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Adventures in Singledom: Part I: One Saturday Night

July 3, 2012

Saturday Night

That night turned out to be one of those filled with experiences enough to chew on for weeks. It was Art Walk Saturday, the once a month event when all the downtown galleries and businesses open their doors for art shows. I was headed out to an event at the arts center, knowing that my (ex) husband would probably show up. I wanted to see him. We had not run into each since we had the emotional face-to-face meeting a few weeks ago, our first since filing for divorce some 7 months ago. It had been weird, but cathartic and I was anxious to test out our new-found amiability in person. I dressed up. I wore a skirt. I curled my hair. My objective was to see him, talk to him and flirt with him. (See Dangerous Hope)

Then there was Kay, my sort-of estranged friend who has been relentlessly angling for my attention of late. She called and texted me several times that day asking if I was going to be out. I finally relented and replied that yes, I would be there. I saw her right away at the arts center. We chatted a bit and caught up. I confessed that I was nervous with anticipation at the thought of seeing my (ex) husband. And then there he was, walking on the sidewalk, fumbling with a large umbrella. He pushed opened the heavy glass door and my heart skipped a beat. He was dressed differently. Trendy. Metro-sexual. Let him come to you, I told myself. He did. We exchanged pleasantries and hugged. He said hello to Kay and we chatted for a minute. He excused himself to go to the restroom and we mingled separately throughout the sparse gathering. We were both upstairs at a party in the loft when I lost sight of him. I was standing next to Kay and a new acquaintance when I rudely interrupted the conversation and said,

“I’m sorry. I just broke the first rule of stalking. I lost my target.”

To which Kay said, “No, the first rule of stalking is: Don’t admit that you’re stalking.”

“Fine,” I said, “I broke two rules of stalking. I gotta go.”

I left them and looked downstairs. I spotted him standing at the bar with a frumpy-looking woman. I boldly walked across the empty lobby and joined them. He introduced her to me. She and I talked fashion and shopping in the way that women have of bonding over such things without needing to know each other at all. I asked him what he was drinking. He gave me a taste.

“Tastes like ‘sex on the beach,’ if I remember correctly,” I observed. Perhaps sensing some chemistry between us, the frumpy woman seemed overcome with third-wheel-ness and excused herself. We stood next to each other against a wall and talked. We discussed our son, the default and tense topic that I usually try to change. I told him he looked good and teased him about the new clothes. He admitted to having help picking them out and said he didn’t like the shirt, hence the jacket covering it up.

“Oh yeah, who helped you?” I asked.

“That’s a trick question,” he answered.

Shit! I thought to myself. He’s seeing someone. Someone is trying to change him or he’s trying to change for someone. I kept my cool and said simply,

“Fair enough,” and changed the subject. I was surprised by how long he stayed and talked with me, especially given the number of business associates there at the party upstairs. I knew he was there to network and show his support.

“Is this okay?” I asked. “You can excuse yourself if you’re uncomfortable.” He stayed. I noticed how much he was drinking and asked if he had driven there. He had, of course.

“My apartment is a couple of blocks away if you need a place to crash,” I joked.

“That was smooth,” he replied. We stood there together and chatted for about half an hour. Parting company, we hugged and I said I missed him. He said he missed me too.

“I love you,” I said as I hugged him and told him that if he ever wanted to see me, all he had to do was call.

Then I went into the bathroom. Kay followed. I cried in the stall. I just needed to release the emotions I was feeling. He really did look good. Skinny, even. And those damned black-framed glasses that make him look so sexy. The clothes might have been a bit over the top. They looked good on him but they were so far out of character that it gave him a recently-divorced-mid-life-crisis look. Overall a successful interaction and another reminder that I’m still incredibly attracted to him and still love him.

Kay and I walked out into the pink, dusk-lit street and started walking towards the other galleries. As we walked along Jefferson Street, our umbrellas protecting us from the steady drizzle, we stepped easily back into the old roles we used to have a decade ago when we were close friends. My emotions were heightened and I was expressing them with silliness and amplitude.

“I’m so fucked, Kay,” I exclaimed. “I’m still in love with him. God help me. What am I going to do?” We laughed together at the absurdity of it all. This continued for a block or so as we kept up the pretense of going to look at art. Until we said, “screw it” and turned around to head to Pamplona’s, where we had promised to meet some friends later.

