I grew up Catholic. A Cradle Catholic; went to Catholic schools for 12 years and all that. I’ve always been surrounded by Saints in my life. Not in an Italian sort of way, there were no pictures of saints on our walls surrounded by pictures of Popes, just a statue of The Virgin Mary that my mom really liked.
One of the things about Catholics is that we pray to Saints; not as if they are false Gods or Idols, but as if they are friends we are asking favors of. Can you pray for my uncle to get better; watch over us on our long journey; help me find my keys. (Yes, there are Saints to pray to for a multitude of things.) I had only invoked the Saints when things got really bad; Please help me pass this test that I didn’t study for; Please let my parents be in bed when I get home and not look at the clock to see what time I’m coming home; Please get rid of these zits before the big dance.
That’s how a 21st century Catholic girl, growing up in Southern California, prayed.
But at 31 years of age, single, I wasn’t in the mood to pray to anyone, and I wasn’t certain what Saint covered relationships. I’m sure there is a Saint for dating help; lord knows my mother was lighting enough candles praying for me to find someone; preferably a man with health insurance. (As the daughter of a woman who spent the better part of her career working with health insurance, her one dream for her children was to have good health insurance. As a struggling writer, you can imagine, I did not have the best, if any, health insurance.)
Still, I had given up on men as a species. At 31 I had put the grieving of a broken heart behind me and declared to my family with the most insistent of speeches that they all best get used to the idea that I would never get married, I would never have children, and I would never, ever date again. Never. EVER.
So you can imagine my surprise when, half way through my celibate year, a friend called me and told me she was setting me up with a friend of hers, a pilot who was flying through town, who just wanted someone to show him the sights, and hang out with.
I was not in the mood for this.
I didn’t look great. I looked good actually, but I didn’t feel I looked nice enough; a long day at work and cranky customers had bent my mood. Also, I had not had my nails done in a while, my eyebrows had grown back into a mono-brow (even though I have blonde hair and light eyebrows, my mother and every Vietnamese lady who does nails can spot my mono-brow yards away. “Boys will like you better if you get eye brow wax,” the ladies always say. According to my nail gal, if I kept my eyebrows and upper lip waxed; my nails and toes painted, and my legs shaved – add a dash of my grandmother’s wisdom of tucking my shirt in and putting on some lipstick- I could land myself a man in no time. I admit I tried all of these tactics, and upon leaving the nail salon, there was no man standing outside with a big grin, box of roses giving a deep sigh and declaring ‘That’s better. Now let’s date!”)
I digress…I was being set up and I didn’t want to go. I was already in my sweats and had a big night of watching Friends reruns and eating cereal for dinner planned.
Lovingly, my long-time friend twisted my arm and I agreed. At least I would get a free meal out of the whole thing.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“Saint.” She replied and told me she had passed my phone number along to him and I would be hearing from him shortly.
Now, if I had to label myself, I would say I’m a left wing, feminist catholic. Does such a thing exist? Well…I don’t know, but as a writer, I get to take a few liberties with definitions I use for myself.
Still, as a Cradle Catholic, with all the years of good guilt nicely built up; when some announces to you you’re going on a date with a Saint, you don’t drag your feet, you put on some lipstick, tuck in your shirt, and take the whole thing as a sign.
I met him in the bar of the hotel he was staying in, and when he walked in…Holy Shit. He was gorgeous. About 6’5; green eyes; short, dark, slightly curly hair; build like an Olympic swimmer; mocha skin that radiated and broad shoulders (the kind I had always scoffed about when described in Harlequin books, but understood when he sat down next to me), and a grin that twisted my tongue and hurried the blush to my cheeks.
I started laughing when he introduced himself, he looked amused but didn’t ask me what was funny, which is good. I don’t know that I would have been able to explain it to him anyway. I was laughing because in the time it took him to walk over to me, I had that down to earth thud that declared ‘He is SO out of your league.’ It wasn’t a self-loathing reaction, it was just a fact and it was funny. He was so out of my league.
We began to talk, he ordered his drink with a grace and flare I had only seen in movies; he talked about his summer house he just bought in Brazil, had I been to Brazil? At least I was able to say I was more of a European girl, I preferred Europe. (I really don’t know if I prefer Europe, I’ve never been to Brazil. Farthest I’ve ever gone in South America is Tijuana and I don’t know if that counts.)
