"Where did you disappear to?" Alison wanted to know the next morning. "First you were moping in the corner, and then you were gone... but your car was still there."
"I was with Harris Parker, in the piano bar in the hotel lobby," I sighed dreamily.
That was his name: Harris. He only introduced himself as "Harry" because "Harris" sounded too pretentious.
Alison laughed. "I guess that membership pitch was pretty good."
Harris and I had sat in the bar until it closed. He was from Washington, D.C. and had moved here to Phoenix for a job after law school. Our conversation kept getting interrupted by the steady stream of people coming in and out of the party. Everyone knew him, it seemed.
At first, I'd been a bit impressed by it. Then it became amusing. He reminded me of my grandfather, who my mother had always joked was constitutionally incapable of not "working a room." I'd always marveled that my zayde never went into politics. He seemed to know everyone in the city and was always being honored by one organization or another.
Anyway, Harris is a businessman. Finally, after the 612th interruption, I asked him if he had ever thought of going into politics. (He'd certainly get the single, Jewish vote.)
He looked surprised.
"Yes, actually, I have," he said, his expression changing a bit. "That is my ultimate goal, I hope."
Something in his face made me think I was glimpsing a more honest or real level. He relaxed and leaned toward me, "What are your ultimate goals, Jessica?"
It dawned on me that I didn't really know how to answer that.
If he ever went into politics, he'd certainly get the single, Jewish vote.
Once the parade of admirers finally stopped, we ended up having a very intense conversation about life goals and how to achieve them. Harris had his life planned out far more than anyone I'd ever met. Granted, he was a few years older than me -- my older sister's age -- but I still felt uneasy that I didn't have clear responses to mirror his.
First, I'd been focused on getting a great job, and then when I got it, on proving myself capable. Now I have an even better job... But somehow, getting more and more impressive business cards didn't sound like a good life goal.
At least not for me.
I knew that I wanted a real relationship leading to marriage. But I was not about to tell him that. And anyway, marriage can't be a life goal unto itself. That would put too much strain on the relationship. Instead, marriage is what allows two people to pursue their life goals together.
Getting more and more impressive business cards didn't sound like a good life goal.
Alison pondered my perplexity the next morning over Sunday brunch. "Don't worry about it. I don't think he'll avoid calling you because you don't have the next three decades of career objectives perfectly outlined," she said blithely.
Here we go again, I thought. Why does "getting ahead in life" automatically translate into "career?" Harris had talked about having an impact on the world. That's not the same as a cool job or big salary.
"No, I'm not talking about whether Harris will call," I said. "I'm disturbed by it -- for myself. I need to think about what I really want in life."
Alison pointed out that I was too young for a mid-life crisis. I laughed.
"Don't let Harris Parker's intensity make you feel like a ditz," she said. "Who asks those sort of questions on a date anyway?"
What sort of questions should he ask, I wondered silently. Sports? Food? Music? Does my embarrassing affinity for show tunes really reveal anything about me and whether he'd want to get to know me any better?
Just then, the phone rang and I looked at the caller ID box. It was him!
"Oh, my gosh! He must not have read 'The Code'!" I gasped to Alison. "Quick! How many rings do I wait before I get it?"
Before we could remember what "The Rules" says, voice mail got it. This is what I get for trying to be too smooth. Now I had to call him back.
What did we do before technology simplified our lives so much?
Before I could remember "The Rules," voice mail got it.
I waited 10 minutes and called him back.
"I really enjoyed talking to you last night," he said.
"I did too... I mean, I enjoyed talking to you, not to me, uh, obviously... I talk to myself all the time..." Mouth! Stop speaking! Attention to verbal grammar frequently leads to verbal gaffes.
Fortunately, Harris didn't seem to be paying much attention.
"Look, I have a busy day and I am in a bit of a rush," he said. "There's a young leadership meeting tomorrow night, and I'd really like you to come."
What? Let me get this straight: go to the meeting with him? Or just go to the meeting? Was this a date -- or just a continuation of the membership pitch?
"Well, I'll have to check my calendar..." I said lamely.
"Jessica, I really hope it's free." Something in his voice reassured me that this was more than a membership pitch.
I told him I'd check and then call him back. Yup, I thought, looking at my air-calendar. I'm totally free. I headed to my closet. Only 36 hours to find the perfect outfit.
What time do the malls open on Sunday anyway?