I like women, don’t you?

I’ve always liked women.

I like the way women look, I like the way they feel, and I particularly like the way that women work. I admire and on occasion try to emulate the more fulsome perspective that many women normally will bring to their particular view of the world. The fulsomeness, not the view. I like the ways in which women are smart. These are often, but not only, the very same ways in which we men are smart.

Perhaps you already realize that I’ve never had trouble following a smart leader, whether man or woman, black or brown or white, educated or uneducated–just as long as that person has a good idea and a sound plan and possesses the confidence to allow me to do my own work. And so I found myself inclined to be receptive a couple of years ago when one day a very intelligent uneducated and beautiful brown friend of mine said to me, in Spanish “Bill, it’s been more than two years since Denise died. Are you about ready to meet a good dominican woman?”

Actually, I was not.

But a familiar voice, issuing from somewhere over my shoulder, a voice more quiet than before but as clear as ever whispered “If not now, when?” And so I said that I was receptive to the idea, even if I wasn’t. In fact, a couple of years ago, I was really NOT ready to meet a good woman of any stripe.

But I had (and still have) a full load of respect for this woman, my friend and for her thoughts. My friend is independent, she is strong and resourceful. She has a terrific sense of humor. Like me, she’s a worker. And she knows how to work and how to play. She’s also got all of that beautiful, nurturing, and supportive freight that is often loaded by an American onto the terms “Dominican” and “Woman.” Further, I had been informed that this woman had TEN SISTERS. Surely, I assumed, her sisters and friends must be something like her? And so, with a fair measure of optimism, I said “Yes.” “Fine,” my friend said. “Come for lunch next Sunday. She will be here.”

Now I can tell you that it was Denise’s clearly articulated wish before she died that I find a partner after she was gone. Of course this makes perfect rational sense, and made sense even at the time. But the associated feelings are much more complex. I considered some of these feelings and something of this complexity as I stood in my friend’s kitchen while she waited for my answer.

As I’ve said, I have a great deal of respect for my friend. I value her humor and insight on any number of things. Nevertheless I had only a bit of confidence and a whole lot of hesitation in deciding to follow this particular lead. I suppose that it helped that she and Denise were becoming good friends in the years before Denise’s death.

Inevitably, Sunday arrived and in accordance with dominican custom I materialized at more or less the appointed time only to find no dominicana in evidence. (This is also customary.) So, in Spanish because my friend has no English, I asked where the rumored dominican woman might be. “Patience,” I was counseled. “She is working today, but she will be here. She has to return to work at three.” Of course I thought that was just about perfect, and so settled in to wait.

Not so very long after, I looked up to see a young woman coming down the garden path, walking towards the two of in the kitchen. I mean to say this was a very YOUNG woman. It turns out that this woman was not a contemporary of my friend, nor was she a young sister. This particular young woman was my friend’s daughter.

I’ll pause here for a moment so that we can all reflect and consider just a few of the implications of this turn of events. I’m sure that we can agree that this particular union was fraught with all manner of potential–some good, some bad, but all interesting. You with me on this? Good.

So, in my best Spanish, I introduced myself and thanked the young woman for agreeing to meet with me.

She had obviously gone to considerable effort to prepare for this meeting and accordingly I was quite complimentary. I went on to say that I had some questions for her and that I hoped she had some questions for me, to which she readily agreed. I confessed the obvious: that my Spanish was not very strong and so, with her permission, I proposed to be very direct. To which she also agreed. I asked if she would prefer to take a walk in the garden while we spoke, or if it was OK for me to ask my questions in the kitchen, in the presence of her mother. Again, she agreed.

So I leaned forward and while holding her gaze said in my best and most earnest Spanish “Tell me, exactly how old ARE you?” to which she happily replied “I’m twenty-three.” “Perfect,” I replied. “You’re an adult.” I thought that perhaps my next question might give her pause as I asked her how old she thought I was. But it didn’t. She considered her options carefully but didn’t take too long before responding with a hesitant “Fifty-four,” at which point I briefly but happily considered the possibility of a relationship founded on such an attractive delusion. Mercifully, I quickly came to my senses.

And so we continued: “Are you married? Do you have children? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you want children?” And because I didn’t want our contrived, but mostly pleasant conversation to turn into an utter interrogation–and because she was shy for myriad reasons, I went on to ask a few questions of myself on her behalf: “You may wonder why I do not have a woman in my life at this moment.” “Maybe you wonder where I am from.” “Perhaps you would like to know why I live in Las Galeras,” and so on.

During the course of our conversation I learned that she was employed as the nanny of an acquaintance of mine. It seems that not only was I dating my friend’s daughter, I was dating the baby-sitter.

Ah, the twists and turns that life can take!

Clearly this was an untenable position. But it was also one that I couldn’t unilaterally draw to a close. There was plenty of vulnerability to go around in that kitchen on that Sunday afternoon: Mom, who had optimistically introduced the fruit of her loins, the lovely young woman who had gathered up her hope and courage to put herself forward, and me, who, moving forward, had to live both with myself and with all of my neighbors. I had to find a way for my date to reject me, rather than the reverse–and it had to be a way credible to all and to which we could all agree.

And so my questions continued: “What is important for you in your life? How do you spend your time? Who are your friends? Where do you imagine you will be in ten years? In twenty?” Eventually this went all the way to: “Do you realize that I am old enough to legitimately be your GRANDFATHER? And so we began to laugh. At the same time, I was privately considering the prospect of a consummated relationship twenty years down the road. I think, thankfully, that her thinking may have proceeded along a similar line.

It took the two of us several days, or maybe it was a couple of weeks to gently and finally and with mutual respect lay the whole idea to rest in such a way that our collective and individual reputations were intact, maybe even enhanced a bit. I’m sure, gentle reader, that you can see that this was no easy feat and that it was at the same time a particularly important accomplishment, especially given that we all live in the same small village, one replete with numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and other lifelong friends.

And there, a couple of years ago, my local relationships with women more or less rested for awhile. I was off the metaphorical bench, if not entirely in the literal game: “poco y poco,” as we say in the RD–little by little.

Six months later, the husband of my friend–who was also a friend of mine–unexpectedly died; and a year after I began to keep company with my widowed friend–which is pretty much where I am now in the women department.

But before I introduce Nuris to you–and eventually I will, and it will be worth the wait, I’ll draft and pass along a short and maybe startling accounting the interregnum between daughter and mother. Hint: it entails using the Internets!

Just so you have something to look forward to.

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