A set of hopes and dreams tied to a single name—Mark—and here I had met another who was clearly interested in me.
Despite meeting at the gym, my prospects with Cowboy Mark were by no means superficial. We’d connected on an intellectual level. The magic of the tale was only enhanced by the fact that we’d met in a gym locker room, stereotypically a trashy environment for meeting guys.
“Hey, it’s GMB from the gym,” I said, struggling for words. “I wanted you to know I’m enjoying the book.” Who says that? I thought to myself.
“Let me give you a call in a bit. I’m having dinner with my grandma.”
He grew more interesting with each interaction. It was as if my desire for an atypical guy to come along had finally materialized. He was rugged yet appreciated the arts. He was romantic, but not corny. It was hard to get past him just being that guy I'd wondered about at the gym, though.
After a series of text messages, we worked out a date. Something simple and sweet. Dinner and a movie. For a solid five minutes, we went through that familiar dialogue:
“What do you want for dinner?”
“I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?”
“I don’t know. You decide.”
My hands tied, I was finally forced to make a decision.
“Sushi it is.”
As I drove into the parking lot, I saw him there sitting on the tailgate of his pickup. He looked quite content swinging his legs back and forth as he waved and then effortlessly pushed off with his arms, making his way over to greet me.
We hugged and then made our way inside. Perhaps more than any other guy I dated, he made efforts to be the knight in shining armor. He opened the door for me, pulled my chair out and waited for me to sit down. We ordered and despite my limited sushi experience, it was clear he was only there because I suggested it.
“I’ll have the orange salad. There’s no fish in that, right?”
Our conversation quickly turned to work and school. While I was finishing up my last year of university, he was in a stable job for more five years managing a local business. Then the conversation trailed into the personal.
I told him the story you’re all familiar with—coming home from a mission, having a sudden epiphany, meeting the first Mark and the breakup.
“I’m in a different boat completely,” he said. “I didn’t grow up Mormon, but when high school was over. I ran away. I ran as fast and as far as I could to Florida and then to Pittsburgh.
“Then everything fell apart. Mom called and she could tell something was wrong. I couldn’t tell her over the phone, so I stopped everything. I got in my truck and drove. I drove and I drove until I arrived at her door.
“She was happy to see me, but in tears. I sat her down and told her. She cried and cried, but at least I was there.”
In a way, the story was tragic. He was so matter of fact about it and composed. He was who he was and I really respected him. He’d been through his share of life lessons. I was glad he shared, but somehow I felt more distant.
Dinner quickly passed then we went to his place to watch Stardust. We laid there on the couch holding each other. I began to wonder if we were just too different to be compatible, and if I was even attracted to him physically. Had I fallen for the story of us meeting or a name rather than the actual man?
End, Part 7.