Originally, this Part II was only going to be about my real life date, but I decided to include something else that occurred here on the Outer Banks which is much more important.
First: The Date, Post Hook
A few weeks ago, I watched a stranger on the beach from inside the house, hoping to catch a glimpse of his face so I could accurately describe it to the police. The evening before I saw him walk onto a sand trail close to my house, a path which others have used as a public beach access even though it isn’t one.
A month before, while on my morning run, I stopped to talk to a neighbor down the beach road who asked if I’d heard about the Peeping Tom in Kitty Hawk. The peeper had been arrested, then released out on bail until his trial. I hadn’t thought anymore of that peeper conversation until the evening around 10 o’clock when I saw a bouncing beam of light on the sand trail leading down the dune toward the water. What I wasn’t able to see in the darkened night was this man’s mutt dog and the reason he later gave for his late walk along the beach. I kept my eyes glued to the pattern of light until I could make out a figure. After some time, he returned to the small dune and began a trek back toward the street. Once he neared my house, I turned on the back porch light as a warning (Of what? That I was armed with a psychotic cat?).
The next time I saw the man was the day after, in the afternoon, when he brought his dog to the beach. Under the pretense of offering the terrier a bowl of water, “In case he’s thirsty,” I said, I made mental notes of this man’s hair and eye color, approximate height, and any other details I thought a crime scene investigator would need to solve the mystery of my murder. After the dog lapped the bowl dry, the guy approached my deck and apologized for scaring me the night before.
“I saw you turn on the lights,” he said.
I told him about the Peeping Tom, and he remarked how lucky he was that I hadn’t called the police. I asked if he’d seen my license plates.
“Texas,” he said.
I nodded, “I don’t dial 9-1-1.”
“So you have a gun?” he laughed but I remained stone-faced with my best Hook smirk.
There are no safety locks on the doors of my beach house. The only true weapons are my body odor after a long run and Gatita’s fish breath. When this man continued to stand on my deck steps, I invited him to sit. I asked about the book he was reading. Self-help. He confessed to being lost in a life transition, even admitted to being full of fear. I couldn’t help reaching for my invisible coach’s hat while I began asking questions, but after awhile I said I needed to get back inside. Before he left, he asked me out to dinner. I declined and invited him to come over instead because that’s what one does when they like a person’s smile who may or may not be a Peeping Tom / Date Raper / Murderer. I really did think that inviting a stranger over was far safer than getting into his oversized four-wheel drive. When he showed up at the house later that evening, I asked to take a photo of his driver’s license, then texted this to a friend so she could help the police identify my killer, too.
When I started writing this post, I thought it was funny how this first date came about. The bizarre topics he insisted on bringing up over dinner, however, were not but this wasn’t the only reason that I turned my face and presented my cheek at the end of the evening when he leaned in to kiss me goodnight. I was almost as surprised as he was when I did that. Although I’d initially found him attractive, the longer we talked the more I realized that our core values were severely misaligned. When he left Kitty Hawk at the end of the weekend, I wished him safe travels but never returned his calls or emails that followed.
I consider this first date a huge success, because it was a milestone / icebreaker / benchmark reminder. I knew that the combination Hook possessed of cool and smart and goodness to the bone could not be replaced, because each individual is unique. Still, I hadn’t realized how damn high he left that benchmark.
Second: Really Choosing One Another
When I arrived in Kitty Hawk three months ago, I sought out three things: a place to run, a place to meditate, and a place to write. The beach road became my running trail, a local yoga shop became my meditation place, and Dare county’s second Thursday literary open mic became a writing group to attend.
In the open mic nights, writers read short essays or poems and sometimes ask for feedback on works in progress. In the last gathering, one woman said she wanted to read “a political essay” that she wrote. In it, she faulted, one by one, all the groups of people she felt were responsible “for what is wrong with the U.S. today.” This was her list: liberals, gays, transgenders, the mentally ill, Muslims, millennials, Oprah, and if I understood her, basically the entire black community. She said order would only be found “by Bible or bayonet.” The order she spoke of was relative to the happenings at the University of Missouri, before the Paris bombings had occurred, before the Syrian refugees became the next fiery topic on social media. When the woman was done reading, everyone except me clapped wildly. At the first available break, I stood up and walked out, saying nothing to no one as I left and drove back to my beach house.
I did not take the time to correct this woman and explain that the U.S. was not “founded on Judeo-Christian values” as she had said. The ‘Judeo-‘ came after WWII was over, and after the U.S. had turned away almost 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler. I did not mention that Oprah stopped doing a talk show almost five years ago, and that perhaps it was Dr. Phil she’d meant to deride. Nor did I correct her when she said that blacks in the United States were now doing to whites what had been done to them. I did wonder, though, if I’d missed some late breaking news about white men being lynched and left hanging in the wind until their families cut them down from tree branches. Finally, I did not say anything about how ‘Bible or bayonet’ was the value-system used to commit genocide on millions of Native Americans, the original people of the land we stand on today.
President Calvin Coolidge was the author of the “Bible or bayonet” phrase. Follow or be killed? Don’t question the status quo? That guy that I allowed to be my first date did not want people to question the status quo either. I didn’t ignore his three phone calls and two emails simply because we voted differently. He let it slip that slavery “wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be,” and he wanted to know “why people are complaining about things now when before it was okay.”
The woman at the literary function was angry that the black community was angry. I was angry that she was angry about someone else being angry. The circularity of this single emotion would be comical if it weren’t so destructive.
Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”
In my Wednesday night Dharma meditation classes, we are encouraged to try and understand the interconnectedness between us, so that we erase the “us vs them” scenario that continues to creep into our everyday lives.
The woman from the literary evening clung to her views as I clung to mine, neither of us choosing one another, both of us suffering because of it. Maybe it would have made a difference if I hadn’t walked out. Maybe my points would have been acknowledged, or maybe, maybe I misunderstood what she was really upset about.
Americans will begin celebrating a Thanksgiving holiday whose origins derived from one group helping another group to get through a winter and not starve to death. So I leave you with these words:
We are compelled to choose one another, not by book or by sword but by the original innocence of good that is born into each of us; before we are taught something other than love and kindness; before we repeat the mistakes of our fathers and our mothers.
I would also like it duly noted that I believe millennials are great. Translation: Please take care of me when I’m old.