Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reflections from a Formerly-Single Girl at Grady: You had me at "Ohio"


Like the sweet morning dew
I took one look at you
And it was plain to see
You were my destiny . . . .

Cause we, we got the right foundation
And with love and determination
You're all, You're All I need to get by.

"You're All I Need to Get By"
written by Ashford and Simpson
(made famous by Marvin Gaye and more)

__________________________________________________________

I was just two months shy of my thirty-first birthday when I came to work at Grady. I had just finished up my chief residency in Cleveland, Ohio and was excited about starting a new life in Atlanta, Georgia. Although my five years in Cleveland were good to me professionally, my personal life there was pretty lackluster.

I had always imagined myself married with a kid or two by my early thirties. It was disappointing that I'd finally finished college, medical school, residency, and even a chief year, and had no one to ride off into the sunset of my "grown" life with. No boyfriend. No quasi-boyfriend. No nothing. I blamed it all on Cleveland.

When I started looking for jobs, I knew I wanted two things: to work in a county hospital, and to be in a city that nearly all people would find desirable. You see, the "nearly all" part is the key part of that phrase. While many folks think Cleveland is a pretty decent city, "nearly all" folks don't. Cities like Cleveland attract people who a.) have family there, b.) are from there or somewhere very close by, or c.) all of the above. When I finally had the chance to choose where I would go, I knew I wanted a thriving and diverse city--the kind that would draw people from all over. Heck, if I had to do the "grown" thing on my own, the least I could do is do it in a cool city. 'Hotlanta' fit the bill.

Welcome to Atlanta!

That July in 2001 I started working at Grady Hospital, and when I wasn't at work, I was really enjoying this "cool" city that I now called home. With my former college and medical school friends to hang out with, being a single thirty something was no longer the end of the world--especially in Atlanta. I was going new places, doing new things, and best of all, meeting new people who, in major contrast to my time in Cleveland, were NOT from Ohio.

After a little less than a year of adjusting to life in Atlanta, things were going pretty well. Work was great, Atlanta put me near family which was a wonderful bonus, and on the weekends, I actually had a social life. But part of me still longed for something more. . . . . .

One spring Friday, my best friend, Lisa D., called me on the way to work.

"Meet me at the Martini Bar in Midtown tonight. It should be fun."

I shrugged my shoulders and answered, "Sure, as long as I'm not too tired when I get off." She conveniently ignored that comment and squealed, "Cool! See you tonight!"


It was a long day that day. I saw patients in the Grady Urgent Care clinic all morning and afternoon, and just narrowly escaped in time to make a much needed appointment with my hairstylist for a haircut that evening. By the time she finished my hair, it was past 8pm and I was exhausted. Still in the clothes I'd worn to work that day, all I could think of was curling up on my couch with the remote control. (What I now acknowledge as a great perk of being single without children.) Suddenly, I remembered my conversation with Lisa early that morning. Shoot! I figured that she would surely let me off the hook. I decided to give her a quick ring to tell her I needed a rain check.

I pulled out my cell phone and noticed two missed calls and one voice mail--all from Lisa.

"Hey girl! I am on my way to the Martini Bar now. I probably won't hear you when you try to call me so don't bother. Just look for me on the outdoor patio. Oh, and don't even think about being lame and trying to renege on me 'cause I'm NOT having it. I'm in the mood for something social! See you in a minute! Bye!"

Dag! That's the problem with folks knowing you well--they can predict your next move before you even make it. Lisa had a long history with me trying to worm my way out of night time outings. But this time I really was tired. I called her on speed dial, ignoring her request. Straight to voicemail. Shoot! She knew just how to cut me off at the knees. I decided to leave her a message.

"Hey girl . . . . I am really tired and still have Grady all over me. . .I literally haven't even been home and it's going on 9 o'clock. Call me back." I snapped my flip phone shut and sat there for a moment thinking. (Yeah, this was before the iPhone and the texting revolution.) Sigh. Maybe I'll just start heading to the Martini Bar in good faith, and make a beeline for my house when she calls me back.

Before I knew it, I was pulling into a Midtown parking garage next to the Martini Bar. Still no call back from Lisa to let me off the hook. Ugggh. I was still in my same clothes that I'd worn to work, not to mention the tiny little pieces of haircut remnants prickling my neck. Double uggghh.

As I pulled closer, a pleasant youngish gentleman held up his right hand with his fingers spread apart. "Five dollar," he spoke methodically. Feverishly, I rummaged through my purse for a five dollar bill. Instead I found three one dollar bills and another dollar in change. Great.

