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Did Mr. Right No. 2 exist somewhere on this planet?
I was a 40-year-old widow with a nine-year-old son. Seven years earlier, my husband had died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. It had taken me a long time to move from raw pain to cherished memories, but I wanted to be part of a happy couple again. But even though I was open to meeting someone new, I dreaded first dates: especially blind dates.
I had endured several arranged encounters: a neighbour's visiting cousin; a colleague's recently divorced brother-in-law; and three (yes, three) "he's the perfect guy for you, he loves kids" types. Lonely and peculiar men who might fit into someone else's world, but were an uncomfortable mismatch for mine.
Thinking about a recent New Year's Eve party at my neighbours' home made me cringe. I'd been stuck for more than five hours with the host's brother, a diminutive bridge-playing accountant. Like a puppy, he trailed me from room to room, bombarding me with getting-acquainted questions. I was fond of my neighbours, and I felt obliged to postpone my escape until after midnight.
I had just about given up on set-ups by well-meaning friends. But one of them, my girlfriend Beatrix, persuaded me to meet one more unattached guy: a 44-year-old bachelor and fellow teacher, someone not working through the wounds of divorce, in fact a man who had never married or even lived with anybody. This wasn't necessarily an item in his favour, though. Why was he still single at his age? Was he rigid and set in his ways?
Beatrix and her fellow matchmakers masked the blind date as a group outing to a Thai restaurant followed by a Star Trek movie. The dinner sounded promising, but the group's movie choice seemed odd: a sci-fi franchise geared to a young male demographic. And middle-aged secret Trekkies, I guessed. A spectacle full of space explosions but sparse on dialogue. The type of flick I usually suffered through as the devoted mother of a young boy. Would this guy turn out to be another oddball? Should I go? Well, maybe a man entertained by starships could also be amused by Woody Allen characters, I decided.
Our mutual friends orchestrated the Thai-Star Trek evening as carefully as a Klingon battle plan. At the restaurant, four couples danced their way around a large circular table until two side-by-side seats were left empty for me and the tall guy named Dennis.
Dinner and conversation went surprisingly well. The soup was clear and garnished with finely chopped vegetables. Dennis didn't demonstrate any bizarre personal habits or relate self-absorbed anecdotes. The spring rolls were crisp and just spicy enough. So was the getting-to-know-each-other chat. Too bad he was such a poor dresser – all sombre greys, an ugly sweater and polyester slacks.
But … I liked his smile. I liked his considerate manners. I liked his openness. He was willing to go to a Star Trek movie to meet someone new. My romantic hopes grew like an armful of Tribbles. Dinner finished more quickly than I would have liked, and we were off to the movie. At the theatre, all 10 of us sat in a row, and I sat beside Him. I took the precaution of manoeuvring into the aisle seat, an easy exit if I needed one or even several bathroom breaks.
I didn't. Dennis laughed in all the right places, but not so loudly as to offend Trekkies in the audience. The guy was Starfleet material. Looking back, I'm fuzzy about the specifics of the film: I recall Captain Picard, Data the android and some sort of reptilian villain. There was a galaxy-sized conflict, but I don't recall much of an emotional connection to what was happening onscreen.
However, sitting in the red plush cinema seat that February evening, I experienced my own cinema-worthy moment: a jolt as powerful as a direct hit by a photon torpedo. Like a good-hearted, moderately attractive heroine in the schlockiest of chick flicks, I realized that the man in the next seat might be the One.
When the film was over, our group lingered in the lobby comparing our favourite special effects and Star Trek TV episodes. On the sly, Beatrix was sizing up the Dennis-Karen dynamic. Wanting to nudge the chemistry a little, she invited everyone for dinner the following Saturday.
It turned out to be my chance to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no woman had gone before.
I thank my lucky stars – in this and all other galaxies – that I made the choice to go to that movie.
Eighteen months later, Dennis and I began our own stellar voyage: We got married. And 20 years later? Well, Dennis and I continue to live long and prosper.
Karen Zey lives in Pointe-Claire, Que.