Copyright is held by the author.
“YOU KNOW 40 is the new 30.” My mother didn’t sound too convincing when she made that declaration. Included in her delivery was one of those mother knows best expressions. She continued to watch her cooking program on TV. I, Summer Nolan, 39, divorced, with-no-children heroine of my own world replied, “You don’t sound too convincing mom” knowing full well she must have read it in some self-empowering woman’s magazine.
Her dairy free Tiramisu episode went to commercial and I had the privilege to hear some more motherly wisdom. “What you need dear is a boyfriend … and maybe drop 20lbs. Hey, I know darling, maybe you can combine both, you know get a boyfriend to help you drop 20lbs.”
This did not surprise me. I looked down at my tummy sticking out ever so slightly from my blouse. It’s a hot Ontario summer so I figure I’d blame the heat in my mother’s condo for making my blouse cling to my absent six pack. However, I wasn’t sure if the heat could be blamed for my expanding waistline and hint of a shelf butt. I then remembered I blamed the fashion houses of Europe for making sizes smaller to give us aging ladies a complex.
“You know mom, there are cultures where a curvy woman is adored.” I was proud of my comeback. However it was short lived.
“Summer, that culture was the Renaissance.” My mother swiftly switched the TV off now that her show concluded. “Darling, you’ve a good job, your gorgeous and you’ve a steady head on you, just take care of yourself and start meeting people. You know, I may have someone for you to meet.”
The room fell silent and it was as if I could hear crickets chirping for a moment. Oh no, I told myself, the dreaded set-up. When I got divorced four years ago I ventured on a blind date from hell. It was awkward meets odd at Second Cup. Never again I shouted to the world. I wouldn’t succumb to that form of disaster after that painful evening. Blind dates were nothing more than Russian roulette with a dinner bill.
“I don’t do blind dates anymore mom, you should know that by now. Remember my one and only blind date Dwayne Hamilton?” There was a pause from the both of us; no doubt we were travelling the dark chambers of our minds remembering good old Dwayne Hamilton from yesteryear.
Curous, my mother asked, “What was wrong with Dwayne Hamilton again?”
“Mom, you really should remember. Dwayne Hamilton turned out to be Diane Hamilton. He was transgendered.” My mother shrugged her shoulders and I wasn’t sure if that was acknowledgement towards the failed set-up between myself and Dwayne now Diane or if she felt that I could have worked out some life skill compromise like sharing makeup tips or swapping Spanx garments.
“That was the past my dear Summer, I think this new guy could work for you. He’s my friend Marge’s adopted son. I think he’s in the military. He’s a little older than you but Marge speaks highly of him. She said his military career has him out of town a lot but you two may just hit it off.”
I caught myself for a moment. Did I really just do that? Did I just actually groan like a teenager being subjected to chores on party night? I quipped, “Really mom? You want me to go meet … what’s his name anyway?”
A crinkled post-it note appeared from my mother’s oversized battered purse. Her wrinkly hands flattened its creases and she read aloud, “His name is D. He just goes by D and here is his number. Just call the man and take it from there.”
It sounded like D was running from the law or something. Who goes by a letter? My mind quickly envisioned a creepy dark alley. Appearing slowly out of the shadows is a disfigured silhouette. To enhance my visual I hear classic horror chopping-up-body-parts music.
My mother interrupted, “If you’ve no plans this weekend, just call him and see what happens.”
I contemplated and finally surrendered to a why not possibility. Why not give myself a bit of adventure and a good laugh. I mean if Marge considered him a son perhaps he was not on Interpol’s most wanted list. If he’s still in the military then he must have some good characteristics apart from sniper skills and making a survival tent from paper clips and pine cones.
Suddenly I had courage and no reservation about giving myself a chance at the possibility of two futures; a future with a potential soul mate or a future disaster waiting to happen.
