Until that night, nothing unexpected ever happened to me at the old Hamburger Hamlet in Brentwood. It was a fifties-style restaurant then, with a long counter and booths, and I stopped there before heading to UCLA for extension classes.
I wore a miniskirt that night, and my auburn hair, in a long loose braid, dangled over my right shoulder. I was twenty-two but could have passed for seventeen. Someone once remarked the reason for my sexiness was that I seemed so innocent. I liked that description.
I was in a small booth toward the rear, biting into a burger, when I noticed a man at the counter staring at me. He was attractive, in a bookish way, with light brown hair beginning to thin, and a mouth that turned up at the corners, giving him a perpetual sensual grin.
Just about then I realized that sitting in a booth across from me was a famous musician: young, dark, lean, and sultry. When he blew into that magic horn of his, the sounds-jazzy and sweet and wild-sent me into rapture. He was with a bearded man wearing sunglasses, deep in conversation.
I could barely eat after that, and when I got up to leave the handsome musician smiled at me.
"The vibrations are good, aren't they?"
"Yes," I answered, scarcely breathing.
"I'd like to call you," he said.
I could feel his eyes on me as I wrote my number on a Hamburger Hamlet napkin.
"How will you know who it is when I call?" he asked.
He was testing me, I thought, to see if I knew who he was.
"I'll know from the vibrations."
He and his friend smiled at me, and I backed away from them and waved goodbye.
I proceeded to float past the man at the counter to the cash register, and was about to pay my bill when someone behind me tore it from my hand.
"I'll take care of that," the man said, with his perpetual sensual grin.
We walked out of the Hamlet together. He was tall and fair-skinned, with sensitive gray eyes that radiated wisdom and vulnerability.
"Would you have dinner with me sometime?" he asked.
We had dinner together many times, in restaurants all over town. He was a physicist and worked on secret projects for the government. But he had migraine headaches that caused him to be moody and silent, as though he knew that nothing was meant to last.
When we broke up I wrote a poem for him:
The next time that I see
A man at a counter staring at me
I may stare back for a moment or two
Regretting that it isn't you.
As for the musician, I never got his call, but his music still sends me into rapture.