So I went on a date several years back.
[Upon re-reading that first line I feel that I should clarify: I have been on other dates since then, just not very many and not with this particular person. It’s not really relevant to the story, I just thought I should mention it. Though now I’ve brought it up I might as well tell you that I’m not terribly fond of ‘dating’ as it were. Mainly because I’m not great at it and I generally tend to dislike things I’m not great at. There are other reasons, reasons too numerous to mention here, but that’s a topic for another blog. In any case, this particular date that I went on happened several years ago before I moved to NY. That’s not particularly relevant either. Actually, come to think of it the word ‘date’ may not even apply in this situation. It was dinner and movie with a guy I’d known for a few years. He picked me up at my apartment and he did pay… I suppose it all depends on the intent of the person doing the asking. Fortunately for all of you, I can’t remember how it came to pass that I was out in company with this individual so once again, it’s totally irrelevant.]
Let me start again.
Several years ago, before I moved to NY, I had a friendly dinner and went to a movie with a colleague to whom I was extremely attracted. There. Glad we’re all on the same page now.
When we got to the restaurant we were seated outside in this cute little patio area of the local Tapas place. He pulled my chair out (I love me some chivalry) and sat next to me rather than across the table. I liked this too. His phone buzzed and he checked it. Then he apologized saying that he needed to keep his phone out because he was expecting an important call. Business related. This was curious to me because we are both opera singers, it was Saturday night and Memorial Day weekend to boot and I don’t know of any opera companies or artist managers who would be working at such a time. Puzzled, I shrugged it off and we ordered drinks.
As dates go, this one was fairly unremarkable in that it was your standard dinner and movie fare. That said, the food was good and the conversation and the drinks were flowing pretty freely so overall I was having an excellent time. Then his phone rang. He answered. I didn’t want it to seem like I was listening in on his conversation and prying into his personal business so I became thoroughly engrossed in the veritable smorgasbord of small plates laid before me. However, when he said, “Yeah, I’ve got a ton of Guatemalan Jade I’m trying to move, you interested?” I lost all interest in my ham and cheese croquettes. My curiosity was decidedly piqued.
Before I continue, there are two things you need to know about me in order to fully appreciate this story.
1) I have an extremely over-active imagination. I believe this to be a holdover from my only-child upbringing.
2) I tend to romanticize wildly inappropriate things (and sometimes people.) Not to say that this colleague to whom I was attracted and sharing dinner was inappropriate in any way (though some may argue that dating a co-worker isn’t the best idea – remind me at some point to blog about the operatic ‘showmances’ and ‘locationships’ of my misspent youth.) It’s just something you need to understand about me and the way my brain works in order for the story to make sense (as if there was still any hope of that happening.)
For instance, I am a huge sucker for the lovable anti-hero. Even when this anti-hero is a science-teaching meth cook like in Breaking Bad, a serial killer with a heart of gold like Dexter, or a family man who also happens to the head of a major criminal organization like in The Sopranos. To my mind, nothing epitomes and glorifies violence and a life of crime like The Godfather trilogy. I have been enamored of these monumental films since I first saw them. Every time one of them comes on TV I feel compelled to watch, no matter how many times I’ve seen them. [GF3 is the exception to this rule. That movie was just awful.]
My love affair with The Godfather sparked a general interest in all things mafia. I started reading about the Italian mafia in New York. I learned the names of the five families and memorized details about who was in charge of which territory and their chain of command. I was delighted to discover that there was also a sizable Irish and Russian mob presence in NY, whose bloody footprints were all over the fair city I now call home.
Anyway, the main thing I took away from The Godfather and my related reading was not the horror inherent in a life of violence, or the devastation to the family when a mobster was inevitably gunned down or imprisoned, but rather, I imagined that I would make an excellent mob wife. Like any sensible girl, I was totally drawn in by the glitz and glamour of organized crime. I had ridiculous fantasies about money and the notoriety that comes with living outside the law, blissful in my willful ignorance about the blood on my future husband’s hands…but I digress.
The point is, the moment I heard the words ‘Guatemalan Jade,’ I naturally assumed my date was an international drug dealer. Who wouldn’t?
In any case, he ended the call shortly thereafter and apologized again for having to keep his phone on. He explained how a ‘friend’ of his had a ton of ‘Guatemalan Jade’ and he was trying to help him sell it. He was in for an excellent commission if he did. I smiled and nodded and said it sounded great, though secretly I was a little disappointed to learn that rather than the drug king pin I had imagined, he was only a middle man. Still, I let it go. I was sure in his line of work there would be lots of opportunity for advancement.
Our conversation drifted back to whatever mundane topic we’d been discussing before the phone call, but I was only half listening. I wanted to know more about the alter-ego of this enigmatic man before me. Mild-mannered opera singer by day, member of a drug-dealing international crime syndicate by night. My imagination was in overdrive.
Half a pitcher of sangria later, I decided I’d test the waters. I don’t know how it came up in conversation or whether I just blurted it out, but I felt that it was important for him to know about my secret mafia wife aspirations. I wanted him to feel comfortable about running his drug operation in my presence, to know that I was cool with it. I was more than cool with it. This was the most exciting thing to happen to me in months.
He laughed good-naturedly at my declaration and thought me charming, if not slightly ridiculous. I didn’t mind.
Later, his phone rang again. Once again, he answered. This time I paid attention to every word. He made mention of an ‘interested party’ who ran a jewelry store. That didn’t add up with my previously formed images of Mexican drug cartels. Maybe this ‘jewelry store’ was just a front business? A means of laundering all of that dirty, dirty drug money? After he finished the second phone call and I finished the rest of the sangria, I decided to come right out and ask him.
Me: “So what’s with this Guatemalan Jade thing?”
Him: “My friend has a ton of jade from Guatemala sitting in a warehouse somewhere and I’ve got a friend who deals in precious gems so I’m trying to get him to buy it.”
I can’t explain to you my crushing disappointment upon learning that he was actually talking about a ton of green opaque gem stone that happened to be from Guatemala. He must have sensed my disappointment and asked what was wrong. Maybe it was the sangria or simply the fact that I have no sense of shame, but I told him of my earlier suspicions. We had a good laugh. Actually, it was a great laugh.
Shaking my head at my own foolishness, I came back down to earth and enjoyed dessert and normal conversation in the company of a handsome man.
Then we went to the movies.