L.A. Affairs: My date with a genius became a lecture series with no escape in sight

Every Sunday I read this column religiously because it feeds my hope that at 65, I, too, still have a chance at finding love again. Like in Foreigner’s song “I Want to Know What Love Is,” I keep climbing that mountain, not just for love but for a love better than I’ve ever had, including a long, difficult marriage.

Post-marriage, I had one very serious relationship that lasted three years, but it fizzled recently because of family obligations my partner had that just wouldn’t end. After taking some time to heal from that breakup, I signed up for eHarmony. After a “smile” received, a few email exchanges and a nice phone call, I was ready to meet my next potential partner at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

As I waited at the entrance, I was excited. I felt my heart pumping and butterflies in my stomach. He arrived on time. He had lost his wife of 43 years to cancer eight months ago. He looked sweet and dapper, dressed in a vest, khaki slacks and a colorful tie that had mathematical terms printed on it such as geometry, algebra and calculus.

A retired space scientist, he had shared that math was his favorite hobby. After we exchanged pleasantries, he mentioned that he had rushed to get to our date. I asked if he’d had time to have breakfast.

“Yes,” he said. “I had a slice of frozen cake with a cup of coffee.”

“Frozen cake for breakfast?” I asked curiously. “What kind of cake?”

He paused for a moment and then explained, “Almond cake. My wife made it for me before she died.” He smiled nervously and then added, “I need to try to make it myself.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond but was touched that he opened up like that to me and that he kept his wife’s memory alive in such a way.

As we headed to the lily ponds, his genius became quickly apparent. He proceeded to share a theory on just about every subject that came up in our conversation, most of which revolved around his interests: metaphysics, research conducted on the first six minutes of death, and ellipses, a diagram of which he drew in the art sketchpad I had brought to kill time in case he was late.

What started out as a date had become a one-way lecture series with no escape in sight.

I tried to change the subject to something more mutually personal, such as how we like to spend our Saturdays, to avoid discussing if Judas really wasn’t such a bad guy after all.

I had to make things move along and suggested we eat lunch because I had to do my volunteer shift at the Huntington that afternoon. We headed to 1919 Cafe near the front entrance. He treated me to lunch, which I appreciated.

As we ate outside in the courtyard, he proceeded to go into further detail, defining metaphysics as a study of the fundamental nature of reality. Passionate about the subject, his voice escalated.

A woman who had overheard approached him and asked, “Do you have questions about Jesus?” At this point, I didn’t think the date could get any worse, but it did. He engaged in a 10-minute religious debate with her while I stared into space. I couldn’t take it any longer.

I thought to myself, “How is this a date at all!?” Then I interrupted politely, telling them that we had to go. He walked me to my volunteer station.

As we said our farewells, my head throbbed from taking in so much knowledge. Slight disappointment set in, knowing I felt no romantic connection to him. I wasn’t going to feel bad about it. I had gotten out there and taken a risk. The disappointment helped me see more clearly what I needed from a date to make it go farther: connection through more things in common, ease, humor, flirtation and some interest in me.

Later that night, he emailed me, “I had a wonderful time. How about you? I’d like to see you again.”

Knowing I would have to disappoint him, my chest tightened. I had to be true to myself and couldn’t push myself to see him again. I said I was sorry but I just didn’t feel any connection. He replied with a response that was kind and profound.

Referring to our differing careers — mine as a teacher and his as a scientist — he commented, “I think our career also molds and shapes us into our present-day form. It may make it more difficult to cross over from one person’s Universe into another person’s different Universe, especially at this age. We both may need someone closer to our personal Universe in order to have a strong ‘connection’ to them. It’s still nice to get a peek into someone else’s Universe, and I thank you for that experience.”

I thanked him for his thoughtful response and wished him well. His response also made me think about how hard it is to meet someone who can relate to one’s personal Universe. Our reality/Universe is only what we perceive it to be, and if we can’t relate to what someone else is thinking, there is no way we can connect to them.

I remain hopeful that I’ll meet that special someone someday whose Universe I can share and see and who’d want to savor a frozen slice of cake I made if I were to die before him. Like Foreigner, I still want to know what love is.

The author is a retired elementary school teacher who now enjoys taking art classes, practicing tai chi and walking her corgi daily. She lives in L.A. County and she’s still searching for love. She’s on Instagram: @hsimmons62

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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