Robby and Anne Eat Together

We threw ourselves

Into the future together seizing the day …

from “Carpe Diem” by Jim Harrison

Robby and Anne Eat Together

Sunday, September 29, 1968

I dried my hands on the dishtowel and picked up the receiver.

“Hello,” I said.

       “Hello. Anne Bennett?”


       “This is Robby O’Malley. We met a couple of weeks ago.”

       I couldn’t place the name, but the voice was familiar.

       “Robby? … I’m sorry. Where did we meet?”

       “At the conference. In Sacramento.”

       I thought for a moment. “Again, I’m sorry. I don’t recall … Oh! Wait! Do you mean Professor O’Malley?”

       “Yes. I didn’t want to say “professor.” It seems a little pompous.”

       “Not at all, Professor. What can I do for you?”

He’d been the keynote speaker.

Who was I? Nobody. A novice teacher who had been dragooned into representing our school by her fellow teachers. They all had families and didn’t want to waste a weekend. I didn’t either, but I couldn’t get out of it.

       There was a pause.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

       “Well, yes, you are.” I chuckled. “I’m washing breakfast dishes.”    

He laughed.

“I could call back.”

“No. That’s okay. I have a couple of minutes to talk before the water gets cold.”

“In that case … I going to be in San Diego on business next week. I enjoyed our conversation on art in elementary education. You brought up some really interesting ideas.”

“But I argued with you.”

“That was the fun part. Most people don’t care enough to argue for their ideas … In any case, I thought since I’ll be there, maybe you and I could get together for lunch on Saturday and talk a little more about it.”

       “Oh, that would be nice. I don’t have anything I have to do next weekend except grade papers, and you know first grade papers don’t really take a lot of time.”

       “Shall I pick you up on Saturday then?”

       “Do you know San Diego?”

       “I’ll get a map.”

       “Why don’t I come to you? It would be easier. Where will you be staying?”

       “I’ll be at the Surf ‘n’ Sand Hotel in Pacific Beach.”

       “Ah, that’s about a half hour from here depending on traffic. What time?”


       “Okay, I’ll see you then.” 

       I hung up and walked back to the kitchen, my mind going in a dozen different directions. Then I walked back to the phone and called Jay. Trying to sound sad, I broke my date to go to a beach party with him Saturday afternoon. And just in case, I cancelled my Sunday brunch date with Steve too. 

       At the conference, Professor O’Malley had been the Friday dinner speaker. He moved around the dais and gestured as he spoke. He was graceful and rhythmic. It was almost like watching a dancer.

For an older man, he was really handsome too: tall, slender, blond, a face with purpose, beautiful hands with long slender fingers.

I found out later he had hazel eyes.

On Saturday, I decided to go to his seminar. I didn’t really know who he was, but I had been impressed with the ideas in his talk. There were fourteen of us. He led a lively discussion. He had a talent for drawing people out. We talked for a long time. He invited all of us to join him for lunch, and we talked some more. Finally, in ones and twos, the other teachers left. I was the last one there with him.

       “Miss Bennett,” he said. “Let’s walk a little. It seems we have more to talk about.”

We had dinner together and then lunch the next day before he left to catch a plane to New York. He didn’t wear a wedding ring, and he didn’t mention a family, so when he asked for my phone number, I gave it to him.

I never thought he’d call.

* * *

       On Saturday, we walked to a good Mexican restaurant near his hotel. After lunch, we took a long walk through Pacific Beach. He’d told me in Sacramento that two of his favorite things were walking and bicycling in new cities, so I’d worn good walking shoes just in case. In the late afternoon, we sat in the hotel coffee shop, still talking about everything under the sun. 

       “I don’t even know where you live.” I said.

       “Mostly in hotels. I travel all the time. But I get my mail and vote in Minneapolis, so I guess that’s home.”

       “You have a house there?”

       “An apartment. It’s hard to maintain a house when you’re never there.”

       Still no mention of family.

       I glanced at my watch. “Oh, it’s late! It’s been a lovely day, but I’d better get home.”

       “Do you really have to go, Miss Bennett? It’s almost dinnertime. I could take you to dinner.”

       “Don’t you get tired of restaurants?”

       He shook his head. “The food all tastes the same after a while.”

       “I could cook for you.”

       His face brightened. “I’d love that.”

       “I’m not gourmet.”

       “I don’t care.”

       So I showed him on his map where I lived. “Do you think you can find it?”

       “I spend most of my life with maps in strange cities. I’ll find you.”

* * *

       I didn’t have a dining room in my little house, so we ate our spaghetti alla carbonara at the kitchen table. The air was redolent of garlic and pancetta. After he helped me with the dishes, he asked, “Are you busy tomorrow?”

       “Not really.” I gave a fleeting thought to the brunch I wasn’t having with Steve.

       “The Symphony is playing a concert featuring pianist Claudio Arrau. Do you like that kind of music. Would you like to go?”

       “I love classical music, Professor O’Malley. Unfortunately, a symphony ticket really isn’t in my budget.”

       “Well, it is in mine, Miss Bennett. Please let me treat you. It’s so much more fun when you have a companion to share with.”

       So I agreed.

* * *

After the concert, I offered to cook for him again to thank him, but he said, “Oh, no. You look so beautiful in your red dress. You should be out in public where people can see you.” He took me to an early dinner at Mr. A’s, an upscale restaurant near the concert hall. Then he drove me back to his hotel so I could pick up my car.

As he opened the car door, he said, “I doubt you want to walk far in those high heels, but let’s go look at the water for a few minutes before you go.”

We followed the paved path through the heavy tropical landscaping to the edge of the bay. It was dark now. The evening was cool, the moon up, almost full. Lights sparkled in the distance on the other shore. A few groups lingered at the concrete fire rings. We could hear one of the groups singing with a guitar accompaniment.

