It’s funny how certain things take us back to another time and place.
Recently, the pre-Christmas buzz reminded me of a December many years ago and a lesson I learned with the help of a pretty girl and a cat.
I was still in school then. The girl, Elise, was a friend of my pal, Ernie’s girlfriend, Daphne.
Daphne and Elise went to a different school than we did. Daphne put a lot of effort into fixing me up with Elise. I suspect she just wanted another female along when we all went out. Perhaps she also hoped a woman would have a civilizing influence on me.
I haven’t always been as urbane and sophisticated as I am now, and there were some rough edges on my character back then.
Daphne’s initial attempts to get Elise and I hooked up had not gone well.
I wasn’t opposed to the idea. Elise was smart, compact, and pretty as a picture.
There wasn’t any one thing that had been keeping us apart. It just seemed like every time we met, something went wrong.
I put this down to nervousness hers, not mine. If Elise had one fault, it was that she had led a rather sheltered life. I think she found me a bit much to take in, and she seemed to find the most ordinary comments shocking.
Nonetheless, Daphne remained determined to fix Elise and I up in time for Christmas and New Years’ parties.
Elise seemed willing to at least make an effort, despite her nervousness.
I had been doing my best not to say or do anything too offensive, but progress was slow. Every time we went out, unfortunate things seemed to occur.
The big chance for a breakthrough came when Ernie’s mother was away, and he had the house to himself. Daphne arranged a double date.
We went out to dinner, and then back to Ernie’s place. Daphne decreed that Elise and I should watch a movie in the living room, while she and Ernie watched a movie in another part of the house. This would avoid over-crowding on the couch, she explained. Daphne was always thinking of others.
Things started off well enough. Elise and I settled in on the sofa and started watching the movie. We had the lights off to save electricity.
About that time, the cat, Horatio, came along to see what was on, and that was when things began to go wrong.
Horatio hopped up on the back of the sofa and took up a position behind us.
He was an amiable old fellow with a mellow personality like a bottle of vintage port, and he had a habit, when greeting people, of pressing his nose against them and sniffing them. If he approved of the person, he would often follow this up with an affectionate lick or two. Everyone who knew him understood this, but Elise had not had the pleasure of making his acquaintance.
We were sitting there watching the movie, and I was on my best behavior. Unbeknownst to me, Horatio was taking this opportunity to extend a greeting to Elise, whom he saw as a potential new friend. I later surmised that he did this by snuffling around in her left ear, and then giving her a moist lick of welcome.
The peace was shattered by Elise, who leapt off the couch shouting at me in an accusing manner, “What ARE you doing?”
I was at a loss as to how to respond, because I hadn’t been doing anything. I jumped up to see how I could help, but in the darkness failed to notice that Horatio had hopped down to the floor.
I must have inadvertently treaded on his person, because he let out a piercing yowl that sounded remarkably like “get off me!”
I was dancing around trying to keep off the cat when I somehow got tangled up with Elise, who apparently misinterpreted the reason for my proximity.
She came smartly out of the clinch and landed a snappy left hook in the vicinity of my right eye before starting to leg it for the exit.
Unfortunately, my wristwatch had become entangled in her sweater and was stuck fast. In her panic, she freed herself by abandoning the sweater and resumed her flight.
She was moving well and making good time when Ernie emerged through the kitchen door on a mission to see what the commotion was about.
Elise cannoned into him with considerable force, catching him amidships and causing him to exclaim, “Oof!” as the breath escaped him.
Daphne arrived on the scene to find me staggering around trying to avoid the cat and attempting to disengage a pale blue sweater from my watch with the aid of my one good eye, while Ernie stood holding his ample midsection wearing a surprised expression on his mug and making a noise like air escaping from a punctured tire, and Elise scrambled through the front door hollering “Get me out of here!” in a distinctly agitated tone.
After that, even Daphne had to concede defeat.
Ernie and Daphne went to their holiday parties without me. Elise presumably found someone more suited to her temperament, and I went back to living large and gave up trying to act civilized for the sake of a woman.
We all learned an important lesson that December, and it has served me well over the years.
This doesn’t mean we should give up whenever the going gets tough, but we have to pick our battles. There comes a time when we simply must accept that some things were not meant to be, and no amount of effort or good intention will change that.