J and I met in a bar the last week of August 2001. He passed me in the crowd on his way to the restroom and stopped to introduce himself on the way back. We talked and laughed in the dark thumping basement bar. I asked if minded that I smoked; he pulled out a lighter from his pack of cigarettes and lit me. We talked about our jobs, where we've lived and family. As the night wore on, we got physically closer and made out. I'm not one of those people that engage in public displays of affection but it felt good and I didn’t give a shit. I wrote down my name and number on a matchbook. I know it's very cliché but then again so is making out in a bar. He asked my middle name and I told him it was Eugene. He got a kick out that so when I scribbled my name in the matchbook I included Eugene. The night was wrapping up and he offered me a ride home. I only lived 4 blocks from the bar but accepted his offer; it would give us more time to kiss.
We strode the street hand-in-hand complaining about the summer humidity in D.C. As we got closer to his car, he unlocked it with the electronic door opener. Parking lights flashed on a silver 2-door Mercedes convertible. I said "nice car" but thought "Holy shit!" He opened the door and I slid into the black leather seat. He glided in beside me, started the car, and hit a button that lowered the roof. I gave him directions to my apartment. The sticky air swatted at my hair as I looked up trying to find the stars hidden behind the haze. He pulled up in front of my building and we kissed good night. He said he would call me and I knew he would.
We spoke on the phone 2 days later. He was having his house remodeled and didn't have a lot of free time at the moment. I was ok with that because I wasn't really sure if I was interested. I knew I liked him but he was 7 years older, shorter than I preferred and seemed very stable. There's nothing wrong with being stable, I just didn't know if stable would be interested in me.
A few days later I was on my way to Michigan to visit a friend for a week. While I was away, J was going to Greece on vacation. Our trips would overlap so we decided our first official date would be Thursday, September 13.
I got to work early on Tuesday morning, the week of our date. I was sitting in my cubicle when my friend and colleague Dee appeared in my doorway with a look of panic. Dee was in her mid 20's, had a raspy voice, tons of curly brown hair and a crunchy edge; guys liked Dee. "A plane just hit the World Trade Center." I hate to say it but it took me a few seconds to recall where the WTC was and what it looked like. Like most people, we both assumed it was a freak accident. A while later Dee popped her head in my cube and told me another plane hit the second tower. I didn't know what was happening but I called 2 of my friends who lived in Jersey City. I was able to reach them and confirmed they were ok. Their confusion and fear came through the receiver loud and clear.
The office staff watched the horrific story unfold on the conference room TV and since our building was 3 blocks from the White House, we were told to go home. When I got back to my cube to gather my things, my phone rang, it was J. He said he wasn't sure why but he thought of me and wanted to make sure I was ok. A piece of my cynical heart melted and I was glad to hear he was ok too. He was stuck in the city at Union Station and was unable to drive over the bridge to get home. I told him I was leaving the office and suggested we get together for lunch. I gave him my work address and waited on the sidewalk for him to pick me up.