Once upon a time, when I was younger and more full of life than I am currently, I lived in another country. A beautiful island nation not far from the US. In this country, I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the place. There were a ton of Americans, due to the proximity of the island, but there were also Canadians, French, and Mexicans among others.
This was a life in which I thrived. I worked hard and I partied harder. And while every day was basically the same, every day threw me something different. Sometimes, the different things were sad. People I knew would leave, quite possibly never to be seen again, people got hurt, people lost their ever-loving minds, and there was a lot of trouble to be had. Mainly, though, things were happy.
Fortunately, having lived through and in the Jerome Bettis/Pittsburgh Steelers heyday, I was not one to be starstruck as Mr. B was a regular customer at a restaurant I used to manage. (Jerome is a great guy. He only knew me from the resto, but I would see him out often and he always had a smile and a wave for me. I know it's not much, but, well, yes it is!) He did a guest bartending gig for us one night and brought a ton of Steelers, but that's a story for another post.
So, as it were, it wasn't a big deal when who turned up at the bar but Dirk Nowitzki. Dude, I know he plays hoops and all, but he's freaking tall! (I'm sure it doesn't help the situation that I'm all of 5 foot 1.) Truthfully, he looked familiar to me, but I couldn't quite place him. My first thought was hockey player but a co-worker set me straight. Dirk was quiet, kept to himself and his friends over in a corner.
I don't think it could have been a week later that an island friend came to me and asked if I could join him at his dinner table that evening. I didn't have plans and an invitation is always easier than trying to hunt people down, so of course, I accepted. We weren't expected to "dress" for dinner more than once a week, and this happened to be the day. The Fates smiled on me because I was sun-kissed and sassy. And I looked damn good.
The thing about the dinner table is that, even if you say that you're meeting at 7:30, everyone isn't going to be at the table at that time. It's just the way things worked. I arrived on time (for an employee – we always got held up doing something else) and met with the couple of people at the table. I excused myself to go get some food, because, after all, that's why we were there, and imagine my surprise when I returned to the table to see probably the most gorgeous black man that I'd ever seen in person. (I like 'em pretty. Like Stoney Jackson, Mario van Peebles and such.)
Introductions were made and dinner continued, when I wasn't drooling on my plate, that is. Good gravy he was just about perfect. Tall, dark and handsome had nothing on him. After dinner, we chatted a while. We didn't discuss work – his or mine, but just general random stuff. He told me that I was very intimidating. I couldn't wrap my head around that. He TOWERED over me, yet I was the intimidating one. I had to get back to work but promised that we would chat again.
Upon arriving at my designated post, a male co-worker asked me how I knew my new friend. I told him that I had just met him at dinner. My co-worker then asked me if I knew who I was talking to. I said that I knew his name but that was about it. Well, well, well, I was about to find out more. It turns out that said new gentleman friend was ex-NBA. I guess that explains the tall part. From what I was told (since I didn't really follow b-ball at the time), my new friend wasn't just any player. He had played on a championship team with some big names, number 23, and I was a little dumbstruck that he didn't bother to mention it. But, that was neither here nor there.
We talked a while and since all good things must come to an end, he had to leave the island. I gave him my email addy and we parted ways with my thinking that I probably wouldn't hear from him again. Wrong. We did keep in touch for a while. When I was back in the US and between jobs, he would call me occasionally from the most random places. His car (as he was getting pulled over and got a ticket), a golf tourney (hey, turn on the TV and see if you see me), and Lord only knows where else.
As it happens in life, we went our separate ways. I kept an eye out for my friend, seeing where he was, making sure he was okay and all. He traveled. I traveled. Years went by.
About a month and a half ago, I checked up on him again. (I am not a stalker.) He had stopped playing and started coaching. With a way to once again contact him, I dropped him a short note just to say hi. I didn't hear back. I took it in stride considering the way email sometimes works. Maybe he didn't get it. Maybe he's busy. Whatever, I won't sweat it. I forgot about it.
Until today. At work. My phone rang and it was from a number that I didn't recognize. I had been dealing with vendors for most of the day and my first thought was "Now what?!?!" I picked up the phone and gave my usual "Good afternoon, this is MiamiShyner! (names of the innocent have been changed) There was silence. I said hello again. And this is where it gets good. A deep voice that I didn't recognize said, "I love you." I thought it was someone thinking they were calling their girlfriend/wife. I said, "Pardon me?" And once again, "I love you."
Now, I've passed the point of thinking it's a wrong number and moved on to prank call. Out comes miss-smarty-pants. In my most sarcastic voice I respond "Oh really?" He said yes. Dude, CONFUSED! And then he said, "This is X." Holy smokes!! I haven't spoken to/heard from you in at least 4 years and that's the first thing out of your mouth?!?! After the initial shock of the opening to the conversation, we chatted a bit. Exchanged new email addys. Will probably chat again. But wow. The scariest part is that I think he might have meant it.