relied on my new outlook to get me through. It apparently wasn’t meant to be.
Or was it?
Now, back to March 23. When I saw Ken I immediately thought he’d have no interest in me–or might not even want to catch sight of me. Yet I couldn’t help but gaze over at him from time to time. He was playing darts with some other guys and seemed to be having a good time, undaunted by my sneaking glances. A little while later, I passed him as I headed to the facilities. He stopped me, said “hello” and re-introduced himself to me. “I remember you,” I said, nervously then excused myself to finish my mission. It was an awkward exchange, but I realized “hey, he’s not angry with me.” That thrilled me. I noticed a while later as he played darts, he was dealing with a very drunk admirer who he clearly had no interest in. When he walked past me again he said as much. This was it! An opportunity to use my improv skills–something we had in common. I told him I’d help him out, and just waited for him to give me “the signal” (a la Carol Burnett tugging on her ear lobe.)
I fortified myself with another cocktail and soon glanced over to see him giving me the sign. I swilled what was left in my glass and boldly marched over to Ken and the perpetrator. Voice low and fuming, I posed as the loyal–and deceived–boyfriend. My tirade sent the ne’er do well transgressor onward to his next victim as he lilted away quietly (like any plant under my care) during our “lovers’ quarrel.” I grabbed his hand, proclaiming “we need to talk!” and pulled him around the corner out of sight of everyone. “Was I butch enough?” I asked, covering my mouth in the most (intentionally, right?) feminine fashion I could muster. Ken didn’t just approve, but lauded my performance with gratitude, his trillion dollar smile, and a drink. We spent the rest of that night talking, laughing and sharing our thoughts, dreams and non-stop laughter.
Seven years later at my 40th birthday party, Ken surprised me with many things. One of the main surprises was asking guests beforehand to write a scene about how each of them met me–then act it out. He wrote a scene the described what I described above. It was a wonderful celebration of our meeting. I actually have that scene–all of them, in fact–on DVD: another gift he gave me. I watched the DVD of the party on my birthday last month. I wondered it if it was the right thing to do, but it so was. I was all smiles–just like I was that very night and at my party. Watching him and my friends re-enact that meeting is an inexhaustible source of joy for me.
As for the “real” meeting, my life was forever changed after that night. Ken and I were together from that point forward. All of the natural fears in getting into a serious relationship assuaged naturally over time, and we just melted into a single unit: the kenron scandal. Yes, we still had our individual identities, but together we were bigger than the sum of our parts. Thinking of that night and this blog as I type it leaves an undeniable smirk on my face. The magic of that night lingers around me.
Thank you for suggesting I write about it, Claire.