“You look like you have happy feet!”
I guess I did. Wedged into the corner of a small booth with four friends, I had stood up, shimmied my hips and maybe even waved my arms a bit. The band was playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch” and the chorus reminded me of how my Italian grandmother would say my name.
I’d never been to Fins Bar & Grill before. The bar’s ten booths were splayed like ribs from a low wall running front to back down the spine of the place. There was no dance floor or even really a stage: just a platform near the window where four young Washington professionals got Friday night joy performing as the Hi Beams.
So dancing where I stood seemed the only option.
My friend Kathy had called me earlier that evening. She, Ken and another couple were heading to Fins because they knew someone in the band. Did I want to join them?
Yes. Nearly 31, with over three years bopping around DC to classes, museums, operas and movies on my own, I was fine being the “fifth wheel.” The only issue, I discovered was squeezing into the booth.
So when the band played Bruce, I rose gaily. Besides, I had reason to celebrate. Lubricated by my share of the table’s beer, I was also energized by my decision that day to accept a job that seemed, at last, the perfect fit for me. I was leaving my law firm, my huge salary and my numbing hours for the public sector. For half the pay and twelve times the satisfaction, I would start making a discernible difference in the world. So, yes, Grandmom, call my name, because I was happy.
So I danced. And this really tall, really slender, really cute guy stood at our table, looking at me. Startled (was I that conspicuous?) I looked at him. My friends basically didn’t know where to look.
“Do you want to dance?” He had nice eyes, the band was decent and I knew cars roll better with four wheels, so I agreed. A minute later, the guy and I wove through patrons, waitresses and new arrivals to a patch of aisle in front of the band and just across from my booth.
Jammed among twenty other people letting go that night, the guy and I started to dance. And talk.
“Where are you from?” He asked. Here in DC, it seemed we were all from someplace else, so our homes were good conversation starters. New Jersey, I said.
“How about you?” Iowa. “Oh!” I replied. “Where? Dubuque? Des Moines? Davenport? Marshalltown? Mason City? Ames?” He stared at me, incredulous, “Keokuk?” KEOKUK, he practically shouted.
“How did you….?”
I shrugged. “I was in The Music Man.”
Then he asked that other timeless Washington question: “What do you do?”
“Oh, I’m a lawyer. What about you?”
In that narrow space, I watched him apply all the dance moves we had learned in the 1980s. His particular speciality was working his hips: all abs, glutes and, uh, groin. Not bad.
“I’m a minister,” he said.
Now this getting very interesting.
Here I was, in a bar, on a dance floor that really wasn’t, jiving with a tall, skinny, curly haired minister from Iowa. Song after song we danced. I glanced over at my friends, where were looking at us as astonished as I was.
Thirty minutes later, the set ended and I returned to my seat. “Who was that?!” They asked.
“A guy named Kevin. He’s a minister. From Iowa.”
“Did he ask for your phone number?” Yes.
“Did you give it to him?” Yes.
“Will he call you?” I don’t know, but I hope so.
Saturday arrived. (Technically, Saturday had already arrived while we were at Fins, but that doesn’t count.) No phone call. I guess that’s ok.
8:30 am Sunday morning, while I’m snugly warm in bed trying to decide whether to read the Sunday Post or Times first, the phone rings. C’mon on, Mom!
It’s Kevin. I must have sounded groggy because he hastened to explain the early hour: “I wanted to catch you before you went to church.”
Uh. Um. I mean, sure. Of course.
He was calling to invite me to an event on Monday night hosted by the nonprofit where he worked. I accepted.
In the garden of the Methodist Building right next to the Supreme Court, the event was dry. Not a problem. But I like my beer. Kevin was a minister, and I’d never met one before. I’d learned Friday night that ministers could be young and cute and really good dancers. But what about beer? I really didn’t want to hang out with someone who’d be all wrinkly nosed about it.
We agreed to meet again for hamburgers at the Tune Inn on Capitol Hill, near where he lived. I got there first. This was our first real date, a potential pivot point.
Kevin slipped into the booth opposite me, hair a little damp and smelling kind of nice. “I hope you don’t mind,” he said. “I had my first beer after my run.”
I leaned back in my seat. Public service, Bruce and now beer. Totally cute. Maybe, if he liked baseball, he might indeed be the guy for me.
I smiled. “I’m glad you’re here. Let’s get started.”
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