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Untitled

Impractically Yours: Chapter One

      
María:

If I hadn't zigged when he zagged, we would've knocked each other out cold.

Our near-collision left us huffing and puffing like a couple of little kids sitting through the scariest part of a horror movie they shouldn't have gone to see. I imagined lifelong confinement in an institution for the terminally terrified.

He regained his composure first. He still sounded out-of-breath, though.

"You okay?"

He sounded like he meant it.

Too breathless to speak, I nodded. Except for the potential heart attack, I felt fine. And cardiac arrest would probably have occurred before now, anyhow.

"I'm so sorry, ma'am."

My eyes narrowed in confusion. When he smiled, I felt even more bewildered.

"No," he said, unable to suppress a chuckle. "I'm not sorry you're okay."

I hadn't regained enough presence of mind to respond.

"This was entirely my fault," he said.

Huh? Accepting the blame for our close-encounter-of-the-strange-kind when it wasn't his fault wasn't just nice. It was weird.

Despite his inexplicable haste in exiting from Joseph's and his failure to watch out for pedestrians, my middle-aged body had been blocking the door while I watched the reflection of my burning cigarette. I deserved a good cussing out, but he didn't give me one.

He didn't say anything else. He looked at me as if thinking, "Have you swallowed your tongue?" He didn't know my hypoglycemia had adversely affected my clarity of thought. So much for eating a huge, sugary candy bar for breakfast because I'd run out of healthy, protein-laden food.

We both stood there waiting. As strange as this impasse was, the silence gave me a chance to urge my mind into gear. Out of reverse, anyhow.

I'd never met this man before, but I assumed he worked at Joseph's Sporting Goods since I'd seen him coming and going a number of times. I wished I'd seen him a couple of seconds earlier this time.

I'd never thought about wanting to meet him, either. But if I had, I wouldn't have chosen to do it nearly nose-to-nose.

He wore a tan corduroy jacket that seemed too lifeless to retain wrinkles. It was the attire of a man who must 'dress' for work without having to meet a given standard. He probably didn't wear that jacket for anything else.

I wouldn't have.

Although he wore a plastic name tag, the tides of time—apparently assisted by innumerable, unplanned trips through the washer&mdashhad stripped him of his identity. I couldn't have read the store name if I hadn't known it.

Since I didn't have my name tag on, we were mutually anonymous.

I was already in a quandary, though. Here Mom's decision to stop matchmaking left me wondering how to find a man, and one had just fallen in my lap. Uh, so to speak.

But what was I supposed to do with him? God, are You trying to tell me something? No response. I believe God works in mysterious ways, but viewing this man as a potential keeper was a bit much.

Of course, he had been uncommonly courteous when he had every right to blast me for blocking the doorway. He'd played the model gentleman to a model dummy who wasn't acting much smarter now.

Maybe God wanted me to observe this fellow. What harm could that do?

He appeared to be a little older than me. Maybe forty-five or fifty. No problem there.

And he wasn't wearing a wedding band. That was good, too. Of course, some men take their wedding rings off on occasion. How could I be sure he wasn't one of them?

I grinned when I caught him peeking at my left ring finger, though. If he'd had a wife to be unfaithful to, he wouldn't have cared about my marital status.

No one can fault a gal for being cautious. She can never hope to learn all of a guy's secrets. My problem had been not learning enough of Tom's until it was too late.

A good relationship depends on having enough truth. But how much is enough? More. Always more.

Like I told Mom earlier, I'd probably be too old to marry by the time I accepted a man as trustworthy.

But at least this one worked next door where I could keep an occasional eye on him.

Aware that I was standing inside his personal 'space,' I stepped back several feet. He did, too. From my improved vantage point—I could now see more than the top half of his body—I gave him a once-over I hoped he wouldn't notice.

Hmm.

I followed it up with a quick second-over.

Yep. Same inevitable conclusion.

This fellow's most conspicuous physical feature was his total lack of one single conspicuous physical feature. I couldn't remember ever seeing anyone who defined the word nondescript so perfectly.

I chuckled softly.

"Remembering a nondescript person" was oxymoronic since a nondescript person should look indistinctly similar to every other nondescript person. At least in theory, I shouldn't have recognized or remembered this man from one day to the next.

Maybe I'd just recognized the jacket and assumed the same man was wearing it.

Nondescript or not, he looked the slightest bit familiar. But not like anyone I could place. . .or describe.

He looked me over in a general kind of way, perhaps to keep me from thinking he was staring at parts of my figure that appeared less middle-aged than the rest of me. Daddy had explained that some men really do just read the cute sayings on the front of ladies' tee-shirts.

Some, but not all. Which kind of man are you, Mister Nondescript?

Then, like an experienced birdwatcher fine-adjusting his binoculars for a close-up of a rare black-and-white plaid widget, he narrowed his focus to my cigarette.