Ten years ago today, Sidaravy (Ravy) called me to tell me that I was late for our first date (I’m pretty sure I was not) and asked me where I was. My plan was to take her to my favorite family-style Thai restaurant at the time, Bangkok Kitchen which was about twenty minutes away. However, when I picked her up, she informed me that she wanted to go somewhere closer to home, “just in case,” and then she suggested that we go to the local Vietnamese place.
We had dinner and we chatted. It was nice, a little awkward, but I have always been awkward, so I assumed, and still assume, it was just me. I am pretty sure we both ordered phó and I am equally certain that if we did, Ravy quietly scoffed as I dumped sriracha, hoisin sauce, and lime into my soup before even tasting it. Over soup, we talked about who we were, where we were from, etc. and I asked a bunch of questions about Cambodia, a place I knew nothing about.
After the waitress cleared our dishes, Ravy looked at her watch. I asked if she needed to leave. She said, “Not yet. Maybe in fifteen minutes.” “Okay,” I replied, somewhat puzzled. “Why fifteen minutes?” “Because I want our first date to last at least one hour,” she said with a childlike sincerity. I became increasingly more intrigued and amused by this woman who I was absolutely certain was like no other that I had ever met.
Fifteen minutes passed and the waitress brought our check. Ravy pulled some money out of her pocket. “No, please,” I insisted, “I will take care of it.” “Good,” she replied in all seriousness, “I hate cheap men.” I was taken aback, but I took note. Her absolute fearless honesty both shocked and attracted me. I have never been good at interpreting the needs, wants, or feelings of other people, a malady which has caused me much trouble throughout my life. It seemed to me that, in a strange way, I had finally met someone I did not have to try to guess at what she really meant in this polite, but very forward 5’2” tall Cambodian.
I paid the bill, left a tip, and brought Ravy back to her place of employment, the place from which I had picked her up just over an hour prior. Before I left, we walked around for a while. She took me to one of the places she worked (she had two jobs) to show them that I was real and that she was really on a date. Before we parted ways for the evening, however, she asked me a question. “What are we now?” Somewhat startled, I asked her, “What do you mean?” “Well, we have gone out on a date. I am going home to see my family. What do I tell them? What are we?” For once in my life, I was absolutely speechless until, finally I said, “We are… Ummm… Hmmm… We are taking it slow.”