I asked my date to choose from the menu for me, as I did not know what was good or what was typical Sichuan cuisine, which he promised the restaurant offered. Traditional Chinese food does not much resemble its popular Americanized version, from the bacon-cuts of pork stewed like crockpot roast lying on beds of spinach to the fish swimming in thin red broth speckled with viciously biting peppers. I made a good meal, though, and was grateful for the hot tea to restore my equilibrium after a fleck of pepper lodged between my vocal cords and sent me into a paroxysm of teary croaking. For the most part, I managed to use my chopsticks properly (I really didn't want to seem like an uncultured fork-wielding barbarian in a place full of people eating gracefully with the ubiquitous Asian utensils), but I really couldn't manage to get a large piece of potato-derived ginger-spiced gelatin off my plate towards the end of the meal, and so Grant asked the waiter to bring a set of Western ware for me. I am not a big fan of gelatinous substances, but took this in as a part of the interesting cultural experience the evening proved to be.
I am so grateful to be moving South soon. I could very easily fall in love with Grant, who is short (only a few inches taller than me--perfect!) and smart (a bespectacled 47-year-old Ivy League grad fluent in English and Mandarin) and collects Chinese decorative art (mainly imperial ceramics, but some lovely rosewood furniture, too). But not a Christian. He suggested, "Next time, let's go to a movie"--at some indefinite time, since neither of our schedules are standard. He works for a professional association, and is frequently out of town at meetings.
I kept myself from doing something stupid, like kissing him over tea and millennium-old pottery in his apartment, by announcing (truthfully) at the end of our meal that I couldn't spend much more time that evening as I had a friend's 50th birthday party to attend. I drove across town to my friend Inga's, where there was a generous supply of catered sweets, wine, and spirited academic conversation, and spent several more happy hours socializing before I pitched in with the quick cleanup and climbed upstairs to drop, exhausted, on the air mattress she kindly proffered in her guest room.
This morning, I raided the fridge for leftovers, and breakfasted with Inga and my sweet former polyester roommate at the vast marble table in her dining room, while a quizzical sparrow eyed us through the window over the front door. I had planned to move to Amy's after church, but instead I came home to Susan and Steven's to nap for the rest of the day. Most of my things are out of the closet and dresser now, and shoved into my borrowed SUV for the temporary relocation to Rockville, but tonight I'm sleeping in Alexandria one final time. And trying not to imagine romantic interludes with a certain Chinese man. Damn hormones. I am almost looking forward to menopause.