I noticed him the moment I stepped from the cab and onto the rain-soaked sidewalk beside the pier. He stood bent over a blue Team USA duffel bag, biceps bulging and baseball cap pulled low over his eyes to shield him from the light drizzle that was already beginning to mist my hair. His sandy brown hair poked out from beneath his cap, and as he righted himself, I saw deep smile lines etched around his eyes and chiseled below his cheekbones.
Marina and Verna made a beeline for the cruise ship so, pulling my gaze away from the tanned athlete, I grabbed the handle of my lavender suitcase and hurried along behind them. Five minutes later, we walked through the metal detectors of security, and I glanced behind me to see Mr. Team USA standing directly behind Verna in line to board the ship.
The two other girls were oblivious to his presence, but as we snaked our way through the line toward the gangway, I glanced in his direction each time we turned a corner to circle back the other direction. The ball cap wearer and I made eye contact a few times, and the third time, he smiled at me. I smiled shyly before ducking my head and scurrying forward in the line, chiding myself. You’re not dating this year. You’re not dating this year.
My younger brother met his wife on a cruise a few years ago, so it was hard not to get the idea in my head, but I kept coaching myself that I am committed to taking this year off dating. It’s a lot easier to keep that mindset when you don’t have two married women – your only travel companions – teasing you, encouraging you and constantly looking to set you up with every young, able-bodied male on the cruise ship.
Long after I’d started making eyes at Mr. Team USA, Verna started complaining about wrist pain from her poor computer set up at the office. I watched in fascination at the various expressions flickering across Mr. Team USA’s face. He was obviously listening, and eventually, he spoke up. “If you wear a rubber band around your wrist, you can do finger and wrist strengthening exercises like this,” he gestured, and we all looked down to where he demonstrated the exercise for us with a rubber band he wore encircling his wrist.
Marina, being a fitness instructor, jumped right into the conversation, asking him what he does for a living. Jordan (as he introduced himself) is an orthopedic massage therapist who studied under the Yankees’ orthopedic physician and also does work on a few guys in the NFL. He is currently studying for his physical trainer certification and has a few patents in the works.
I tried to ignore the winks from Verna and wiggling eyebrows from Marina as we boarded the ship. “Who are you here with?” I asked Jordan nonchalantly. He appeared to be traveling alone.
“One of my orthopedic buddies and his kids,” Jordan answered as – sure enough – a slender man in his late forties approached with five boys and one girl in tow. Only two of the boys turned out to be his sons; the others were friends who’d come along for the vacation.
Our now-huge group was starting to block the gangway, so Marina, Verna and I started moving in the direction of our cabin and, after an only slightly awkward pause, Jordan extended his arm for a handshake, wishing me well with a nod and, “Maybe I’ll see ya around.”
And see me around, he did.