The heavy phone breathing from D could only mean one thing. He’s heavyset or really congested. I would throw caution to the wind and ask D for a coffee date this Saturday. Two long drawled out breaths later he finally responded, “Yes Summer I will meet you this Saturday for tea.” A tea drinker no doubt I told myself. I, on the other hand, bounced back and forth from lattes, hot chocolate and good old fashion Earl Grey.
“Um, Okay D that’s great to hear. I’ll see you at Bookendz Coffee House say 8 o’clock? I’ll be wearing a blue blouse and black jeans.”
I anticipated the deep long breaths, which were executed in perfect timing, “Summer, I’ll be in all black, until then good bye.” Click went his phone. D’s baritone voice carried a hint of mysteriousness and flair of formality. He must have done theatre or maybe even radio.
That Saturday I left my house feeling confident and intrigued. I’ve never gone on a date with a military man. Not sure whether I should expect war stories or scandals, but what a great subject to kill any dead air between us. Asking him what motivated him to join the army would take up at least a half hour — let alone asking him where he travelled. Curiously enough he hadn’t ask anything about me. I prayed he wasn’t the type that wanted an audience for his ego. Hopefully we found each other comfortable enough to have a simple conversation.
Bookendz Coffee House was known for its large windows and near proximity to the police station. I felt comforted by this thought. The cafe was crowded with a rainbow of characters. Students, couples, retirees and singles hiding behind their laptops were enjoying their choice of beverage. I wasn’t sure if D and I would even get seats if he was not already waiting for me. The walls of light brightened the fluttering action of people all around. It was a great public place where if drama went down I had witnesses. I glanced at my blouse hoping it camouflaged my little tummy. It sure did — so far so good.
Surveying the room was difficult as I left my prescription glasses in the car. Smooth one Summer, I told myself. I walked past the frazzled cashier and counter full of fast and frenzy staff to a descending lower level. Maybe he’s not here yet, I wondered. I continued my quest, which finally led me to just before the hallway leading to the washrooms. There was my blind date in all black. Looking outside towards the busy street traffic stood a tall door-sized man. He stood next to an empty table partnered by two vacant chairs. His upright posture gave the impression he was on guard like a soldier. Maybe it was nerves?
He turned towards me and to my disappointment his identity was hidden behind a solid black mask and helmet. Perhaps he had met with a military accident and as a result was forced to conceal his entire damaged head? I felt compassion for the man who probably fought in some far away land and ended up tragically disfigured. Glancing at the rest of his attire, his full length black cape and tall leather boots were a bit much, but the girl in me couldn’t help feeling a bit flattered that he felt the need to impress. The lit circuit board contraption above his broad thick belt convinced me he was a man of the times and into the latest smart technology. Maybe he would teach me a thing or two about iClouds, hashtags and streaming? My first impression was that D is a man of mystery and I was curious to know more.
My neck strained to look up to meet what could be considered eyes. The drawn out mechanical inhalation of breath was noticeable but soon I got use to its rhythmic sound. D slowly pointed towards the empty chair closest to me and it started to vibrate. Quickly it pushed itself away from the table far enough for me to sit down. I smiled and accepted his gentlemanlike gesture. A low raspy voice said, “Hello Summer, you know me as D but my name is Darth Vader. You can call me either.” The chair opposite me magically pulled away for Darth Vader. He swiftly swung his cape over the chair and sat down with poise.
I smiled, while gazing at his manly presence, and eventually leaned over, softly saying, “Perhaps we should grab something to drink?” I received no response from Darth Vader other than turning his head towards the direction of the counter and staring blankly for a few moments. To my amazement the cashier approached us with a zombie look and asked with a monotone voice, “I’ve been compelled to take your order. What would you two like?” I looked at my date, whose helmet mask revealed no expression whatsoever. Had Darth Vader used mind control? I thought, I’m falling for this guy!