"Look, sir. I only have 4 dollars. . . .but honestly, all I want to do is run into the place next door and tell my friend that I can't stay. I'm actually very tired. If you let me park, I promise to get the other dollar and bring it right back to you." He looked at me and smiled. He took the four dollars and waved his hand.
"You're good, my sister," I recall him saying, heavily accented by some sub-Saharan African native language. Whew.

As soon as I stepped out of the parking garage, I froze. A line of people hugged the wall beside the entrance to the restaurant snaking far back enough to disappear around the corner. "You've got to be kidding me!" I uttered aloud and began dragging my feet. I stood on the sidewalk near the front of the line and peered in from outside the roped area. You could hear the buzz of the people in line and those mingling on the patio. Would she really care if I just went on home? I stood on my tippy toes and squinted my eyes. I could see the side of Lisa's head. She was throwing it back in laughter, and didn't seem to be missing me at all.

I reached for my phone again to call her. Straight to voicemail once again. Shoot! I sighed hard and folded my arms. What to do now? I craned my neck down the street at the trail of swanky twenty-somethings patiently waiting in line and winced. Oh hells no! There is no way I'm getting in that 45 minute line all by myself. I might run into a resident physician! My mind wandered to an awkward scenario of me and one of my interns edging forward in line together. Ugggh.

Suddenly, a baritone voice startled me. "What's wrong with you, ma?" A big, burly guy stood on the other side of the velvet rope, staring at me with a smirk on his face. The "ma" let me know immediately that, like many people I encountered in Atlanta, he wasn't from here. Definitely a Yankee, literally. Somewhere between buff and fluffy, this guy was definitely no Mr. Universe-- but he certainly wasn't someone you'd want to pick a fight with (especially with the NY vibe he was giving off.) He was supposed to be checking IDs and keeping the peace, but apparently he still had time to notice the perplexed look on my face.

"Excuse me?" I asked wondering his motive for talking to me. I wasn't in the mood for a chatty bouncer. As a matter of fact I wasn't in the mood for much of anything.

"Why you look so mean out here, ma?" he persisted with the New York pronunciation of 'here.' He squinted his eyes at a baby-faced gentleman's driver license. He waved the guy in, who looked a little too relieved to be legit. I decided to bite.

"Okay, so the truth is . . .you see that girl right there?" I pointed to Lisa's cheerful silhouette. "Well she's my friend and I keep trying to call her but she's not answering."

He laughed and shook his head. "I'm sayin, ma, why you calling her? Why not just go in?"

I raised my eyebrows and shook my head. With my arms folded, I lifted one elbow in the direction of the line. "One, I ain't waiting in that line. And two, seriously, I'd be happy to go on home. I just wanted to tell her so she wouldn't be looking for me."

He chuckled at me again. He gave the young woman in front of him an 'Is this you' look while scanning her ID. "What, ma, you too cool for the line?" Mr. New York Buffy slash Fluffy asked me as he let a few more folks in. He glanced back in my direction waiting for my reply.

"No. . .not too cool. . . .I'm just a grown ass woman, and there is no way I'm standing in a line as long as a Six Flags ride to go into a bar. I'm just sayin'."

He gave a half smile and shook his head again. This time he reached for the hook connecting the velvet rope to the pole. "Alright then grown ass woman," he said and gestured to me, "I can't have you standing out here huffing and puffing all night long. Do you, ma." Wow. Nice for no reason. Thanks, Pa.

After skipping that heinous line, I headed a few feet up, where another gentleman stood at a podium in front of yet another velvet rope. I looked down at the front of the podium where a poster read 'LIVE MUSIC. $5 COVER.' Say it ain't so! I anxiously began rummaging through my purse for the cash that I knew was not there. I patted my pockets, opened and closed my wallet--all the moves folks do when they know they don't have any money. I took a breath and explained to the podium dude as fast as I could:

"Okay, look. I have no cash, just a debit card. I used what I did have to park, and honestly, I really just want to walk over to that girl right there--" I pointed to Lisa who still didn't seem to be missing me--"and tell her that I am heading home. That's it. I promise I will come right back." I was super frustrated, and I'm sure it showed.

Before he could answer, a vaguely familiar looking guy walked up. "Hey there Kim!" he announced musically. He placed his hand on the podium-dude's shoulder. "Hey man, that's my friend--she's good." I am? Me? I'm good?

Turns out this guy briefly dated my college roommate and remembered me. I have no idea how he even knew my name. The best part? I never saw him any more after that. It was just a random act of kindness without strings attached. He smiled, told me to have a good time , and disappeared into the crowd--for good. And with his seal of approval, podium-dude unclicked the velvet rope indicating that I was indeed good. Cashless, yet good.

