Yeah so before I talk about Vegas or the Philippines, I wanted to just quickly recap an event that took place a little after Christmas.
Now I’ve mentioned very briefly here before that there is a certain sushi restaurant in my town that I frequent…quite regularly, and it isn’t always because they have the best and freshest fish in town. Although to be honest, they do. Actually the first time I went, I decided to stay just a little bit longer because of the very cute waitress, the owner’s daughter. Over the next couple months I became a regular, and I got to know the owner and the owner’s family pretty well. The owner, her father, took a particular liking to me, and often even if she wasn’t there, I’d stay and chat for a bit with him. He’d tell me stories of his travels, having worked as a chef in Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and even more abroad.
Two years ago she left to join the US military as an army mechanic. Since then I’ve still maintained my regular status at the sushi restaurant, getting closer with her parents and enjoying the conversation and of course, the sushi. I even got to meet their eldest daughter when she stayed and visited for a time. She lives in Seoul, and we even exchanged contact info so if I’m ever in Korea to visit we could meet up and she could show me around. Well I’ll admit, more often than not the conversation with the father inevitably ends up around his daughter, the one I’ve been seriously crushing on, and he would always ask to find out if I was single and looking. Around November was the first time I could actually answer that a) yes I was single and b) I was actually starting to look again. And wouldn’t you know it, his daughter just happened to be planning on spending a couple weeks around Christmas back at home on leave.
So here I am on the 23rd of December and I’ve got this freshly baked cheesecake to deliver to them as a Christmas present and oh wow, would you look at that, their very cute very sweet daughter happens to be back from duty and looking mighty bored. It’s actually quite funny how much her father is absolutely not trying to hide how pleased he is to be trying to set me up with his poor unsuspecting daughter. Before I know it he’s made two sushi rolls and put a plate in front of myself and her and is ushering me to sit down and spend some time. So we get to chatting and I’m hearing all about her experiences in the motor pool. I’m amazed and in disbelief that this quiet tiny girl is responsible for the care and maintenance of some of the mightiest pieces of metal and machinery in the US army. She’s telling me about how she almost got stuck underneath a giant tire that she was trying to change and how she can simply reach/crawl into parts of the giant vehicles that would require other mechanics special equipment to get to and best of all, how she ended up becoming a certified marksman despite the fact that she can’t load the .50 cal without the help of her spotter. Somewhere in between my fifth piece of sushi and the story of how she ended up being the Korean translator for her squad mates at a civilian hospital when one of them got way too drunk to bring back to camp I realize, the conversation is going really well, it seems like we’re both having a good time, and I’ve been at the restaurant talking to her for the past hour.
So I finally work up the courage and figure, why not actually ask her out on an actual date, where we can have a conversation without her father leaning over the sushi counter with a giant unabashed grin. I ask her if she’s free sometime after Christmas, we settle on the 26th, bada bing bada boom, it’s all set and I go home with a belly full of sushi and a heart full of hope.
26th I arrive at the restaurant to pick her up (convenient that her and her family live in the apartment above the restaurant) and we’re off. First good sign is that she cannot stop telling me how much she loved the cheesecake I brought. I present her with the option of going to see a movie or playing some pool since I remember from way way back before she deployed that this was something we had in common. She chooses movie. We see Ferdinand, this generic animated kids movie about a bull who, shocker, doesn’t want to charge and maim others. It’s you know, simple, safe, but she chose it and she got some good laughs out of it so, you know, it is what it is. The movie ends a bit earlier than I thought it would, so we head to the dinner spot I chose sooner than anticipated. So soon, in fact, that the restaurant isn’t even open yet, and my sudden presence at the door actually jolts the staff inside sitting down to their shared meal before they open for the evening. Oops, sorry. Recovering from the minor setback, luckily there’s a nearby bar where we can at least grab a pint and wait for all this to blow over.
So here’s where the story takes a turn for the…unfortunate. Maybe it’s the liquid courage of the seasonal brew on tap but my date, who has for the most part of the evening been responsive, receptive, and relaxed, suddenly tenses up and says she has something to tell me. Something, mind you, that has been on the back of my mind for quite some time and comes to no surprise to me at all. ‘Jerel, I have a boyfriend.’ Which of course answers the question I’ve been wondering for the past two years and even more so ever since I’ve gotten the chance to spend more time with her, ‘how can someone like her still be single?’ Turns out her well-meaning but oblivious father has been enthusiastically and emphatically trying to promote me to her while ignoring the clear signals that she met someone at base. His two worst offenses? Not being Asian (read: white), and being in the military. I’ve been sent to run interference on a match her, again, well meaning but ill advised, parents, disapprove of.
In a ways I’m flattered, because normally you get the girl and then gotta win over the parents. It’s nice to know had things worked out differently I was already in their favor. But relationships are tricky, difficult things. And with her being re-stationed in Texas and him staying at the base where they met in Korea, long-distance relationships are even more of a strain on the heart. Love and relationships are difficult enough without someone trying to drive a wedge between two good people doing their best at making a run of it. And I’m not going to be that wedge. Which is exactly what I tell her. She sighs in relief, and even knowing the reality, the truth, the dim chance of this ever becoming something, I suggest we go and have that dinner, finish the date that really isn’t a date. We finish our beers, head on over to the restaurant, and have a nice meal. It’s her first time having yakitori (Japanese BBQ) and I enjoy playing gourmand guide, ordering various skewers and having her try different things while we just chat and laugh and share over food and a few lemon sours.
Before I drop her off for the night she asks me to keep her boyfriend a secret, and I in turn ask her to find a reason for why the two of us shan’t ever be that doesn’t jeopardize my good standing with her father and all the freebies he always gives me whenever I come in to dine. We come to a mutual agreement and understanding. We get back, I walk her back into the restaurant where her parents are, I stay and chat with them for a bit, and then go back out into the world with one less source of hope.
I learned a few things that night. Like how important it is to check the operating hours of restaurants. And just how lonely I’ve been these past two years. It’s when I’m presented with the alternative, the possibility of what life could be, that I realize how much I am missing out on. And I don’t mean that in the desperate, ‘I need a girl’ tone I might have had before all this. I mean that in that ‘it really is time to open up to new possibilities and see the world for more than what you can do and see on your own’. I will admit my heart sank further than I remember it could in a long time after hearing about her boyfriend. It showed me how much more room there is in my heart to fill. Don’t get me wrong, I have been, these past two years, overall exceedingly happy and content with my life. So happy and so content in fact, that it is the level of happiness I can already feel on my own that spurns me on to want love again because if I can be like this on my own, I can only imagine what it would be like to find someone to share with again.
But most importantly, I learned that if a father wants you to go out with his daughter, you make him swear first that she’s actually single.