I killed the moment of quiet and responded, “I’ll have a mint hot chocolate.” Darth Vader saiad nothing and the cashier left, walking away with a robotic foot dragging saunter. “Did you give him your order? I didn’t hear anything.” I heard nothing but breathing. Great, a man of few words it seemed. I guess I’m pulling teeth for conversation tonight, I thought to myself.
The room’s buzz of activity eased the awkwardness between us and finally Darth Vader chimed in, “It’s been a long time since I’ve conversed with a lady. It seems like forever really. It didn’t end well with my last relationship. She was a bit of a queen.”
I responded, “I understand. Blind dates aren’t easy for anyone. How about we just get to know each other and take it from there.”
D replies with nodding his concealed head.
My mint hot chocolate was perfect and was a wanted security blanket for my fidgety hands. Darth Vader on the other hand ordered herbal tea. His talent of stirring his tea with mind control had deeply impressed me. Not too many men with that ability, I told myself. Could be useful in many ways, I thought.
I decided to take the first swing at opening up about my life; I included the usual semi-interview summary of what made Summer Nolan tick. D was quiet during my babbling. This made for an awkward situation as I couldn’t read his body language ,let alone decipher any movement coming from his huge expressionless helmet.
Finally he chimed in, “I myself am somewhat quiet by nature, but if angered or hurt the ramifications can be catastrophic. I realize that I need to work on this.”
I replied: “Oh D, at least you acknowledge this as a working progress.”
His powerful looking glove hovered over the cup of tea and the spoon hypnotically responded by spinning upright. I said to myself, here’s a man declaring his faults to a stranger like me so maybe I should do the same.
“Well, if it makes you feel better, I tend to be a loner at times. I’m looking for someone that can understand that I like solitude just as much as couple time.”
Heaviness rested on my wrist and I realized it was D’s huge glove. He gently squeezed and said, “Summer, my dear, you sound perfect for me. I travel and I have a lot of business to deal with. At times it feels like I’m fighting the world with all that I do. It’s nice to know there is a woman like you who is okay with my schedule and independence.”
We stared at each other and all I heard was laboured breathing. So far so good — although staring into an expressionless mask didn’t really add to the romance factor, but I could live with that. He understood me so far and that was what was important.
D interrupted our comfortable silence and said, “How about an evening stroll somewhere? It’s a lovely evening and my subordinates are not too far from here. You can meet them if you like.”
I was taken back about what he said. He has military subjects and, better yet, he wants me to meet them already? I mentally patted myself on the back for giving him such an incredible impression of myself. D continued, saying, “I consider them my security team and I affectionately call them my Storm Troopers. They are always within close reach of me as I often need back-up when taking over the world.” I giggled at his attempt at humour and my winning smile answered him back. Leaning in towards my short stature Darth Vader added, “We’ll take my mode of transportation.” I nodded in agreement as we left without paying for our tea and hot chocolate. The thought of doing a runner did not faze me as I was more intrigued by staff and patrons parting like the sea before us as we exited the premises.
It was ages since my last visit to the waterfront pier. This particular evening produced a colourful sunset that warmed the soul along with a gentle caressing breeze. As evening crept in so did nature’s orchestra of songbirds and crickets. Landscaped seasoned flowers added to the serenity. It felt as if nothing could ruin such a scene set for two not so young romantics.
However, the white armoured storm troopers walking inconspicuously behind us didn’t really deliver the privacy and romance I was hoping for. These faceless security guards methodically marched at a distance inflicting the occasional brute force on any poor soul sharing the public pathway. Regardless I felt a little special what with my date’s troopers working round the clock to ensure a smooth operation. A woman could get use to all this fuss.
The next half hour brought a few laughs and some reflective moments about the trials and tribulations of our lives. Overall I now had a better understanding of the man walking next to me. I appreciated the honesty in his stories of how he was a specialized soldier, unlucky in love, a ruler of sorts and at one time not considered father of the year by his children. Darth Vader was slowly peeling away the layers of who he was as a man.