So finally, I made it through the throngs of people to Lisa. (Who still didn't seem to be missing me, by the way.) I did my best to primp a bit; still in my work clothes trying pitifully to look otherwise. The wrinkled denim jacket that I grabbed off of the back seat of my car at the last minute before entering was my only shot at looking cool. If this were a pass/fail exam for coolness, I'm pretty sure I would have flunked.

"Hey sister! There you are!" Lisa gave me a quick hug and pulled out a chair that she'd obviously been guarding all night. (The steely glares of the women standing around in painfully high stilettos told me so.) Without saying a word, I plopped down at the table and caught my breath. I felt like I had crossed the river Jordan, and I knew if I said anything, it would be a complaint. Lisa was having far too good a time to have to be subjected to my whining. I looked down at my clothes and shuddered. Ugghh! Now, more than ever, I hoped that I didn't see any residents imbibing out on this patio--especially wearing the same chinos and button down I'd had on in clinic. Ick.

Out of no where, I felt a soft tap on my shoulder--more of a gentle touch than an annoying tap.

"Excuse me, lady," a silky male voice said. It was so crowded that I could barely tell who it belonged to. I glanced down and saw a pair of neatly shined brown loafers attached to a pair of trendy, but not overly trendy, jeans. I followed them up to a find a crisply starched white shirt sharply contrasting the cocoa complexion of the smiling man who stood behind me. I didn't know him, and assumed he had mistaken me for someone else. Surely he wasn't interested in a girl with a Gap jean jacket and work clothes on.

"Hey there, lady, I'm sorry to bother you. . . . . .I saw you when you were standing outside on the sidewalk, and I really hoped you'd come in." Huh? After getting a good look at him, I realized that not only was he a snappy dresser, he was actually attractive, too. Clearly he hadn't seen my entire outfit. Is he wearing beer goggles? Afterall, this is the 'Martini Bar'. He went on. "I lost you at some point, and then I was so happy when I looked down and there you were, right in front of me at this table." He smiled again. I liked his smile. Then he added for emphasis. "I think you're beautiful." Huh? Is is high?

"Uuuuhh . . . .thank you?" I responded, "I'm really flattered you think that considering I haven't even been home after work. Actually, I feel pretty bummy."

"Naaaahhh, lady. I noticed you the minute you walked up, and I thought, 'Now she is beautiful.'" His transparency was refreshing, and I kind of dug the way he said 'lady.' Instinctively, I felt safe with him. . . in a way that I'd never really felt when first meeting someone. I extended my hand.
"My name is Kimberly."

"Nice to meet you, Kimberly. My name is Harry," he replied with the same warm smile.

Harry?
His name is Harry? That's weird. I wonder if HE'S weird. Hmmm. I remembered the quick and dirty rule a friend's mom once gave me for romantic first impressions--"You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes, his haircut/facial hair, and, if you're still in doubt, his watch." (Interestingly, the same goes for women except the replace watch with fingernails--but I digress.) I looked him over once again. . . . his smooth shaved head, his neatly trimmed goatee, and his meticulous appearance including a shiny watch. A+ so far. . .but a brother named Harry? That's odd.

My thoughts trampled over my lips and came spilling out. "Harry? Your name is Harry? As in 'Harry Potter?'"

He seemed amused. "Yep, like Harry Potter."

"Wait, like as in 'When Harry met Sally?'" I obnoxiously went on. Clearly unfazed, he nodded again. I liked this Harry so far. Just as I had never met a black man named Harry, something told me that I never met any man like Harry.

"Wow. Harry. So, Harry, where are you from?"

"I'm from Cleveland, Ohio," he answered matter-of-factly. Shut up! I thought I heard wrong. Surely this cool guy with big city style and an A+ on the shoe/groom/watch rule was not from Cleveland! I pegged him as more of a Philly or D.C. native. Definitely not from Cleveland. I gave him the once over once more, making sure I hadn't missed a deal breaker like gym socks with dress shoes or clear "dude" nail polish. I cocked my head and stared at him incredulously. "Cleveland? You have GOT to be kidding me."

"What, you know something about Cleveland?" he quipped. I caught his scent when he knelt down beside me at the table. He smelled nice. . . .like soap and cologne. . . .subtle and not overbearing. . .just like him.

"Do I? I just moved here from Cleveland, Ohio after living there for five years!" I could feel myself loosening up. I wanted to talk to this Harry guy more. I wanted to smell his gentlemanly scent and hear him say 'lady' a few more times. I looked around for a chair, but before I could, he stood up, pulled a card from his wallet and wrote his number on the back.


"Listen, lady. . . .I see you just got here. . . .and look, I don't want to hover over you and hog your time all night. Please. . . . . call me." He handed the card to me. "I would love to take you out this weekend or any day soon." And with that, he walked over to the other side of the patio, calm and confident. Wow.

