It was completely unexpected, something out of left field.
My adorable gay friend Joe and I were at Art-A-Whirl, experiencing all that the Northrup King Building had to offer—eclectic first floor and artsy second floor. Eventually, we made our way to the third floor silent auction. At the door, we were greeted by Celeste, a volunteer and art board member.
“Bid all you want,” Celeste said with a mischievous smile. “Everyone’s a winner if you really want it bad enough.”
I laughed and answered, “No, I’m always a loser. It’s in my blood.”
Undeterred, Celeste countered. “Not with me. I only take winners.”
She was brunette and in a flowing dress. I guessed Banana Republic. I absolutely loved her smile. It may have been love at first sight.
After three minutes of banter and unusual mutuality, I was gone—on to the next gallery.
Not so long later, it was time to leave for another building. I stopped in the hallway. A thousand people were passing by every minute.
“What’s wrong?” Joe asked. “Are you okay?”
“How’s your gaydar?” I fished, hoping that he’d be fully functioning.
“Oh, god, Ellen. My gaydar sucks,” he confessed.
Shit. I didn’t want to hear that.
“I’m thinking of going back to her,” I said. “We clicked. I promised myself that I’d never let a stranger I clicked with get by without me reaching out.”
“Oh, wow,” Joe answered. Supportively, he offered, “Go back to her, Ellen. You owe it to yourself.”
I pulled a personal business card out of my wallet—one that has the tag line, “writer, lawyer, human.” I returned to the silent auction gallery and waited while Celeste helped an older couple. When there was an opening, I approached.
“Hey, you were friendly. I like friendly people. I’m looking for more friends,” I lied. I pushed my card into her hand.
At first, she flashed a surprised look. A split second later, Celeste recovered nicely. By the time I was headed for the door, I heard, “I’m glad you came back.” It warmed me.
I waited. Two days later, much to my surprise, there was an email. My name is Celeste, the email read in part. I’m open later this week.
We worked out a coffee date. I showed up in jeans and a crappy top. It was the best I could do under the circumstances. Celeste arrived in another buttery dress and a beautiful glittery star-styled hair barrette. I guessed that she was twenty years younger—at least.
We opened. She was a Peace Corps veteran turned nonprofit/religion worker. I was a recovering attorney who’s learned the value of working for those with less. We both loved the book, Half the Sky, by Kristof and WuDunn. I wanted to kiss her the instant she sat down.
We made it for an hour and a half before it was time to break. Celeste hugged me. “Let me know if you need anything,” she said.
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
Later, I emailed and speculated that she was outside her comfort zone. Celeste didn’t deny it. “You’re right,” she admitted. Then she said, “What do we do with that?”
I offered that maybe we simply see where things go. I suggested that she not attach any labels—“You don’t need that,” I wrote. I thought, Why put anything in a box?
Several hours later, I received the verdict.
“I don’t want to be your girlfriend,” I read. Apparently, Celeste only liked men and not women, her flirting with me notwithstanding.
I replied with gratitude and honesty. “Thank you for telling me.” I’d rather hear it early on than later. My heart doesn’t have the resiliency.
One last email. Celeste wrote, “I’m your girl,” if I ever needed anyone in her nonprofit field. “Call at any time,” she added.
It was difficult, but not nearly as hard as if I had simply ignored the clicking that went on that day at Art-a-Whirl. At least this way, I knew.
In my mind, there’s nothing worse than wondering, What if I had reached out? Would she/he (insert your desired gender—I date both) had responded? Could this be a soul mate?
Call me a romantic. Call me a searcher. Call me hopeless. Sure.
But don’t call me “scared.” I’m beyond that, now.
And it’s good.