Two years before I met Jake, I was sitting between a purple peacock and a Chesire Cat tapestry by the storage room of an Alice in Wonderland-inspired furniture shop. I was, at the time, so heartbroken, even baked brie couldn’t make me smile. A love affair had just ended between a 6’4”-tall urologist and me. Like me, he had attended a Connecticut boarding school, frequented the same all-you-can-eat sushi joint on the Upper East Side, and loved E.E. Cummings. He was also Asian. Together, we would raise collar-popping kids who took off their shoes as soon as they entered the house. It was all so lovely. And, then, suddenly, it was over. That’s how I ended up there, with Markus, a Tarot card reader, cutting a deck of cards into three piles. He said of my future partner, “You’ll think he’s a stiff but you’ll warm up to him eventually.” I imagined a blond Ralph Fiennes who read Our Mutual Friend every Christmas and said things like, “I’ll be with you presently.” As I paid him forty bucks, Markus told me that my future He would be chosen for me. Great.
I didn’t know, then, that Markus meant that one of my sisters would be doing the picking. Myra made me sign up for Okcupid, an online dating site. I filled my profile with mostly ironic responses, and, uninterested in the venture, I gave her my password and told her to do whatever she wanted with it. A few days later, she called: “A guy named Jake wrote. We like him.” His e-mails were well-written and he liked the movie Dead Poets Society. I was curious but that was about it: he’s a Jewish sports aficionado born and raised outside Boston. I’m a (lapsed) Catholic Third Culture Kid. I run only so I can eat cheese and fit into tube dresses. He looked like the kind of nice man your mom would want you to date, a quality which is sweet but not necessarily desirable. Besides, we’re both English teachers. What were we going to do on our first date? Talk shop?
Jake and I met at an Irish pub in Boston in early January. I was calm, figuring that at the very least, I was going to get a good meal. (I had looked up the burger menu.) Then, he said my name and I stuttered, “Yep.” Somehow, neither his profile nor his e-mails hinted at how hot he is.
He will tell you that there was laughter; that I was wearing a black, puffy tent with fur; and that we both ordered bacon cheeseburgers. I showed him how to take off a coat like a film noir femme fatale. I stared furtively at his wrists. I was nervous, so I admittedly don’t remember much laughter. I do recall literally biting my tongue a few times when I almost said, “You’re sexy,” which is what I told him on our second date and 130th.
He will also tell you he got a ticket that evening, the first of four, the first of many. Love, I suppose, makes you lose track of time on your parking meter. It also makes you sign your rent checks with hearts. And sing karaoke sober in front of her sisters. And read Sports Illustrated over his shoulder on a Sunday afternoon.
And, yes, Jake is a stiff. Stiff as in solid. Solid and dependable as oak.