A few moments later, he sent the waiter over to take drink orders from the four women sitting at the table with me--affirming that he was not only dapper, but also not cheap to boot. (Also a contrast to my experience in Cleveland.)

Confession: I used that card to make the first call that very night. I took out my cell phone 5 minutes after I met him and called right there in the Martini Bar to make the date. I wasn't going to let Harry from Ohio get away.

After our first date (which was the following day!), I called my parents and told them, "I have met my husband." We went out every day for two straight weeks. If there is a such thing as "knowing from the start," I'd say this is about as close as it gets.

Yeah, so that's the story of "When Harry met Kimberly." It kind of reminds me of that movie 'Sliding Doors'. What if Lisa's phone hadn't gone straight to voicemail, and what if all those strangers hadn't been so nice to me? Sometimes I wish I could find them all--the parking lot guy who loaned me the dollar and called me his "sister", Mr. New York Buffy slash Fluffy who called me "ma" and let me enter the front of the 45 minute line, and of course, my roommate's random ex who somehow deemed me "good." If I could, I'd thank them all for their small part in aligning the planets to make my dream come true. I still imagine how different it would have been if I had just headed home to my couch that night. . . .but alas, I did not. And, so they say, the rest is history.

***

Okay, so I bet you are thinking, that's nice, but why the whole Harry saga today? Today happens to be Harry's birthday. . . . .yes. . . .and Harry also happens to be one of my favorite subjects (next to my kids and Grady.) He's the best person I know, and is a shining example to thirty-something girls everywhere that nice guys do exist--and contrary to what some might think, they not only want to hold your hand, but have your hand as well.

Is it cheesy to say on Harry's birthday that I'm just wild about Harry? Probably. But I don't care. Harry is a prince of a man, a gem of a human being, a loyal friend, an exceptional father, a responsible husband and just an all around awesome guy. I have never felt safer with a man who wasn't my father, and find myself staring at him often, wondering how I managed to score such a fine man that wasn't already taken. Yes, I'm wild about Harry, but the best part is . . .Harry's also wild about me. And it shows. In the way he listens to me, the way he helps me, the way he respects me, and the way he loves me. His love is a verb every single day.


Happy Birthday, Harry. Seven years, two kids and countless memories later, I am still the luckiest girl in the world. I love the flowers and please, keep sweet gestures coming . . . .but know this -- surely, my love, you had me at "Ohio." :)

________________________________________________________


10 comments:

  1. Awwww, that's just extra special! I have to say, Harry is just about the best brother in law a girl could ask for. I always say that I hit the sister in law jackpot with Fran & the same goes for Harry. He is truly a gem, and he is a perfect match for you.

    Okay, I guess I need to work on these nails if I'm gonna get myself ready for my future man... :-)

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  2. I know I am quite a bit late, but I just became friends with your sister on facebook and she had your blog link on her page and I hit it to see your blog. Then I hit this title to read one and it appears I chose a great one.

    What a beautiful love story. It is good to see that true love is still alive and well despite the craziness we see. Jada tells me how you're doing from time to time and of course seeing you on TV via your line sisters posting your stuff on facebook-- it is such a blessing to see a Tuskegee Alumn, Delta sister, and most important woman of God doing so well and using her gifts to be a blessing to many.

    Take Care and again blessings to you and your family since our last brief chat on the Tuskegee Ning Site,

    Sonia Milner Adams :>)

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  3. I love this story! I was thinking about it today! :)

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  4. You two are adorable. I was very touched by the story of your meeting. I finally met a nice guy, too. It only took me over 40 years. He and I both live near Dayton, Ohio. It can happen, even in Ohio. Laugh.

    Love you, doc.

    SB

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  5. Used to work with you at Grady. See the passion you have for your patients and when its a very bad case, l have a tissue box waiting at the desk for you cos l know youll be crying when you come out. Happy you found your soul mate. Just stumbled on your blog. Im in Anesthesia sch and will be joining you again at Grady soon. Atl cannot live without Grady......

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  7. A friend of mine sent me a link to this blog and wow!...What a beautiful, touching story. I'm currently a general surgery resident and could relate to all that you said in the beginning of the post. And while that special person hasn't come into my life, this certainly give me hope that my personal hopes/dreams are indeed possible. Continued success, love and happiness.

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  8. Kim, you just dont know how much I absolutely LOVE reading your blog! its like soooo cool! I really love it! Im gonna get fired for not being able to stop reading it long enough to 'actually" do what Im paid to do LOL! but I love it! ha ha ha

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  9. I happened on this post today through link within and ooooo so romantic! I love hearing how you met. Clearly God put his angels all along your path that night, cause what's meant IS MEANT. Like Harry and Kimberley. Im so happy for you both and for your wonderful sons too.

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"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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