If asked to compare myself to a movie star, the most generous description I could manage is that I have a certain "Carole Lombard quality."
Carole Lombard was a comedienne of the '30s and '40s cinema. She was the great love of Clark Gable's life and died tragically and too young in a plane crash. She was a great beauty. Her elegance was merely a prop, though. If she had arrayed on a setee, the music might rise as she gracefully rose to her feet... and then tripped on her elegant silk dressing gown and did a big pratfall off the set. Welcome to my life.
At least Carole Lombard got paid well!
I explained this over coffee to Dan Albom, the fearless fellow who had saved me from certain death at the hands of his valise. Dan was president of the debating society my junior year; our social worlds intersected at numerous points. He was someone I'd always wanted to get to know better, but never did. We had maybe one or two serious conversations, once in the library about the nature of God while procrastinating studying for finals.
Dan was someone I'd always wanted to get to know better, but never did.
The other time was when I'd gone to a debate tournament as a last-minute substitute. My egomaniacal partner and I had cleaned up the novice competition and Dan took us out to celebrate. Dan told me of how he suffered from the curse of the "nice guy" when it came to women.
And indeed he was. His success at debate was surprising, given how mild-mannered and kind he was. He was bright and sensitive and very caring. I recall him once braving a snowstorm to get orange juice for a mutual friend who was sick. I remember telling him that night that we women were stupid... that we went for blustery flashpots like my debate partner, and ended up burned.
By objective standards, he was great hubby material.
By objective standards, he was great hubby material. But I wasn' t anywhere near that stage of life at the time. Be patient, I had assured him, womanhood will wake up and see how wonderful you are. That was easy for me to say...
Dan had done exactly what one would have expected him to do: graduated from NYU Law with an impressive array of letters after his name, and now did some sort of corporate acquisitions work for high-tech communications companies.
"I feel like I'm righting the injustices of high school," he said. "I fly around delivering checks to cybergeeks who've just sold their Internet start-ups to big companies. With one big deposit, these guys go from dorks to magnets."
"And the captain of the football team is an insurance salesman now," I laughed. " I think it was Bill Gates who said that everyone in the world will eventually either become a geek, or work for one."
Everyone in the world will eventually either become a geek, or work for one.
Dan smiled and I noticed that his hairline had continued the upward climb it had begun in college.
"So what's going on in your life?" he asked casually. "Are you seeing anyone? I think the last time we discussed our relationships you were telling me that women would eventually fall for me, even if I was a sappy nice guy. But you were dating that bohunk, Jason Fine. I hope your taste is better now."
Jason! Oh yeah! That's who I was dating then! I marveled that Dan even remembered our conversation.
"Well, that's why I'm here at the airport," I explained, "I just put my ex-boyfriend of three years on a plane back to Philly. We broke up. Long story, you know." I gave him the reader's digest version.
Dan looked sympathetic. He told me about his job and his struggle to balance that with his personal life. When he finished, he smiled and asked, "So what are you going to do now?"
I didn't know what he meant.
"If you don't want any more casual relationships, you obviously need to change something about the way you've been meeting guys up to this point," he said.
He looked up and jumped when he saw the time on the monitor. His plane had already started boarding. "Look, Jessica, it was great seeing you. I'm here every couple of weeks or so on business. Why don't we grab a cup of coffee again when I' m here next?"
He and his hazardous luggage were off. I watched him grow smaller in the distance and my eyes widened as I chewed on his words. Change? Me? Oh, no!