A Tourist Barely One Town Over

Dearest Rachel –

So here I am, wandering around this park in Schaumburg; I’ve been invited to SeptemberFest by someone I met over the app. Unlike my dinner with Ellen, I guess this is something of a date – at least, once she’s done working the bingo booth for the Lions Club.

Assuming I can find it.

I’m only about a town over from where we live (I guess, since it’s Daniel and I, I can still use “we” here, but it’s not the same), and yet this area is so different that I feel like a tourist here. The spaces here are much more spread out than those at Recreation Park, and they make a point to fill them.

Tents, tents everywhere.

After parking at a nearby church, and walking the better part of a block to get to the actual park (still, it beats waiting in that line of cars attempting to turn left into a full park lot), I wind up traversing the length of the grounds before finding the bingo tent, only a little ways into the fairgrounds.

Yup, didn’t have to do all that walking after all. I’m sure it did me some good, though – and I’m glad I wore those new shoes meant for long-distance efforts.

Since I warned her (and I’m going to be using pronouns only for now; I’d just as soon not name names, and I haven’t learned enough about her to apply an appropriate anime-related pseudonym yet) that I’d be wearing my Alfred E. Neuman mask, I donned it before entering – not that it seemed I needed it, given that everything is, after all, more or less outside.

“Hi, are you here to play bingo?”

“Uhh… I guess so.” I buy a handful of cards. “Do you know where [she] is?”

“Oh, I’m [her].”

“Oh. Well, I’m Randy.”

She smiles. “Yes, I know,” indicating my face mask.

Didn’t recognize her; I’m off to a smashing start.

A side note that suddenly occurs to me; you had an advantage over anyone else your age, because I could always see the eighteen year old girl I first met – not to mention the five- or seven-year old you would often carry yourself as. You had a very young soul your entire life, but I could always see the girl I first met within you. Anyone else my age, I look at them, and they just look fifty. Granted, that works both ways; they see me as old n turn, but still… it’s a shock to just realize this out of the blue.

I come within a single square of bingo when someone else calls to claim the victory. The caller checks to see it anyone else has filled their card; evidently the jackpot isn’t just for the first person to claim it. But this particular time, it’s just the one winner. Oh well, it isn’t as if I expected to win the first time around.

I’m trying not to read any more into this than that, at least for now.

I haven’t come to gamble in any event (not for money, anyway). So I hand in my cards, and once again make my way along the midway to look around at the rides and other games of chance and skill.

One booth for legal interventions attempts to advertise in Spanish; however, it should read ‘Tienes un DUI.’ As it as it is, however, it simply asks “do I have a DUI?” To which the average Hispanic passing by should respond with “how the heck should I know?”

By the time I’ve wandered past all the rides, I stop at a picnic bench in the shade and check my phone like a pocket watch:

It makes more sense than trying to read this thing.

It’s barely 3:15. I still have some three hours to kill before she’s free and we settle in for the concert. I have no idea what to do with myself.

I eventually find a comfortable spot on a hilly berm by the bandshell featuring local groups, and just people-watch.

Over on the left of this view.

Over here, there’s a group of kids fighting each other with a set of inflatable axes. On my other side, another couple of kids are rolling down the berm. And in front of me, a young Asian couple is teaching their toddler to headbang to the rhythm of the music. All very wholesome.

It suddenly occurs to me that we left a pair of folding lawn chairs in the trunk, ever since June of last year, when we had to hold church services up at camp (because Illinois was locked down, but Wisconsin wasn’t). Since she and I will be staying to watch the 7th Heaven concert, it might be a good idea to retrieve those chairs to give us something comfortable to sit on other than the grass; and it would also kill some time while I amble back to the car and return to the fairgrounds.

Sure enough, it polishes off another thirty or forty minutes. But I’m still left with over a hour of excess liberty. Wish you were here to chat with; typing these into my iPhone is a poor substitute.

