Aaaand I'm back, having been run over by a reindeer named either "Stomach Virus" or "Food Poisoning". I'm not sure which is to blame, but after four days subsisting on toast, ginger ale and equally unpalatable reruns of Married...With Children, I'll never again be eating any food described as 'Jumbo' nor anything that a menu upsells with the phrase 'bigger than your head'.
So the Days of Fail continue and will run through the end of the year rather than stopping at Christmas because it's more than fitting that even chronicling my failures is littered with...failure. Anyway, today's installment is about one of last summer's painful attempts at conjuring a personal life. Sadly, my longest relationship in 2008 was with my plantar wart, The New Boyfriend running in second place by six months and two cartons of Compound W.
Day 3: The Pick Up Artist
Note: Originally published in 2oSB Blog Swap (6/08)
Last Monday* was my friend’s birthday which meant that I invited several people over, made poorly mixed drinks, served store-bought spinach dip and a variety of toothpick pierced treats–because everything from melon to McNugget tastes better with a splinter of wood jammed through its center–and hoped no one would notice that I’d already licked the salt from most of the pretzels. When my sad little plates of crappetizers were gone, we decided to walk down the street to the kind of restaurant that doesn’t mind a party crowd, especially since I frequently see a member of the staff fishing some shitfaced customer out of their koi pond.
We had to wait for a table and took turns staring at the couples slowly picking the crust from their salmon steaks, debating whether they were more likely to speed things up if we gave them pitiful, practiced “Man in the Mirror” expressions or if we just glared, with the facial equivalent of a Harrumph when they stopped chewing long enough to steal a sip of sweet tea.
While were waiting, a guy walked in and signed his name to the waiting list, circling the single digit he left on the notepad to draw extra felt-tipped attention to the fact that he was a party of one. He had an outfit straight from the Jeff Spicoli Starter Kit–a tight Ocean Pacific tee, well-worn khaki cutoffs, and a couple of days worth of stubble. He was mid-to-late thirties and incredibly hot, wearing biceps that said “I could pull a tree stump out with my hands” and a slightly bewildered expression that responded “But I never learned to read”.
My friend A and I started talking to him in that drunken sort of way where you ask a question and immediately respond by giggling and twisting your hair into tiny spikes. He was just in town for a few days, he said. We expressed delight because WE LIVE HERE! IN THIS TOWN! WHERE YOU ARE! He said he’d just stopped in for a burger and a beer, a revelation that made A squeal and me yank my hair into a style last seen on Sonic the Hedgehog because WE WERE EATING AND DRINKING THERE TOO! THIS IS SO GREAT! HOLY SHIT! He laughed cautiously, keeping one hand on the handle of the door and a fishbowl full of business cards between us.
Someone called for our party–mangling the mess of consonants I call a last name–and guided us to a table safely away from the other patrons. We quickly settled in and within a single inning of the Braves game flickering silently on Fox Sports South, we’d had enough beverages to start referring to the waitress as ‘Special Angel’. Spicoli had been seated at the bar, but he would occasionally turn around to cast a sidelong glance to our table, either because he was interested or because he’s never heard someone use the phrase “ballsack” that loudly in a dinner conversation.
As other customers grabbed their things, leaving after swapping a tip for an Andes mint, it was pretty obvious that Spicoli was hanging around for us. Or– I liked to think–for me, even though every time he would look at us, I’d give him a jazz hands-y wave, fluttering my fingers like windchimes before burying my face in my bowl, listening to my laughter echo off the porcelain.
The next time I looked up, he brushed the side of his face, a gentle gesture that meant ‘you have sundried tomato stuck to your skin.’
When Special Angel started stacking the chairs upside down on the tables–the universal sign for ‘You’re not getting another vodka tonic’–and the rest of the waitstaff rolled the silverware tightly up in paper napkins to make little spoon-filled spliffs, Spicoli threw a couple of bills on the bar, hopped from his stool and headed for the door, throwing us a peace sign as he walked by.
“WAIT!” A shrieked, “Pull up a chair!” And–for whatever reason–he did, taking the seat with the sort of guarded curiosity you use when a park ranger asks if you’d like to touch the copperhead he’s been holding.
“So.” she began, slapping his knee like he wasn’t a complete stranger. “Do you like dogs?”
She didn’t start by asking his name, his business, whether or not he’d ever set any children on fire. No, she was most concerned how he felt about domesticated mammals. Excellent.
Spicoli cocked his head a bit, imitating the animal he was being asked about. “Um, yeah, sure.”
“GREAT!” A shouted, clapping her hands. “BECAUSE J-MONEY HAS A DOG!”
She continued to interrogate him for the better part of thirty minutes, asking all of the important questions, like whether he was married (He wasn’t.), whether he had a job (He did. With benefits, he added, perhaps anticipating the next question), and whether he had been to Australia (He had not). We were about to find out whether liked Tom Petty songs, when he sat up and announced that he was getting cold and was going to go grab a change of clothes.
We assumed that he’d decided not to spend any more time in our lives or, quite possibly, had gone to call the authorities, when he knocked on the just-locked door, already back and wearing a pair of blue jeans in less time it took me to wipe the remaining tomato bits off my face.
“Wow, you must be staying close to here!” I said, jumping into the convo for the first time since discovering that neither he nor I had ever been pregnant, another excellent sign as far as our compatibility was concerned.
“Kind of,” he said, shrugging and giving us a blank expression like a carved pumpkin whose candle had been blown out. “My stuff is in my van.”
“Heading to your hotel?” I asked, pleased that I could even follow the conversation at this point since I was pretty sure I’d given myself fetal alcohol syndrome.
“Nope. I live in my van.”
We stared at him. If we’d been in a cartoon, you would’ve heard the sound of a single percussive tinkle as we all blinked in unison.
A spoke first. “Wow.” She rebounded. “Do you have curtains?”
He did not.
And that was when she decided that the night was over.
She turned around to face the half of the restaurant that was shrouded in darkness. “Well. I guess Special Angel isn’t going to refill your pilsner.” In response, another bank of lights went out, followed by the rhythmic click of the back room breakers being turned off.
We all walked out together, unsure of what to do next. We hadn’t anticipated this plot twist, which was passable in a Debra Messing mini-series but not in my life. I don’t have high standards (see: Boyfriend, My Former) but somewhere on my wishlist between ‘two distinct eyebrows’ and ‘aversion to sweater vests‘ is the hope that his permanent residence doesn’t have a dashboard or a cardboard evergreen dangling from the rearview.
I wanted to say something–to ask for his VIN number maybe?–but instead we just waved, returning his peace signs with ones of our own. We started stumbling home carefully, hoping to avoid the koi pond and wondering when it had gotten so cold.
* Again, this ran in June and doesn't reflect an attempt to double dutch The New Boyfriend. I tend to be more monogamous than most tapeworms.