       We were quiet as we strolled, savoring the beauty of the scene.

       He seemed tense though, the first time I’d seen him that way. For a moment, I thought he was going to say something, but he shook his head and was quiet.

“I should go, Professor O’Malley. I’m sure you have things you have to do to get ready for your meetings tomorrow. Thank you for such a special day.”

He turned to face me. 

“Miss Bennett … Anne … I’m not married. I’ve never been married. I have no children that I know of. I’m not seeing anyone right now. If I were to kiss you, do you think you could call me Robby?”

“Yes, I think I could do that.”

I usually wear my shoulder-length brown hair down, but I’d pinned it up for the concert. He reached up and took the pins out to allow it to fall free. He brushed it gently into place with his fingers. Then he took me in his arms and kissed me as I’d never been kissed before.

When he finished, I said softly in his ear, “Oh, Robby, do you think you could do that again?”

And he obliged.

It was strange. There was no awkwardness between us. It was as if we’d always known each other and were just renewing our friendship. He put his arm around my waist, and we walked back to his hotel suite.

* * *

He sat on the bed.

“I don’t know what you expect,” I said. “I know I’m young—I’m twenty-four—but I’m not a virgin, so if you were hoping for—”

He shook his head. “I’m not either.”

He laughed joyfully and patted the space next to him. “Come here.”

I sat and he kissed me. Then he turned me so that my back was to him.

“I’m forty-six.”

He unzipped my dress and kissed down my back as he did.

“Have you ever had an older lover?”

“Is that what you’re going to be?” I asked. “This isn’t just for tonight?”

He slid my dress off my shoulders and kissed the nape of my neck. “Oh, my god, you smell so good.” He rested his cheek on my shoulder. “No. It isn’t just for tonight … Now, there are some advantages to an older lover. I can give you what you want. The only question is, do you want to tell me what that is, or should I find out for myself?”

I turned to him again. “I’d like to let you find out for yourself.”

“Ah.” He nodded. “Stand up then.”

I did.

He pushed my dress down over my hips to the floor … and then proceeded to find out.

And when we finished, all I could say was, “Oh, Robby.”

* * *

The next morning, as I was getting ready to leave for school, there was a knock on my front door. When I opened it, a woman stood there holding a large bouquet. I could smell the fragrance of the amethyst-colored roses from where she stood.

“Anne Bennett?”


“These are for you.” She handed them to me.


“Uh-ha. Boy, you sure impressed someone! It took him forever to choose the right flowers, and then he paid extra to make sure they were delivered before you left for work.”

“The right flowers?”

“You don’t know the language of flowers?”


“The white liatrises are for happiness, joy, bliss … and desire. The purple roses are for love at first sight.”

“Oh, my gosh!” 

“Yeah.” She smiled. “Enjoy them. There’s a card in there.”

She left.

The card simply read “Robby.”

I called him.

He answered on the second ring.

“Oh, my gosh! Those flowers! They’re gorgeous.”

“Bet you didn’t know there are 24-hour florists.”

“I had no idea.”

“You’re going to be late for work.”


“Shall I come to you this afternoon when you get home?”

“You don’t have a dinner meeting?”

“No. I’ll tell you about it later. Five o’clock?”


* * *

My students didn’t have my full attention that day. It seemed like I spent most of the time counting minutes.

When he came to the door, I said, “Bed first, then conversation and dinner, or conversation and dinner, then bed?”

He laid his jacket on the back of the sofa and took me in his arms. “I think bed first. Then we’ll see what happens after dinner.”

“You don’t think I’ll wear you out?”

“Well, if memory serves,” he said, “you were the one lying there last night trying to catch your breath. You didn’t ask for mercy, but …” He shook his head and smiled.

“Okay, bed it is.”

In the bedroom, he kicked off his shoes. Then, without undressing, he lay down on the bed and rolled over on his back. “Anne, I need to tell you something first. I sort of … Well, no ‘sort of.’ I lied to you.”

Was he married after all?

“About what?”

“I didn’t come to San Diego on business. There are no meetings. I came to see you.”


“Because I already knew that I love you. What we’re doing here is figuring out whether you could feel that way about me.”

“Oh … Do you tend to fall in love easily?”

He rolled over and sat up.

“I’ve never felt this way before. It’s overwhelming. I haven’t been able to think about anything since the conference but you. Still, if you don’t think you can feel that way about me, just tell me. I won’t bother you again.

I sat next to him. “As long as we’re admitting our lies, I lied too.”

“What about.”

“I told you I didn’t have anything planned for the weekend, but I broke dates for a beach party Saturday and for brunch yesterday.” 

“Why did you do that?”

“Because I already loved you, and I wanted to be ready in case you wanted anything from me.”

He lay down again, pulled me down on top of him, and kissed me.

“You might want to think about checking out of your hotel and staying here.”

“The bed’s bigger there.”

“Yes, but I can cook for you here. You should know whether I can cook before you make any kind of commitment. You know, spaghetti doesn’t really count. What if it turns out I’m a bad cook?”

“There is that,” he said, smiling. “Let me think about it.”

“Yes, you lie there and think about cooking, while I do this.”

I unbuckled his belt and unzipped his trousers …

He groaned with pleasure.

“Yes, cooking,” he said softly.

* * *

He really meant it when he said he lived in hotels. He was booked two years in advance for speeches, seminars, and conferences, including in Europe and Asia. But we talked on the phone several times a day, every day, no matter where he was. And he sent flowers.

Oh, the flowers! I learned Robby’s language of love through those flowers.

A month later, he came for a weekend, and then later for a week when we went house hunting, and finally, four months after I met him, I carried red roses on the day I became his wife, and we started our new life together.