It seemed like the timing, the encounter and the girl were all in line — brought together by a higher power or at least interesting coincidence. During a recent trip home, I attended Friday-night services at a popular New York City synagogue and met an interesting young woman.
With only a few early birds sprinkled around the sanctuary, I could pick a good seat on the side along the wall. Despite the relative emptiness of the sanctuary, a disheveled guy with a peculiar glare in his eye plopped down two seats away from me. He was talking to himself. A minute later, his conversation with himself became more animated, and then grew into an argument.
After having taken the subway uptown, he was not the first person I'd seen talking to himself that night. But did I really need to sit so close to him, especially when the room was still empty? So, I pretended to glance at my watch and then moved to the other side of the room. I sat in the last row, leaving two open seats to my left.
Perhaps We'd Meet?
Seating at a synagogue, especially one with a vibrant singles' social component, is a serious consideration. The last few times I attended services there, I stood in the back.
There's that eternal optimism that a special someone will magically appear and sit right next to you. I know at least two couples who met sitting next to each other on the subway. So, why not a synagogue?
Then, five minutes before the service began, she appeared.
The girl I'll call "Allie" demurely asked if the seat next to me was free. She was cute, with blondish hair, a small frame and smooth skin — pretty attractive.
We exchanged polite smiles and eye contact as she scanned the room. After sharing another glance, I finally broke the ice. The best line I could muster was, "Are you looking for someone?"
In fact, she was, but her friend was not there. I detected an accent, and asked her where she was from.
Her answer lit me up: Argentina. I think I have a thing for Jewish women from South America. I'm not sure why, maybe it's from watching too much soccer or Sabato Gigante on the Spanish channels.
We chatted until the service started. She was swept away by the hora snaking through the sanctuary and did not return, leaving her bag and sweater on the chair.
Meanwhile, stragglers needed seating. An elderly woman asked if the seat was free. I told her the girl never came back but gave her mine, retreating to stand in the back near the door, which was my usual perch.
Giving up the seat did not go unnoticed. Allie soon joined me in the back, standing with me for the duration of the service.
When it ended, she asked for directions to her hotel in Times Square. I would have taken her there myself, but I had plans with a professor friend who was having people over for Shabbat dinner. I'd even bought a bottle of wine for the occasion.
We talked outside for about 10 minutes. She was a real estate broker who also taught classes at a university. She was on vacation with her father, visiting relatives with an itinerary that included a week in New York, a week in Montreal and time in Miami.
With Montreal just four hours from Syracuse, I had been contemplating a trip there for some time. I had a three-day weekend coming up, too.
If it was feasible, perhaps we could meet there. We exchanged business cards; I even gave her my personal e-mail address.
In the meantime, I was torn: Escort her to the hotel where her dad was waiting or go to the dinner?
In a move that only I could stumble over, we parted, and she went walking toward the bus. I went to my friend, tossed her the wine, and apologized for having to run, saying, "There's this neat girl I need to catch."
But Allie disappeared into the night. I was left with no girl and no dinner.
Five days later, to my surprise, she e-mailed with an invitation and her "hope" to see me in Montreal.
I deliberated whether this trip made sense. Was it worth it to drive more than four hours north and book a hotel just to meet a girl? I had two choices: Go for the adventure with a beautiful, interesting fantasy girl, or ignore the shot that fate had handed me and regret it for the rest of my life. I have a book full of missed opportunities and regrets. I did not need another.
A colleague, whose wife is French Canadian, inspired me: "Montreal is a great city, but man, for a girl, you have to give it a try. This is what life is all about. You have to go for it!"
The pep talk worked. I decided to go …
Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com.