It’s 2002. I’m minding my own business at the drop-in medical clinic where my doctor works. He spends real time with his patients, which is unusual and nice; the downside is wait times for appointments, especially at the drop-in, are always well over an hour. I felt sick enough by some ailment to leave the law office and sit in a germy medical one instead and wait for an appointment.
I have already sat there in silence for 40 minutes with several other patients when in walks a man. I can’t see his face, but he’s tall and broad-shouldered.
I am a sucker for height and broad shoulders, so I pay attention to this new arrival. He waits to speak to the receptionist, who is having a hard time explaining some policy to another patient. The new arrival, curving his shoulders and bending his height down, attempts to facilitate the explanation. I’m not sure how mcuh he helps, but his intention is kind, his voice is patient.
I am a sucker for kindness and patience too, so I am delighted to discover, when he does finally turn around, that his face is agreeable too. I catch his eye and smile. He smiles back.
He sits two chairs away from me. I am hardly a veteran of the pick-up (having usually waited to be noticed), but I know I am going to talk to this man. I am conscious that I am wearing a buttoned up navy blue trench coat and steel-rimmed glasses; I am not exactly working it. I am also conscious that I am in a small room with several other patients and the receptionist, with whom I have not struck up a conversation and who will hear every word of the one I hope to have. Never mind.
The man has raised earphones to his ears. I wait. After a couple of minutes and some eye contact, he removes them from his ears. I seize the day. “What are you listening to?” I ask.
I think this opener has some savvy. The talking goes smoothly. I discover that his name is Ben and he is a squash pro. I like this; I am bored of the professional types I am mostly surrounded by.
After half an hour or so, my name is finally called for the doctor. My time is up. I hadn’t thought about this, the close. Hastily I suggest that Ben give me a call if he’d like to have lunch sometime. He says something like “for sure”. My fingers seek out the business card that my assistant hasn’t yet ordered; silently I curse her. My name is called out again. I lurch forward and grab one of the doctor’s business cards off the reception counter and fumble around in my bag for a pen. Out comes a highlighter. Oh look, here’s another highlighter.
I think it’s Ben who provides me with a pen. I scratch down my name and number at work and meet the attendant who is now waiting for me in the waiting room. A quick goodbye to Ben in front of my little active-listening audience.
Then I’m by myself again in a little room waiting for the doctor. I would like to fold myself into a little origami nothing, I am so embarassed by my un-savvy display. No wonder no one tries this, I think.
Still, walking home after my appointment, even while feeling foolish, I am just a little bit proud of myself for having made my fledgling effort. To put myself out there, to not wait for someone else’s action, to engage mysefl in the life that is flowing all around. I know somehow it’s a good thing.
The next day, Ben called.
We went out for dinner, not lunch.
Of course I love this story because it’s our story. But I also love it because it’s evidence that love is everywhere, waiting to be tapped, in even the most unlikely places. Because if you can meet your lover for life at a drop-in medical clinic, you can meet him anywhere.
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