Of course, if you were still here, we wouldn’t even be checking out SeptemberFest in the first place – neither of us would have had sufficient inclination to go. Why else does it feel like I’m a tourist here, after all?

I do wish I’d waited until later to come here, though. Granted, no matter how you sliced it, Daniel would be stuck feeding Chompers and, most likely, taking him outside into the yard thereafter. So it’s not like I could have relieved him of that burden, save by staying home entirely, and I wasn’t about to do that.

During the course of my waiting for 6:30 to roll around, I encounter a fellow stumping for somebody who plans on primarying the area’s current representative in Congress. All of which should’ve been should be of no concern for me, as I live in a separate district with a different representative, but something put me off about this gentleman. Maybe it was that Green New Deal button. So I asked him if he was familiar with the massive carbon footprint involved in dredging up the lithium necessary to store our country’s energy needs as opposed to the supposed ‘filthiness’ of oil and gas. He admitted he wasn’t, although when he mentioned geothermal energy, I admitted I hadn’t any argument against it, so I guess we were even…?

It occurs to me that, for future reference, if I determine a date is not going well, I can just bring up politics. Odds are, she – whoever she is – will not side with me, and will want the date over at that point as much as I. On the other hand, if she agrees with me – much like the two of us came to an agreement – then perhaps me I might have found a second soulmate after all.

Still, when she approached me after her stint at the bingo tent, she didn’t seem nearly as hard on the eyes as she had at first blush. She was cheerful and energetic, if a little tired and hungry after all that time – And while she was appreciative for my having brought a spare chair for her, she had brought one of her own, and was thus settled. After finding empty space in which to put them down, we headed to the food tents for her sake (all I got myself was a water, as I’ve taught myself to be fine with two meals a day) before returning to our position in front of the main stage.

She had an… interesting… accent (which I took to her being from the northeastern seaboard), and was amused at my referencing it, as that tended to be an early topic of conversation with just about anyone who she met. It turned out she had dealt with hearing loss at a young age, and her speech patterns were reflecting that. She also noted some odd patterns in my speech as well, at which point I had to acknowledge that it might had have to do with me being mildly nervous, and lapsing into a slightly British patois as a result.

I observed that, for someone with a hearing impairment, attending a concert seemed an odd choice for a date. Of course, she has remedied said hearing loss with an aural device, so that wasn’t the issue it had been growing up. She’d followed this band through several of their gigs over the last few years. However, one of the first songs they did was that Walk The Moon number “Shut Up and Dance,” which you used to love (and I honestly couldn’t look her in the eye at lyrics like “this woman is my destiny,” for instance), and which she didn’t seem familiar with. At this point, I was just hoping that they wouldn’t play more of ‘our’ songs.

Meanwhile, both of us were hoping that this family would sit down so that we could at least see the Jumbotron, if not necessarily the band themselves.

Fortunately, most of their music was either their own original stuff, or covers of somewhat harder rock than what we tended to enjoy. Not that I couldn’t enjoy this, but it simply wasn’t the sort of stuff that we used to send back-and-forth to each other. Their finale, in which they did thirty covers in thirty minutes, had me recognizing – and singing along to – about half of them, while she seemed to be mouthing the words to about a third (which didn’t necessarily correspond to my half, and I commented upon the litmus test nature of such a medley).

For what it’s worth, it was an enjoyable evening, barring a few hiccups. We talked a little bit more on the way back to the car (mine, since it was a little further on, and the traffic from the school lot across the street was a bit more of a nightmare that she was hoping would pare down, given time). She’s not looking for anything more than a friend right now, someone to do these sorts of things with.

And I think I’m fine with that; certainly, I don’t see her becoming the new love of my life. So the occasional outing like this, with just the two of us, sounds like something I can live with. We have each other’s emails, so we can keep in touch, for all that that seems cliché. But that’s about where it stands; fun, to an extent, and little more than that.

And that’s pretty much it, honey. Don’t worry, you haven’t been replaced.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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