I consider command of the English language a non-negotiable quality in a mate. Yet men trolling for love on the Internet seldom exit the same sentence they enter. Happy Days had basic mastery of syntax, capable punctuation, and appropriate use of capitalization. He met my minimal standards: fluent in my native tongue.
He produced a sitcom for a character who drives many parents to drugs. We agreed to meet at a hotel bar near the studio. We might be perfect for each other: two competent writers, one with a paycheck.
Happy Days: I just moved to Queens. My kid turned 6 and he needs his own room. So adios, Manhattan.
I ordered a cocktail, something strong that tasted like candy.
Happy Days was bald where his online pictures were not. He was seated so I could not tell how many inches shy he was of his professed height; it appeared to be several. There was no mention of a child on his profile, but that would not have disqualified him. After all, mine says I’m 36.
The waitress delivered our drinks. A slow drip of sticky, sweet anesthesia spilled through a hairline crack in the glass, down my wrist and onto my sleeve. I had no napkin.
Happy Days summoned the waitress, and she apologetically brought another.
Happy Days: I had wanted to be a stand-up comic. I was pretty good. Not headlining, but, y’know, colleges. Then I had a kid. Children just totally crush your dreams.
I had a fictional dinner coming up, and it was getting so much sooner by the minute. I just needed to get to the end of a drink that was nothing but sugar and booze. I could do that. I do that all the time.
Happy Days: Don’t get me wrong. I love him. He’s 6 going on 16, know what I mean?
I am 36 going on 637.
Me: I’m so sorry, I have to meet my mom for dinner.
I hadn’t crushed her dreams yet.
The waitress arrived on cue to let us know she would not charge us for the drinks and apologized again for the faulty stemware.
Happy Days: Score! I love drinking for free.
He got up to leave.
There are things worse than bad grammar. Tips matter, especially to the people who eat them. I took a beat, stayed behind and left one.
I decided that my imaginary dinner was in the opposite direction from where he was headed.
We said our goodbyes in front of a doorman. I could see that not only was Happy Days balder, shorter, and less geographically desirable than advertised, but as he walked away it was clear he had a long and loping roundhouse limp.
My heart broke for him a little. Also, for me.