The best of times

Mark Miller

June 25, 1993|By Mark Miller

THE call was expected but unexpected, the caller known but unknown. Anticipating a blind date, I asked myself: Will it be the best of times or the worst of times?

I had answered her personal ad. She had called in response to my response. And so here we were, beginning a tale of two people whose expectations were rising by the minute.

She told me she worked at the Library of Congress, was around 5 feet 6 inches tall, 120 pounds, had blue eyes and light brown hair that fell below her shoulders. She told me she enjoyed going to museums and historical places like Monticello and Mt. Vernon. I was very impressed, especially with the matter-of-fact, understated way she described herself, a description that exuded a quiet confidence.

I told her some things that weren't in my letter and expanded on things that were. We decided to meet.

High expectations die hard on blind dates. They didn't on ours. Her appearance more than justified her quiet confidence. She looked pleased at what she saw, too. We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby. The food was good, the conversation strained. Afterward we repaired to her place for white wine and more conversation. This time, it was less strained, more personal, more open: We made it clear we liked each other and wanted a second date.

The second date turned into a third, then a fourth, then . . . Eventually, we lost count. We had what couples of our generation call a relationship. We were going to museums and movies, renting videos and cycling, dining out and dining in, sleeping at each other's places, talking for hours under the stars while perched on her rooftop porch. We took a four-day trip to the beach, a two-day trip to Monticello. It was the best of times.

We couldn't believe our good fortune. The odds, after all, had been stacked against us. I had answered 38 ads in that issue and received only one response -- hers. She had received close to 100 letters; I was the only man she called.

We had met a year ago April after enduring a cold winter bereft of romance. A guy had left her the previous November, and she had turned inward: no ads, no dances, no dates. Just self. I had gone through five months of answering ads and as many months of singles dances, and I had nothing to show for it but a string of first (and last) dates. But then she had received my letter and I her call.

What a dull, lonely spring and summer it would have been without me, she told me last August. I told her that she probably would have met somebody else.

She didn't answer, but instead told me again how much our relationship had meant to her, how glad she was that we were parting amicably, preferring to dwell on what brought us together rather than on what ultimately drove us apart. She said I could call any time I wanted "to talk."

I never did, nor did she, and I suspect that, like me, she's now with someone else. Still, a year after our relationship was at its peak, I find myself looking back at those best of times. I wonder if she's doing the same.

Mark Miller writes from Baltimore.

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