The most amazing thing happened to me the other day at the grocery store. It started out like any other day in March 2020. I got up, put on my long-sleeved shirt, jeans and gloves. The mission that day was focused and meant to be fast, an in-and-out grocery run for the essentials, so I opted for tennis shoes and a sleek high ponytail. Once I was dressed, I grabbed my purse, doubling-checking that my hand sanitizer hadn’t somehow fallen out, and then stopped by the door to select a face mask. I’ve got quite a collection of them; one for every outfit. I hung a bunch of command hooks right inside the front door. Good reminder not to leave without one. That particular day, I chose the sky blue mask to go with my navy shirt, blue jeans and trusty white Converse. Honestly, I attribute some of the luck of the day’s coming events to that choice. That sky blue really makes my eyes pop. Or, at least, that’s what Danny says.
You see, as I was in the midst of my mission, I became distracted. There, surrounded by produce was a breathtaking man. He was very handsome, with a charming face and a practical red hoodie and jeans. His face mask was a shiny silver color. Most amazing of all, he held a tall walking stick. Squinting proved the stick to be two yardsticks duck taped together to create a measuring stick as tall as the man himself. There he stood, a modern-day Moses, extending his staff to ensure proper social distancing was taking place around him.
I had to meet this man.
Taking a mental count of how many people were around — luckily, it was less than ten — I got as close to him as I dared. Timidly, I said, “The yardsticks are a phenomenal idea.”
He was looking at me, but didn’t respond. The pause made me fear he couldn’t hear me through my mask. I was so taken by him in that moment that I thoughtlessly threw caution to the wind. Sliding my mask down to uncover my mouth, I repeated my compliment.
His eyes grew wide. “What are you doing?”
My brows furrowed before I realized what I had done. I would have gasped had I not been afraid to take in one more breath of the likely contaminated air. What a fool I had been! Not only had I risked exposing myself to infection, but I had likely ruined any chance of catching this man’s fancy. No man forward-thinking enough to carry around a six-foot walking stick would waste a passing glance on a woman who removed her mask to talk to a stranger.
Yet to my surprise, he continued speaking. “Please put the mask back on. It’s better for your health, and besides, it compliments your eyes. Really makes them pop.”
I slide the mask back up over my growing smile. “Thank you,” I said. “May I ask your name?”
His eyes smiled. “Danny. And what name is paired with those lovely blue eyes?”
“Well, Mabel, I must say, between your natural beauty and your clear consideration for the CDC’s recommendations, you make it tempting to offer a handshake.”
I grinned. “You don’t make a bad impression yourself, Danny.”
There was another pause and it occurred to me this was probably the end of the conversation. What else was there to say? It wasn’t as if we could go get coffee or agree to meet for dinner. No matter how cautious he appeared, I had no way of knowing whether he’d been exposed to the virus. He was surely thinking the same about me. Probably even more so after that faux pas with the mask.
Then he asked, “Do you have a pen?”
Confused, I opened up my purse. Rummaging produced a Sharpie. “I’ve got this. Did you need one?” Surely he didn’t want to borrow it.
Next, he did the most astounding thing. He extended his yardstick of social distancing and said, “Why don’t you write your phone number on there?”
Well, how could I refuse? And much to my delight, that encounter in the grocery store led to many enjoyable conversations via the safety of phone calls and text messaging. Eventually, he even came and spoke to me through one of my windows. Even then, ever armed with his trusty staff, he made sure to stand the conscientious six feet away.
One night as we spoke on the phone, he told me, “If and when this plague shall pass from our land, I look forward to taking you on a traditional dinner date, my dear Mabel. But until then, I shall be the perfect, social-distancing gentleman. You can count on that.”
And oh, he has not disappointed. I’m so taken with his regulation-level charms that I almost wouldn’t mind if the quarantine lasts quite a bit longer. Who needs a dinner date when you’ve got a knight in a shining face mask?