Sitting at a two-people table, watching more than participating in the noisy office party, she looked up to see a man, drink in hand, pointing to the empty chair across from her, an inquiring look on his face. She nodded. He sat down. “I’m new here and…”

Elbows on the table, face cupped in her hands, she cut him off gently with the Learning Question. “Why do people have pets?”

He frowned for a second. “Because they’re warm and fuzzy?” With a slight smile, she responded, “Turtles, gold fish and parakeets aren’t.”

Pushing his drink aside, he also put elbows on the table, cupping his face.
“Because pets can’t speak. They can’t argue or talk back.”

Her smile grew slightly. “I do.”

“I bet you do.”

They swapped names, switched to ice tea, and started a conversation still going on ten years later.

To stop his mild snoring, she softly held his nose shut, though not softly enough. He sat up on one elbow, seeing her nakedness in the dim light. “I’m awake.” She was close enough to reply, “I know.” She was his world, the one whose peaks, plains and valleys his hand now explored.

The hand suddenly stopped. “This is warm, but it isn’t fuzzy.”

“You said that’s the way you like it. It doesn’t talk, but tells me what to say.”

He moved his hand slightly. “Saying anything?”

“Oh, my God…” Before her moans grew, he used his low, tough guy voice, “Don’t neva call me dat in public!”

A brief duet’s laughter, then silence as they absorbed each other.

Later, lying close like two bookends with nothing between them, breathing in rhythm like their heartbeats, they slowly fell asleep. She lasted longer, abruptly filled with wrenching awareness of something she should not have forgotten: to really thank Mom for telling her the secret of the Learning Question. She had to do it tomorrow. Then, another startling thought: she finally understood why she loved her Dad so much.

Now, she had to be fresh for a promotion interview at noon. He had a dental appointment. Just another day, but each with its share of laughter to counter inevitable tears.

Had she not learned to ask the Learning Question that had separated ordinary men from the one she found, life surely would have been much less than what they shared. And ordinary men would have missed it without even knowing it.