Yina emails me fourish years after our last dinner “date.” She wants me to grammar check her research paper. This is an excuse, right? It’s her way of rekindling the fire of passion that flamed out between us before it even made a spark. Only, this time, she doesn’t ask me to drop by her apartment. Instead, she wants to meet in the lobby of our building. Okay, fine. So she’s demure. That’s the thing about Yina.
The last time she invited me down to her place—a spur of the moment kind of thing—it was to watch Trump’s inauguration. This was a pretext, right? Or was it to rub it in? Either way, I showered, dressed, and elevatored down. A guy’s always thinking with one head, or the other, but never both.
She had prepared a plate of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos. How sweet.
I sat near the middle of her sofa. She told me to move over. I did. Then she told me to move some more. I scooted all the way over to one end; she took the other end.
When Trump raised his right hand to take the Oath of Office, Yina aimed her camera at the TV. I raised my phone and snapped a few of her snapping a few at the TV. But as Trump addressed the nation, Yina’s face soured. He wasn’t exactly cheerful or optimistic. Did he even crack a smile? Maybe the Trump she wanted was the one she saw in old Pizza Hut and McDonald’s commercials. Probably, she was looking for The Donald who cameoed in Home Alone 2 and hosted SNL. Once it was all done, Yina turned off her TV and implied that it was time for me to go. She didn’t seemed disheartened; it was simply over. So I went. And that was that.
Had I put too much goop in my hair?
At least I got a Twinkie out of it.
Hadn’t had one of those in decades.
Fourish years later, Yina needs my edits for her research paper—and she needs them within a week. It’s not a short paper, either. Why me? Sure, English is my native tongue, but it’s not like I have a degree in it. Could it be that she’s still got a thing for me?
We chat a few minutes in the lobby. Along with her research paper, she hands me an envelope. Then she stands and starts to walk out. What’s in the envelope? A fifty dollar bill and a gift card from Panera worth fifty bucks. “This is too much,” I tell her. I didn’t expect compensation—other than her company, maybe, and wherever that might lead. But she won’t take them back—not even one or the other. And, she begins to tremble. So I back down. I let it go.
It was not my intention to massacre her paper with red ink. She thanks me anyway, and that was it. Months go by. Nary a word or a chance encounter.
Two days before Christmas Yina knocks on my door. She’s got a gift for me, all wrapped up. It’s a fancy bottle of wine. All this time—all these years—has she been playing hard to get? Talk about a long game. Minutes after she leaves, it dawns on me to call her up and ask, “When would you like to share it?” But, no, she says, it’s to share with my family. I don’t press her.
Christmas Eve, I knock on her door with wrapped up boxes of chocolates and a fifty dollar gift card to the cineplex two blocks north. How could I not?
Overnight, she slips a Christmas card under my door. Only, with it, she’s enclosed the cineplex gift card.
And there’s also this note:
Thank you so much for the gifts. Ghirardelli and Lindt are all my favorite brands. Thank you! However, the gift card is really what I don’t deserve (if I even deserve the other gifts). You have helped me so many times while I have done nothing.
Wish you a wonderful 2020. And I may ask for more help from you. :)