It was a Friday night fish fry
. Most of us weren't Catholic or even Christian. But it was free food and free is good when you're poor.
Mr. G, the old man from the coffee shop, had invited us. Mr. G, because he said his name was too long to keep track of. Mr. G suited him just fine, he said, thank you. He came in every afternoon around three. He was there
because he was lonely, maybe, or just because it was something to do. We were there because there was nothing better to do, because it was our one chance at being at least somewhat social for the day.
There were four of us. Ben and Chad and Cally and me. The staff called us their coffee shop kids. We were fine with that. We were Mr. G's favorites. Because we talked to him. Because we read books that he considered important. Because we weren't too caught up in being cynical or finding our next hit
or failing. Because we all smiled. Because we played the role of being fine young people who just needed a little guidance in life convincingly, and he bought our every word for dollars.
It was Chad who asked Mr. G where he went on Friday nights, which is the question that provoked our being invited. Oh Chad knew what the old man was doing, but it was conversation.
At first we were hesitant to accept. But Mr. G tricked us by telling Chad and Ben about the pretty girls
they could meet and telling Cally and I about the two nice young men who helped in the kitchen. We were giddy; false excitement. But it meant a lot to the old man so we went.
The line wound down the stairs of a community center owned by the old Catholic cathedral on 9th Avenue. St. James. The boys lived on the campus of the university
so we met there and walked over. It was a cool evening, jacket collars around throats, hands stuffed deep in pockets.
The boys found out soon enough that Mr. G was wrong about the girls. But Cally and I found the boys he was talking about.
The moment that I saw him standing behind the kitchen counter in white apron and hair net, I knew it. That this is the guy that I fall into and get trapped in. He winked twice, I gave him my full attention.
He stopped at my table and took my number. He called before I even got home. Lets go out to dinner and a movie, left all shy and nervous on an answering machine early on a Friday evening. Ryan.
I was scared to death from the start. I wanted to not call back. I wanted to run again. I wanted to stop right there and shout, no.
No because I didn't know what I was doing. Because I am always afraid of the starts of things. Because this is my life and who does he think he is to just march in and try to claim my heart.
But I didn't. I said yes