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“Who does he look like?” my mother asks over the phone, five little words I’ve heard so often over the years. I can picture her in the basement with the phone tucked under her chin, a basket of wet clothes on the floor next to her. She’s hanging nighties on the line inside because it’s raining outside.
“It’s hard to say,” I tell her. I’ve been asking myself this very question for a month or so, regarding a certain gentleman who apparently enjoys having coffee with me quite a bit. “He doesn’t really look like anyone.” My mom and I have a habit of using movie star comparisons to describe any male who is not related to us. My mom and I, two Hollywood should’ve-beens.
“I guess he kinda looks like Ed Asner,” I say, meaning this in the best possible of ways. “Remember Mary Tyler Moore?”
Of course she remembers.
“The young Ed Asner,” I continue. “Also he looks like the captain on that police show, the fiftyish guy with the round head.” She wants to know if we’re talking about the old police show or the new police show. “It doesn’t matter,” I say. “It’s the guy who always plays the captain guy, or maybe the chief. He’s really handsome in a tough kind of way.”
All of this impresses my mother to no end. “Those are big words comin’ from you,” she says. I hear her climb the steps upstairs into the kitchen. She puts her jacket on and carries the phone with her into the garage to have a smoke. “This is startin’ to sound serious,” she says, clicking her lighter. She only takes a couple puffs and then puts it out. She could make one cigarette last a whole day.
She’d want you to know that.
I sit with the coffee man again, having more coffee. I watch his fiftyish TV-police chief muscles move underneath his clothes, and we get to know each other. “I like to go out with my friends for wings and a couple beers…,” he says. I wait to hear if our fate will be sealed with the words “every night” or something close to that. “Every other month,” he finishes, and my tiny-cheerleader leaps into the air.
“What about you?” he asks. “Do you go out with your friends once in awhile?” He leans forward, the good cop.
What an invitation he has handed me, and he doesn’t even realize it. I’ve been waiting for a question like this ever since we met, hoping it wouldn’t show up too soon. Here it is, right on time. It’s never going to get any easier or harder to say three little words I have never said in my life, certainly not to a man. But here I go: “I don’t drink.” My tiny-cheerleader wilts on the field and plays dead.
I’ve revealed my past, defined my present, and raised the bar for my future all in three words, and I expect that a clever man will get his. A good man with a good heart will understand this. Lou Grant does not disappoint. “I also like to snuggle on the couch and watch TV,” he says, smiling his smile.
Tiny-cheerleader disappears, poof. “Me too,” I say, touching Lou's wrist in a way that I could get used to.