My week started off with a bang. On Monday, my friend and colleague Bethany invited me to join her for lunch, along with a few other young coworkers who were in town from our Calgary and New Orleans offices. I was previously acquainted with all but one: an intense and enthusiastic 23-year-old from Canada named Vernon.
I ended up seated next to Vernon at the burger joint where we ate, and he was immediately fascinated by me. I was just trying to be welcoming and friendly, but Vernon’s initial comment to me (and then to the group) was, “You’re a genuinely happy person, aren’t you? You’re effervescent!”
Bethany and I just laughed. She has heard all of my grumblings at work and witnessed my post-breakup depression firsthand. But Vernon wasn’t deterred. He asked me about my home life. “You grew up in a stable home, didn’t you?”
“I can tell. You’re so emotionally grounded and serene.”
Trying to take the focus off of myself, I asked Vernon about his home life. His parents immigrated from China and divorced shortly thereafter. He’s a self-proclaimed “heathen agnostic.” So we talked about faith – just Vernon and I – while the rest of the table gossiped about the personal lives of company leadership.
When I explained my perspective on God, Vernon looked deeply into my eyes, searching. Then his own eyes widened in realization, and he said with surprise, “You really believe that, don’t you?”
“Well, yeah.” I smiled.
Vernon was in workshops all week, but he insisted that we see each other again before he went back to Canada, so I agreed to join him with a group at karaoke on Thursday night after work. But on Thursday night, miscommunication abounded, and we ended up missing each other by a few minutes.
On Friday morning – Vernon’s last day in town – he sent me an email communicating his disappointment. “I was looking forward to seeing you again all week,” he wrote, adding that I am “stunningly beautiful” and we should continue to chat via Skype when he’s back in Canada.
Vernon wanted to meet for lunch, but he was working downtown, and I was at our West office for the day. He asked if I would be willing to drive downtown for lunch, but I declined, partly because it’s a forty-minute drive, partly because I had other work to do, and partly because I was starting to get uncomfortable with his fascination.
So Vernon took a cab to see me. He was determined to spend more time with me, even if that meant the inconvenience of a roundtrip $50 cab fare.
Once he arrived, I gave him the tour of the facility, introducing him to various colleagues; then we sat down to close out his visit over afternoon coffee. We talked a bit more about faith, which I was happy to do, but other than that, I tried to keep the conversation light. I failed.
This kid is intense and intent on getting what he wants. He asked me to cancel my weekend plans and told me he’d fly back on Monday so we could spend the weekend together. I declined. He asked again, leaning forward and explaining to me in a low voice that when men are fascinated by something, they want to conquer it.
I think I know what that means, and I am now definitely not interested in canceling my weekend plans. I am not a game to be played, a flower to be plucked or a fortress to be conquered. Learn some respect.