One autumn morning the library door opened, and I looked up from my work at the circulation desk to greet a dark-haired, dark-eyed man. He gave me a quick smile and walked past, followed by a woman and teenage boy.
Whoa! He’s good-lookin’! I thought. But obviously he had a wife and son. Besides, after an extremely unhappy five-year marriage in which I’d endured a lifetime’s supply of sorrow and humiliation, I wanted nothing more to do with men or romance.
I worked in a small public library in a rural area, went to the university campus at night in pursuit of my degree, and wrote during free hours – which weren’t many. I had plenty to keep me busy and was not in the market for romance. But sometimes ….
The handsome stranger returned to the library frequently, occasionally with the woman and boy, at times alone. He was always courteous, well-spoken, and had a killer smile. We usually chatted a bit at the desk as he checked out or returned books.
A handsome, intelligent, articulate man with genteel manners who loved to read. Be still, my heart.
I found myself thinking (more than once), If only he wasn’t married ….
That winter, our area received a storm with plenty of ice and snow. The town pretty much shut down, but libraries are troopers. A library will be the last man standing on a field of battle. In spite of the ugly weather, we were open.
The woman and her son walked in. I greeted them, we chatted a moment, then she said, “I hope my brother can get down the hill at our place soon and pick us up. Otherwise my son and I are stuck in town for a while.”
My brother. MY BROTHER? She was his sister, not his wife? The boy was his nephew, not his son?
My heart leaped. Then I remembered: “You do not want another romance. Ever.”
I ignored this reminder. The next time he came into the library, I greeted him with a big, warm smile and held his gaze. He tipped his head courteously at me, as he always did, said hello, and went about his business.
When he brought his books to check-out, I talked to him longer than I usually did. I smiled some more, right into those brown eyes.
In the following days, I put on just a bit more mascara, made sure my lipstick was fresh, my hair neatly combed, and dabbed on perfume – just in case he came in. And if he did, I made sure I reshelved books near where he browsed. I engaged him in conversation. We talked at length about books, and different authors. We talked about movies. We talked about the town. He told me he and his sister had recently moved into our area. We talked about where he came from and why they’d moved across the country.
I practically twirled my hair and batted my eyelashes. He didn’t seem to notice. I kept waiting for him to ask me out, because I was sending signals as strongly as I dared.
What’s wrong with me? I wondered. Maybe he didn’t like redheads. Maybe he didn’t like blue eyes. Maybe he simply wasn’t attracted. He certainly did not seem shy, so maybe he had a girlfriend. Maybe he was gay.
Again I reminded myself I wanted no more romance in my life, ever.
I told myself to shut up and be more proactive. What’s the old saying, “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain”?
Our library was so small that only one of us worked on Saturdays, and we always closed for the weekend at noon. I formulated a plan.
The next Saturday he came to the library, he settled at one of public computers to get on the internet. I watched the clock. At noon, I made sure everyone else was out of the library, and I locked the door. He was still at the computer, reading an article.
“The library is closed now, but go ahead and finish your article,” I said, as sweet as apple pie. “I’ll unlock the door for you as soon as you’re ready to go.”
So while I did the end of the day tallies and paperwork, made sure the library was tidy, and turned off most of the lights, he finished his reading. The minute he was done, I sat down in a nearby chair, and we talked. We talked and talked and talked. The more I visited with this man, the more I liked him. An hour, maybe two, passed.
“Well, my sister is going to wonder where I am,” he said finally, and started to get up.
It’s now or never, I told myself.
I took a deep breath, looked him in the eyes and said, “Would you like to go out some time?”
He stared at me, a deer caught in the headlights. My heart plummeted.
You silly, silly woman. You’ve made a complete fool of yourself. You’ve embarrassed him, and you’ll never see him in the library again. Proactive, indeed. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Then he blinked, a big smile broke out across his face, and he said, “Sure!”
My heart renewed itself. I grinned like a monkey, and we made arrangements to go to a nearby city for a movie and dinner the following Saturday evening.
He explained later that he’d not been put off by me asking him out. He liked me, and thought I was “cute.” In fact, according to him, that “deer in the headlights” look was because he’d never realized I wanted to go out with him.
“If I’d known,” he said, “I would have asked you out a long time ago!”
How clueless could that poor man be when I’d all but chased him all over the library, shrieking, “I think you’re hot, let’s get together!”
At any rate, the following Saturday night we had a nice dinner, saw Shakespeare in Love, went back to my house, and … to this day, he has yet to go home, back to his sister’s place. In fact, this year, our first date will have lasted seventeen years.
Sometimes Cupid needs more than just a little nudge. He needs a strong, determined shove.