Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Dates and Earthquakes

Could anything be more exciting, more fraught with potential, than a first date? I'm going on one tonight and this, dear reader, is such a rare occurrence that I thought it deserved its own blog post.

I'll give you the back story. At my housewarming party on Thursday (which I still haven't blogged about... sorry), I started talking to new friends Ed and Joe about where they plan to go to church on Sunday. Being new to the diocese, I still haven't settled down at any one parish. Ed said that he attends a Melkite Rite Catholic church, which is in full communion with the Pope but celebrates a slightly different Divine Liturgy rather than Mass. As it turns out, Joe's family is Byzantine Rite, so they were planning to attend church together that Sunday.

I've only ever been to a few Eastern Rite liturgies in my life (mostly while I was in Israel or shortly before the trip), but this sounded like an adventure to me. Before long we'd made plans for the three of us to attend Divine Liturgy together on Sunday morning, along with my friend Tyler who lives downstairs.

Sunday morning came, Joe picked us up right on time, and before long I found myself esconced with awe-stricken eyes in the ritual and pageantry of the Eastern liturgy, in a church draped with icons and fragrant with incense. The whole experience seemed so foreign to me that I was amazed to recognize the family behind me - the parents had spoken at a CIC event earlier this summer, and I recognized them and their adorable chubby infant right away. The dad kindly let me hold the baby for part of the liturgy, and after church, we gathered to socialize in the parish hall.

As we chatted, the family's two older children were growing rambunctious. The 5-year-old in particular kept running around, pulling at her dad's legs, and generally causing a ruckus. I noticed a tall, broad-shouldered man come up and start playing with her. She loved it. He was throwing her in the air, having a great time. As I watched, my heart melted. This guy was so comfortable playing with the little girl. He was so confident, so calm. When he came over a minute later to introduce himself, I was all smiles, ready to meet him.

"I'm Theresa," I told him.

"Beautiful," he said. "My favorite girls' name. I'm Manuel."

Wow. That's the middle name my dad and brother share, my uncle's name, my cousin's name - a name that goes back in my family for generations and that I've always loved.

"That's my favorite guys' name," I replied in wonder, not even meaning to flirt.

But flirting happened anyway. He too is Hispanic, it turns out, although tall and white-skinned like me. We talked together in Spanish, laughing, and after only a few minutes I could already tell I liked this guy.

This is so easy, I couldn't help thinking. He was so sweet, so funny. And the kids loved him. Another little girl came up, entwining herself around his leg.

"Who's this?" I asked with a smile.

"My daughter," he said, and my heart plummeted to my knees.

His daughter??? My cheeks turned red. Have I been flirting like an idiot with a married man?

But I checked, and there was no wedding ring. He must be a widower, I thought.

When he asked for my number, I gave it to him, willing to give the benefit of the doubt. I can't remember the last time I had such instant chemistry with someone. Sure enough, he texted me the next day. We had some fun back and forth, and he asked me to dinner and a movie with him tonight. I said yes. He also mentioned dropping his daughter off at her mother's house.

I'd be lying if I said I'm not nervous, and for more reasons than the usual first date. I really want to know why he has a daughter and a baby mama, yet is obviously a single, practicing Catholic. I want to get to know him better too. Please say a prayer for tonight.

In other news, we had an earthquake in DC today. My entire building shook for several seconds, and I can't remember the last time I've felt so afraid. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball under my desk and have a good cry. But instead, I went to a bar with my co-workers, and discovered to my delight that a gin and tonic was an equally powerful restorative.

Finally, I have a big project in the works that I'm very excited about. More information on that to come.

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