(If you haven’t already, see Part I)
Now moderately obsessed with the man whose invitation to dinner I’d turned down only two hours before, I put on my journalist hat and went to work. He’d only entered his first name in the contact field in my phone, and had spelled it phonetically because it was Arabic and unusual, so trying to find him through Google or LinkedIn would be all but impossible (though I did give it a try). When I failed to find anyone who resembled the man with the dark eyes and the nice teeth, I did a quick search for “chiropractors, Pacifica, California,” then realized that this was bound to dead-end due to doctor-patient confidentiality.
I had one other clue that might get some traction: the off-highway teahouse that he’d mentioned he’d been to earlier that day.
I started my car and began to head back toward Oakland, then dialed the number of the teahouse. It rang four or five times before going to voicemail. The cheerful message on the other end informed me that they were closed for the day and wouldn’t open again until Sunday. After the beep, I left a message:
“Hi. My name is Amanda. I have…um… sort of an unusual request. I met this guy this afternoon who comes to your place pretty regularly, and I just wanted to leave my information for him in case he wanted to get a hold of me. I know that might sound sort of strange, but if you could call me back I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!”
Less than five minutes after dropping my digits, I got a call from a 650 area code.
“Hello,” said a woman. “Is this Amanda? This is Charlotte from the tea shop. I was just returning your call.”
“Oh, hi!” I said. “Thanks for calling me back. I know this going to sound sort of strange, but this afternoon I met this guy on the beach—big black dog, really nice smile—and he gave me his number, but somehow one of the digits is missing, like it must not have saved when he entered it.”
“Oh, I know exactly who you’re talking about,” said the woman. “He’s in here all the time. Great energy. One of our best customers. He was actually just here this afternoon.”
Yes I know, I thought. That’s why I’m calling you.
“You know it’s funny you would say that,” she continued. “Because when he was in here earlier today we got to chatting and he said that he used to just meet people when he’d go for walks. He said he had a feeling he was going to meet someone on the beach this afternoon.”
Of course he did, I thought. Isn’t that just how this goes? Of course he knew.
“Yeah, well, I was just wondering if I could leave my information, and if you wouldn’t mind giving it to him the next time he comes in? I mean, if that’s ok.”
“Oh sure!” she said. “I’d be happy to. Though he was just in here today and he only comes when he visits the chiropractor, so it probably won’t be for at least another week. But he usually doesn’t go longer than two.”
“That’d be great,” I told her. “Thank you.”
“Sure,” she said. “I really hope things work out.”
I shared my information, hung up the phone, and continued my drive back to the East Bay. I proctored a test on Saturday morning, went to church on Sunday, and maintained the few rhythms that held my freelancing world together. I also shared the story of “Beach Boy” with anyone who might care to hear it, and probably a few who didn’t.
“So what happened?” asked a friend in Kansas City. “Did he call you?”
“Well, not yet,” I said. “But he could.” I paused, and then concluded. “I just thought it was a good story.”
“It’d be a good story if something happened,” he said. “Tell me more about the dog.”
Sometimes this is how life feels, like you’re being set up for an amazing adventure or a movie-worthy moment. Both you and your set up are rife with promise. You make eye contact with a girl from opposite ends of the subway, bump into a guy in the same aisle of a bookstore, reconnect with a high school sweetheart at a reunion, cross paths with someone from home while you’re both overseas. The stage is set, the audience present, the actors in position. But if that’s where it ends, does the encounter even matter? Is there value in a connection if the narrative doesn’t continue?
A week passed. Then two. Then three.
By the middle of April, I’d shared the story of the man with the large black dog and the very nice teeth with all of my immediate connections, including my mother, who promised to pray about it. But by the end of the month, I’d pretty much given up on ever seeing the man again.
Maybe he didn’t go back to the teahouse. Or maybe he did, but they’d lost my information. Maybe he was seeing someone else by that point. Maybe it was only a one-time offer.
May 9th I was scheduled to do a hotel tour and have dinner at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz. It’s not a short trip for free meal, but at that point in my life, time was the one thing I had to spare. It’d been nearly two months since I’d driven down the coast, and the promise of a dip in the ocean and a view of the 101 sans traffic is enough to put me in a car for a couple of hours.
On the way, I passed through Pacifica, where the highway temporarily turns residential. I stopped at a red light, which was conveniently flanked by gas stations, and noticed a teahouse on the righthand side of the road.
Not just a teahouse. The teahouse.
One impulsive swerve and a few minutes later, I was knee-deep in doilies and thumbing through a menu of scones and finger sandwiches as I waited for someone to notice me not fitting in.
A woman with short brown hair and dark-rimmed glasses shuffled up to the podium at the front of the shop.
“Do you have a reservation?” she asked, looking at a spiral-bound notebook scrawled with cursive.
“I don’t,” I said. “I actually have a favor to ask.”
I relayed to her the same story about the man with the dog and the mis-entered number, noting that I’d called the shop in March but hadn’t followed up after. She said that the story sounded familiar, but she hadn’t taken the message. It must have been her daughter. She didn’t know what happened.
“Can I just give you my business card?” I asked, hoping that it didn’t sound desperate.
“I’m a food writer,” I threw in. “I’ve passed this place so many times while driving down the highway and have always meant to stop by. It’s just the sort of thing I’d want to do with my mom the next time she’s in town.”
“Oh!” said the woman” Well I hope that you will.” She took my card, and then turned to an old wooden armoire to rummage for one of her own.
“Here,” she told me. “You just let me know when you’d like a reservation.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I will.”
I exited the tea shop and got back into my Honda Accord. I turned on the radio and began to drive south, wondering what point I had reached in the story.
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