January 4, 2006

12: Expectation

I suppose I was in a mood for falling in love when I left for Oxford. My friend Kristine talks about “crowded rooms,” as in “one day you spot a stranger across a crowded room” and everything changes, and I thought this Oxford classroom might be a bit crowded in that sense of the word.

Plus, I suppose, as a single woman, there is always the expectation that if you are going to meet someone (not that you have to, but if you are going to, and it seems right somehow to imagine this happening in your life), it should be now, because time is getting on and all and now we are thirty-three (and who could have ever imagined that we would be thirty-three and single?).

And part of me believed in the mystical and mysterious—and wacky—just enough to think that, as an Austen devotee following in her steps, perhaps she would deign to craft a little romantic comedy of my own, in real life, from beyond the grave (which seems absolutely ridiculous on paper, but there it is). Funny that these little thoughts we barely acknowledge become hopes or beliefs.

And then, of course, my friends were glad to help me ponder the possibility of whirlwind-British-summer-romance while acknowledging its complete innecessity to the outcome of the trip—but wouldn’t it be fabulous, if, you know, you never know when you might meet someone, and I was going to be in England after all—home of Colin Firth in all his shirt-dripping glory. (Except thanks to Bridget Jones we now know that Colin Firth actually lives in Rome, for all his traipsing about the English countryside in movies.)

All that justification to say that, when I left, I hoped for something, and tried to expect nothing.

There was one guy we knew of who seemed acceptably interesting, if American, who was planning to be in Oxford the same week I was, at a program that sounded remarkably similar to the program I had signed up for. He was a friend of Matt’s girlfriend, and Matt is a very good friend of my very good friend Jordan (which sounds confusing but really this connection was simpler than it sounds). Jordan was going to a party at Matt’s, she mentioned that I was getting ready to leave for Oxford, he remembered Jill’s friend… and thus the plotting began.

What we heard from Matt was that this guy, Frederick Kent was his name, was a lawyer (smart!) and very orthodox. That combination among the single Christian population is, as we have established, a bit difficult to find. And he was going to be in Oxford, so he must have some sense of adventure, right? And I determined that he would be good looking, although Matt gave us frustratingly little information about his appearance.

So as I packed I wondered exactly what Frederick Kent might be like, and just how much potential he might have. And when my father dropped me off at the airport at an insanely early hour for my 8:10 AM international flight, I wandered through the airport picking out guys—the incredibly good-looking guy I would never have a chance with, the business traveler with a big belly, the Buddhist monk, the devout Muslim with his wife and children, the gawky teenager with his MP3 player—looking at them and thinking, “Ah, Frederick Kent!” and having a little laugh at their expense (or perhaps my own).


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