Good to meet you

“Good to meet you,” the husband of the doctor said, extending his hand, with an alert and eager smile.

“I’ve met you three times already,” I said, in what may have been a tone of jocular reproof, if that mitigates my rudeness, as well as my inaccuracy, at all. Actually I had met him once, and had ended up talking to him twice for five minute intervals at the same event. Having paid the price of our brief acquaintance with unforgettable boredom, it seemed fair to add on another time. “At the newseum event in July. Your piano had just arrived.”

The doctor’s husband is a person of limited repertoire stocked with cliches, so his jaw dropped.

“Our piano did arrive in July,” he said, and after a moment realized that meant we had met before. “Of course. I remembered your face,” he said,  smiling warmly, and nonsensically for someone who had just evinced never having met me before, “I just couldn’t remember your name.”

I remembered about the piano because it was the last thing he had mentioned before I had started daydreaming, which had happened when I realized I was never going to figure out why he was talking about it at all.

His husband, a stout middle-aged man with an egg-shaped face and what was left of his hair smoothed conservatively back from his forehead had just introduced him, sort of pulling him out from behind him as if they were standing on line, and saying “I’d like you to meet my husband.”

I am pretty  sure I did an obvious doubletake. The kind of people who introduce their mates as my husband, or my wife, instead of saying I’d like you to meet Joe, or Jane, usually are the kind of people who follow other outdated conventions, like only having spouses of opposite genders. I was instantly abashed, and that prompted me to stick out the ensuing conversation even as it immediately became clear it was steered toward no common ground.

It went:

“Have you lived in DC long?”

“No,” I said, “I just moved up last month. From Florida.”

“Oh. We moved here in April. My piano just arrived.”

“Oh how nice. I guess now it really feels like home, then?”

“I don’t play,” he said. “We have a very big house. We had a big house in San Francisco, and this one’s bigger but a different layout . . .”

The waiter passed, a few clusters of people away, with the little cones filled with tuna tartar and caviar. I fought the urge to follow him.

“We entertain a lot. We’re throwing a big party this weekend with about 100 people,” the doctor’s husband went on.

“Good that the piano arrived then?” I guessed.

“Not really. We hired a band,” he said, and I don’t remember anything after that.

Towards the end of the evening I had run into him again, and he had started describing all of the different food they would serve at their party, and that time I did go follow the waiter with the tuna tartar cones.

So now he said, “I can’t believe you remember about the piano. You’re like Rainman.”

Which is true. We all have our odd traits and a randomly focused memory is one of mine, so I decided to give him another chance.

“That was good,” I said.

He smiled happily, and I thought of all the ways the conversation could now go — memories? movies? how he himself is perhaps a bit like Forrest Gump?

“We’ve been so busy,” he said. “We’re having a big party next weekend, and he’s from Tennessee originally and I’m from Arkansas, so it’s going to have a southern theme . . .  drumsticks . . . greenbeans and scallions . . . macaroni and cheese . . . and 72 deviled eggs!”

“My, a lot of work . . .”

“Oh, we’ll get them at Whole Foods . . .”

“72 deviled eggs?” the woman sitting next to me said. She had been chatting brightly with a cluster of people standing before her, but now was cornered and cutoff, the doctor’s husband having squatted on the floor in front of us when he drifted into his reverie.

“Yes!” the doctor’s husband said. “He’s from Tennessee, and I’m from Arkansas, so all the food we’re going to serve will have a Southern theme . . .”

I tapped my empty glass, and sidled away. I turned from the doorway to the kitchen. The woman’s smile had faded, her face slack.

“Say,” he drifted up to me a while later. He lowered his voice confidentially, “What’s the name of the woman I was just talking to?”


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