We “met” via an online dating website I joined because I aspired to change my permanent Facebook relationship status of “single” and offer a sliver of hope to my mother, who desperately wanted grandchildren.
Within a few weeks, Jeffrey responded to my profile. He said he preferred tall women — I’m 6’0” — and wrote a witty remark about a photo I posted of me in China. We started off emailing each other, which morphed into texting, and him asking permission to cook for me. He praised his own culinary skills and mentioned the hodgepodge of cookbooks ranging from bread making to French pastries populating his bookshelf. With my non-discrimination of any carb and perpetual sweet tooth, I found Jeffrey worth a drive for a lunchtime date.
I remained highly selective with the guys I met in person for my own safety. Yet his offer enticed me and certainly elevated my typical first dates that often took place in coffeehouses or bars.
We agreed to meet at Jeffrey’s workplace for lunch, which felt innocuous as I was assured we could dine alfresco and people would crowd the area during the daytime hour.
I arrived and texted Jeffrey that I was outside; within minutes I noticed him opening the doors to his office carrying Tupperware. He looked like his profile picture with slightly longer hair and extra weight around his middle. Although he looked a little different, I appreciated his non-use of selfies in the bathroom mirror and the fact that his photos were semi-current.
He smiled and his eyes crinkled at the sides. I found him attractive.
As we sat on a bench outside his office, Jeffrey opened a container of pasta salad, spilled the contents onto a paper plate he placed in front of me and unwrapped fresh rosemary bread he said he made from scratch. He could sense my nervousness eating a stranger’s food.
“I’ll take a bite first,” he said. “You don’t have to eat if you feel scared. I promise this is good food.”
I slowly eased into the date and began to giggle and twist my hair in a flirty attempt for a second date. I even lightly kicked his feet under the table to make personal contact, and in the process, I hit something.
“What was that?” I asked startled.
“Ankle weight,” Jeffrey said. “This body doesn’t happen by itself.” He then flexed his arm muscles.
I playfully squeezed his arm.
Jeffrey asked me out again and I found myself at his apartment that weekend, more relaxed and secure after our successful first date…until he lifted his leg onto the coffee table to stretch out and I noticed his ankle weight poking out. I realized it was not an ankle weight.
I stared at it for a moment and yelled out, “You’re under house arrest!”
I panicked and headed toward the door, trying to calm this overwhelming feeling of calling anyone for help. I didn’t feel safe.
“Jennifer, please,” he said chasing after me. “Let me explain.”
I spun around and stood just outside his apartment, ready to run.
“Listen, I should have told you. Yes, I’m under house arrest.”
“Why?” I spitted out the one-word question with my purse held tightly in front of me, acting as some kind of barrier between us.
“I got some DUIs, but I’ve changed. I pray every day now and ask God for forgiveness. The reason I emailed you is because you said you were a Christian in your profile.”
I tried to stifle a laugh. “You emailed me because you found God?”
“I think you’d be a good influence on me,” he said.
I cocked my head to the right and studied his face, feeling sorry for him and mad at him at the same time. “No, I wouldn’t.”
I turned and left. I deleted my profile that night.
All was not lost when I called my mother and told her I went out with a convict.
“You went out with an ex-con?” she asked.
“No mom, I went out with a current con. Perhaps your future grandchildren could be conceived in a conjugal visit,” I joked.
My mother sighed. “Okay, you win. I give up waiting for grandchildren. I won’t bug you about it anymore.”
Which makes my two dates with Jeffrey, the best dates ever.
Jennifer Purdie is a writer based in Southern California. Twitter @jenpurdie.