We passed a cyclist soon to know his fate with the storm troopers. I waited for the calamity, which iwas executed in perfect timing. A crash followed by some muffled protest. My listening was interrupted with, “Summer, this evening has been a real pleasure. I’d like to know if I have a chance at seeing you again. However, please know that I do have some business to tend to far away for about a week.” D then leaned into me and added, “far far away.” I smile back.
How sweet I thought. I replied, “I’d like that very much. This has been a wonderful evening. I didn’t think we’d hit it off, but here we are. Tonight seems out of this world.” A gentle hand rested on my back, guiding me softly towards a beautiful sunset. I felt an electrical tingle slowly climbing up my spine.
“Oh Snap!” said Darth Vader.
“What’s the matter?” I replied.
The silence between us worried me. What if he was feeling sick or something? Even worse what if he threw up in his helmet? How would I know if it was a real emergency if Darth Vader doesn’t inform me of what what’s going on? I killed the quiet. “D, is everything okay? You’re not talking and now you’re not walking.”
He slowly came to life again. “Summer, the force tells me that I must go.
I had to know more so I asked, “Why do you have to leave all of a sudden and who is the force telling you this?” The sweet, articulate D who had walked beside me now seemed to have morphed into a battle commander. I was no longer the main attraction as I watched him motion his troops to investigate the pathway up ahead. The marching steps of the troopers sounded like a drum beat. I didn’t understand the quick change of attitude and mannerism of my date. I was now being completely ignored and I was not having it. I tugged at his cape, “Darth, mind explaining what’s going on?”
Darth Vader looked up at the darkening skies. A dark mass silently glided towards us. Maybe half a city block long it looked like a mobile city with towers, flashing lights and compartments. Darth Vader remained frozen looking towards the heavens. His words caught me by surprise. ““What is about to transpire is top secret.” Darth was now motioning to additional troops, which came from nowhere to surround us.
I thought to myself, do I run for cover or pick up a laser gun and help my new man out. My date rested his gloves on my shoulders and delicately said, “Summer, you need to leave now. I don’t think you should be a part of this war.”
I replied with a deer-in-headlights look. I had to ask, “Darth, what war are you talking about? I’m pretty current with political issues and I’ve not come across anything to trigger this type of rumble.” I quickly pointed towards the hovering spaceship above. Frustration and worry marinated my confused mind.
Darth replied with some warmth, “Summer, I must make sure you’re not part of this galactic duel. I have unfinished business so to speak. As for us, I want to give our beginning a chance but this is no way to start a relationship. I’ll explain later, but you must leave now.”
His gentleness returned if only for a fleeting moment. I heard it and it was comforting. I responded, “Is there something I can do to help? I feel like I should have your back or something.”
A deep resonating laugh reponsed to my sincerity and I eventually laughed too. What exactly could I do to help him out? Throw a rock? It’s not like my university days playing arcade shooter games would help at this point.
My last memory of the evening was somewhat fuzzy. I did remember his heavy cape’s embrace, then I was engulfed in darkness. I felt a sense of fear and apprehension towards the unknown. I quietly asked my date, “What will happen now between us?” Just then a warm bright red light flashed all around ….
I opened my eyes to the familiarity of my cozy bedroom. It was early morning and the sun slowly made its debut behind a thinning wall of clouds. I glanced at my knuckle-gripped cotton pillow. I wondered if I had dreamt the whole thing. But it felt too real to be a figment of my imagination. Sitting upright, I tilted my head back and closed my tired eyes. A pondering moment gave way to a sigh. “I did dream the whole thing,” I said aloud.
I swiveled my legs over the side of the bed and my feet made contact with my plush, area rug. The digital alarm clock next to me was overshadowed by something that both surprised and shocked me. A large Bookendz coffee cup was resting on my nightstand. I move in closer watching the steam slowly dissipate. My lips register mint hot chocolate.
This little gesture and gift could only mean one thing. I smiled.