We had an interesting dinner, I didn’t eat much because I was so daunted. He was too pretty. Recently Melissa McCarthy was on the Ellen Show. Melissa was in the movie Bridesmaids and is Molly in the TV show Mike and Molly. Anyway, she was at the Golden Globes and she and her husband were talking to Brad and Angelina and she said after a few moments she got giggly. Her comment was that they were too pretty, together they were just too much to look at. “I said that to them. They just kind of laughed. I said, ‘No really.’ It is a lot visually to take in. She’s like weirdly glowing. She’s so beautiful. He’s kind of cute too. And then I was like ‘Ok. I’m sorry. I needed to like regroup’ because they’re kind of a lot.”
That was exactly how I felt! I had always heard that often times Saints were difficult to look upon; but this was ridiculous.
When we went to dinner, I got the looks, you know, the ones where girls look at you and you can actually hear them think ‘How did she get him?’ I wanted to creep over to these women and say, ‘I know, right? But he’s a Saint, I think there’s something here I’m supposed to learn.’
I didn’t learn anything at dinner. We just made small talk about where I had lived, what I liked about where I lived now, his house in Brazil, flying, living the dream. I told him I was a writer and he did seem slightly impressed, but the declaration lost some of its flare when I added that I was living with a friend from college, in the basement of said friend’s house, and I was working in a coffee shop, and trying to find myself.
Dinner was over and free and I still wasn’t convinced that it was better than cold cereal. Cold cereal would not have intimidated me the way this Saint did.
He picked the moment we were walking back to the hotel to inform me that he and his crew were going to meet up with us, if that was okay with me, and they wanted to go dancing. I was in charge of the evenings activities. Strangely I was comforted by this tour guide appointment. We sat back in the bar of the hotel as the crew made their entrances. Gorgeous girl number one, blonde bombshell number two, and a petite, glowing brunette all entered with their heads up as if they were walking a run way. Handsome co-pilot, and token gay airline steward traveled behind the group of girls and I knew in that moment that sometimes, just sometimes, airlines are where eternal fraternity members go when they are forced out of college.
We went to the trendiest club I could think of, and I fear it still was under par for the group I had been absorbed into.
Saint bought drinks for everyone; he was kind and danced with all the girls. When a hopeful local girl would hit on him, he would dial in his charming smile and take it in stride as if that sort of thing happened every day and somehow he would politely explain, amid the thump thump of the music, that he was flattered but with friends. I’m not sure what else he said, because I just watched him wave his hand toward the group of people he was with, but the girls left with smiles, not disheartened at all.
It’s also said of Saints that when you are in their company, you tend to feel good about yourself and the world. Though, he wasn’t A Saint, he was just born with the label.
Because of an early call time for their flight the next morning, we left the club at one and walked back to the hotel they were all staying at.
The girls danced and giggled their way down the street the way you do when you’re in a town that is not your own. Saint stayed behind with me, he asked me what I thought I really wanted out of life. (Like you do when you’re buzzed walking down a cool street at one in the morning.) I shrugged and said that I just wanted to write and support myself with my words. He nodded and asked me why I didn’t have a boyfriend, he nodded his head in sympathy when I retold the tale of my recent tragic breakup; but there was no sparkle in his eye as if he inquired about my dating status because he wanted the position of boyfriend for himself. I asked if he had a girlfriend and he grinned, waved his hand and said he traveled all over. I’m not sure what he really meant by the comment, but I think he was still in the time of his life where he was happy with his job, his house in Brazil and a different girl in every port.
He did not invite me up for a nightcap but he did ask me if I was okay to drive. I waved my hand, the one drink that I’d had lost its potency awhile back.
He gave me a hug and thanked me for hanging out with him and his crew and showing them a good time. I smiled like a fool, something I had been doing all night for lack of conversational things to say in this new found circle and waved my hand in answer.
The rest of the crew had already gushed over how nice it was to meet me and I just nodded.
Drive safe, Saint said as he closed the car door for me and stood next to the window I rolled down, because it seemed like he had something he wanted say. Although, as I nodded my head, I was already thinking about my own bed, my comfy, worn pajamas, and the fact that I didn’t have to work tomorrow so I could stay up and watch reruns.
Are you any good? He asked the question as if it were something he wanted to ask me all night.
Any good at what? I asked when I found my voice.
So I guess some Saints are sent not to answer questions but quietly keep us on the path we’ve set for ourselves, so we don’t lose our way.
For now, I’d like to recall this awkward date as a road sign in the game of life, that I’m not too far off the right path.