D is for Desdemona...
What kind of mother names her child "Desdemona?" Who chooses to call her only daughter the ill-fated? The cursed? My mother the tragically romantic. My mother the Bardolater.
Why yes, mother dearest. Of course I'd like to be named after the naively faithful and desperately optimistic woman who is murdered by her husband. Because hearing that story as a four year old makes me look forward to getting married. Because growing up with my namesake's unjust death makes me optimistic about relationships in general. Most young girls are presented with Cinderella. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. None of them are murdered for love. No. But Desdemona? Not exactly Happily Ever After.
So here I am. In another coffee house, on another blind date. My best friend is as bad as Austen's Emma when it comes to making matches. I definitely don't fit in her Austen-style rom coms. She's presented me with tall and short and large and skinny. With bookish and artsy and business-like. With smart or funny or handsome. But I am no Elizabeth Bennett.
I am Desdemona. The ill-fated. The cursed.
The coffee shop is nearly empty. It's almost ten at night on a Tuesday and all that's left are the dregs. There's an old man in the corner with a mustache to rival Nietzsche. An equally old bloodhound is curled up at his feet. A young college student is taking advantage of the free wifi. Her book bag looks bigger than she is. The barrista looks like a tattooed Audrey Hepburn, elvish and delicate. She has vine and flowers curling up her arms.
I chose the location this time. No more awkwardly fancy dinners. No walks through a park at sunset. This time the battle is at a place of my choosing. And isn't that what a date is? I put on high heels like daggers and war paint. But I am not looking to win. I just want to walk away with my skin intact. High hopes for a "Desdemona."
The bell above the entry rings halfheartedly as the door is pushed open. A man walks in. He's older than me, maybe ten years older. He's carrying a book, but I can't see the title. A hardback that looks well-worn. He glances at the old man in the corner and then the college student. He looks at her and writes her off, then he turns to me.
He walks to my table and sets his book down. Anna Karenina. I can work with that.
He smiles shyly and holds out his hand. "I'm Heathcliff. You must be Desdemona."
"Heathcliff?" I ask. What kind of mother names her child Heathcliff?
He smiles and nods, understanding my question. "Yes, Heathcliff."
I shake his hand and he sits. Strangely we are united in a coffee shop and I know. Whatever the end of the date may bring. Whether or not I ever see him again, this Heathcliff. He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. We children of tragedy.