There are times, after being asked a question, that you should just give the answer. And there are other times where you should ask yourself why you have just been asked that question? Sometimes the answer you should give depends on why you were asked!
That day, I just gave an answer, and I should have wondered why that question was directed at me. I'll admit I had never before been asked that question, although it certainly seemed simple enough at first.
"Do you know anyone who wants to get married?"
My mind listed the people I knew, those who were single, those who were 'looking'. But no one I knew had mentioned, in the middle of a conversation, that they had the sudden urge to tie the knot.
"I'll have to think about that." I said, "Why do you ask?"
And so, the story came out.
I was sitting in a donut shop, reading my book, and having a coffee. The owner, a pleasant lady, had come over to chat. It seemed she had a relative visiting from India. A lovely girl, well behaved and educated, who wanted to stay here. The easy way to stay was to find a husband! That was exactly what I was told.
Now, I guess I am a simple man. Simple sounds better than stupid, does it not? It wasn't until two weeks later, when I was back there, that I figured things out. The owner came rushing over, and gave me my coffee. She was all smiles.
"Dolly is here!" she told me.
I must have looked puzzled.
Dolly was the visiting relative I was told. She was brought out from the back, introduced to me, and she sat right down, across from me. It wasn't until the owner gleefully disappeared into the back, that I realized I had been 'set up', and that this introduction to Dolly was in the hope of a future marriage!
She was very pretty. Dark flashy eyes and a warm smile. She was dressed in casual North American clothes and her voice had just a trace of that delightful British accent. She would be a real catch for someone. I just had not figured that I was to be part of that game!
All of a sudden, I was very nervous. It was like being suddenly put into an important job interview, that you were not quite prepared for! This lady came from a very different culture, one that 'arranged marriages' were excepted and common. I was just a guy trying to have a coffee! Our expectations were miles apart. Still, she must be nervous as well. I was a stranger, in a strange land!
One of the few skills I have is the ability to talk with people. I can make good conversation with just about anyone. It's not too difficult, either. You just have to like people, and be curious about them. Asking people questions about themselves usually makes you seem both fascinating and a great conversationalist! So, I started asking questions.
She was charming. She was friendly, had a great laugh and we actually got along very well. She talked about her travels, her home life and her hopes for the future. She loved this country, although she had been warned about the terrible winters!
I don't know how long we talked. It was for a considerable about of time, but good conversation made the time fly by. Eventually the storeowner came out of the back, with her coat on, thus signalling it was time to go.
Dolly stood up, smiled and politely shook my hand, saying how nice it was to talk to me. I said "See you again", simply because that is a phrase I use. Dolly smiled warmly at that, as if it meant that she had passed the test. And she left.
My coffee cup was empty. But I just sat there for awhile. I'm a life long bachelor, by choice. Never had the desire to get married. Sometimes, however, you think about things. You look back, over your life, and you wonder. What would have happened if...
I don't know if it was coincidence or cowardliness. Maybe both. I didn't get back to that coffee shop for several months. When I did revisit, the owner wasn't there. So it was several months more before I learned that Dolly was engaged, to a man in the local Indian community.
I felt good, hearing that. She was a sweet lady, and she deserved some happiness. I hope she found that in marriage.
It was a year or two later that, when I was thinking about her, I realized what a close call I had. It would have been strangely funny to come home every night, and have to say: "Hello, Dolly!"