“We both love Chinese food almost more than we love Disney. We were both in Riverside, California and there was a really great place called Changs Dynasty. Totally an old school Chinese restaurant – just loved it.
The hostess sat us and handed us menus. Shortly thereafter the server arrived, and we ordered cocktails and appetizers.
Making the typical first date small talk we got around to talking about our previous partner- if we had been married before etc.
I shared with Manny that I had been married for 10 years, was separated, preparing to go through the divorce procedure, not really knowing what to expect.
Manny nodded in commiseration and said that he had been married twice. That didn’t really phase me because it was 1995 and a lot of my friends had been divorced more than once.
Being me who is a nosy parker and inquisitive by nature I asked him what happened.
He took a deep breath and a big gulp of his cocktail and said he was a widower.
I remember suddenly feeling just uncomfortable, sad, and wanting to hug him but not really knowing what to say so I said was ‘Oh my God I’m so sorry how are you doing now?! ‘
There was this uncomfortable silence between us, and I just blurted out ‘How did she die Manny?’
He looked down at his drink and he looked at me and he said – ‘Tragically she died by poisoning.’
Needless to say, I was aghast, horrified, and disturbed.
I remember muttering something useless like ‘Holy cow, wow I am just so sorry. ‘
Things by now were sort of awkward and I took another gulp of my cocktail and the server thank God came up and took our dinner order. I ordered Orange Peel Beef – I will never forget what I ordered.
We begin once again making more small talk and so again I’m just curious by nature and I cannot leave well enough alone- so I said ‘You mentioned you have been married twice. So, your first wife tragically died so what happen with your second wife?’
Manny sat straight up in his chair and leaned on his hands and looked me right in the eye and he said ‘Well, you know, sadly she died as well…’
As he was relaying this to me, I was taking a drink of my cocktail and I choked on it. Like in the movies it came sputtering out of my mouth and I started coughing.
By now in my head the dialogue was along the lines of ‘Oh my god my mother, my father, my siblings, my best friend do not know that I’m on this date with this guy and I could end up in the back of his trunk.’ ‘Where are the f’ing exits’ ‘How do I get a hold of the server or the bartender or somebody in this restaurant to let them know I need him to call the police if things go sideways.’
I am seriously inside having this panicking dialogue.
Manny, asked me if I’m OK and gets up to come over to my side of the table and I put my hand up and I’m like I’m fine I’m fine and he sits back down. instinctively I’m pushing my cocktail away because I realize drinking alcohol probably isn’t very smart especially if I need to make a getaway.
So, I am able to kind of get my collective sh*t together in my head and I just say ‘Okay? She died as well? What the hell? I don’t mean to be insensitive but what happened!?’
He takes a deep breath, and he just looked at me and says ever so benignly – ‘She died from a blow to the head.’
By now I know I am never going to see this guy again. I have written him off as absolutely crazy, sociopathic, insane.
I now do not make any sort of bones about I’m looking for an exit and a safe way out.
Seriously I’m in fight or flight so I just said to him are you kidding me a blow to the head what are you talking about?
And he shrugged and looked at me I’ll slack eyed and said, ‘She wouldn’t drink the poison.’
About this time our server shows up smiling and hands us our food.
I did not know what to do.
We just sat there across from each other in silence.
I said in this sort of strangled whisper ‘She wouldn’t drink the poison?’
And then it happened…
His eyes begin to crinkle. And he grabbed his belly. He began to laugh from the top of his eyes all the way to his toes. He was laughing so incredibly hard that he was gasping for breath. He kept pointing his finger at me and saying ‘Oh my God I wish you could see the look on your face! Your face is the color of a sheet of printer paper!!!’ And he kept apologizing and laughing and apologizing and he fell physically off his chair onto the ground.
In my head I was screaming ’You are such a jerk!’ I kept saying ‘Jerk! Jerk! Jerk!!!’ over and over in my head not realizing it was coming out of my mouth in the restaurant!
This made him laugh even harder.
He said ‘I know this is our first date but if you can handle my humor, we are going the distance. ‘
By now I am seeing the absurdity of all of this and I begin to laugh hysterically. I’m laughing so hard I think I have pee’d myself a little.
We make it through dinner – and I can’t even really remember what my orange peel be tasted like. I was still vacillating between being horribly impressed and horribly disturbed by his prank.
And the rest of our lives together have been various pranks, surprises and his weird goofy sense of humor.
The second part of our date was at Costco. Just walking and talking up and down the aisles. Finally, after an hour in Costco I said what did we come here for and he said nothing I think this is just a good place to walk and talk.
I knew then I had a keeper even after the first date.
So almost 25 years later I think we’re doing something right.”
Read Marna’s follow up story here.
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