It was a busy night there and the bar was full. I stood at the corner and ordered us a couple of reds while Kay trolled for an empty spot. She quickly acquired two seats and we settled in and chatted with the bartenders and the other guests. Kay ordered oysters and we drank and socialized for a while. As the night wore on the crowd increased, as it is want to do on a Saturday night. Patrons were standing 2 or 3 deep behind the bar chairs. A beautiful, tall woman came up just behind me, trying to get a bartender’s attention. I raised my arm to James and signaled that she needed some attention. James proceeded to give me the meanest, dirtiest look I’ve ever seen, a look that rivaled his sexy, flirty glances in its intensity, signally clearly to me that I had committed some horrible sin. As I was trying to catch his eye and discern what crime I had committed, two men, one very tall and one very short lingered behind Kay and I. The tall one asked James for some paper and a pen. James was obviously swamped but I knew him well enough to know that he would never turn away such a request. As annoyed as he might have been by the request, he would never break from the gentlemanly demeanor he always projected when behind the bar. I had a little notebook and pen in my purse so I fished it out and turned around to look for the guy who had requested it. It took me a minute to realize he was right behind me.

“Here you go,” I said and handed him the notebook and pen. He thanked me, wrote something down, tore it out and returned it to me. James, seeing this gesture called out above the noise of the crowd,

“Thanks, Marie.”

“Oh, does that get me out of the doghouse?” I asked, gesturing my arms out and making a bit of a show, as I am want to do after a few glasses of wine.

“No,” he replied with a teasing but chastising look. The recipient of the paper then turned his attention my way. He was very tall, cute, and foreign. Names were exchanged. He was a doctor from Syria. He was quick to point out that he was Catholic and not Muslim (not that it mattered to me).

“Oh,” I said, “I’m a recovering Catholic as well.” He laughed. He was impressed that I knew where Syria was, though the violent turmoil going on there now is in the news every day.

“Most people don’t know where that is,” he claimed. We talked about world news and Middle East politics. I mentioned a story I had just heard on NPR and was trying to remember a quote by Thomas Friedman about Israel and Palestine. He knew the quote and finished it for me. “I’ve been in this country for 9 years,” he said.

“I’ve been in the country for 43 years,” I countered. The obligatory you-don’t-look-that-old conversation that accompanies all my new acquaintances ensued. At some point the short friend joined in the conversation and said something odd that I can’t remember but elicited this quip from me as I looked up at Mr. Syrian doctor,

“Is this your wingman? ’cause he needs work.” They laughed. We were knee deep in a discussion when Mr. Wingman said, “They have a table for us.” I said to Mr. Syria, “Oh, if you need to go, go right ahead.” He asked for my number. I gave him my card, as I have done dozens of times with new acquaintances. They went off to their table and I went back to the company at the bar.

I noticed Mike sitting at the other end of the L-shaped bar, in his usual spot drinking absinthe. A few nights earlier I had enjoyed a nice, long conversation with him at that very spot. We know each other casually from mutual friends and hang-outs from years ago when I lived here before but that night had been the first time we had actually talked one on one for any length of time. I don’t know if there is any real chemistry there but I like him. So, I decided to go over and say hello again. I didn’t want him to get the impression that I was ignoring him because it was a busy night and I was socializing with others. I was standing there talking to him when I got a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there was Mr. Tall-Drink-of-Water from Syria. He invited me to join him at a restaurant in River Ranch. I thought to myself: First of all, how rude to get my attention away from the person I’m talking to and secondly, I’m not going anywhere with a perfect stranger.” I politely say, “No, I’ve had a lot to drink and I don’t want to drive anywhere. He suggested something about a taxi and I decline again saying,

“Perhaps another time.” I returned to my conversation with Mike and then headed back to Kay’s side of the bar.

Other friends show up and we were having a really good time when the texts began.

“Hi, it’s so and so. Can I use your French maiden name? I just left Pamplona to Bonefish. My ‘friend’ is not with me.” I ignore this text for a while then reply,

“French name is fine. I’m still at Pamplona’s.”

“Do you plan to leave Pamplona so we can have wine somewhere,” he texted back. I look at this and think, What the hell? What is with this guy? I’m not going anywhere! Later on he texted,

“Still at Pamplona’s?”

“For now,” I reply. Around midnight he texted, “Wine Loft.” I see this and turn to the people around me and ask, “Where’s the Wine Loft?” In River Ranch is the answer. “I’m not going to River Ranch! This guy is crazy.”

Meanwhile, Kay is getting very drunk, more drunk than I’ve ever seen her and she’s starting to get a bit out of control. Mike has moved over to our side of the bar and Kay keeps insisting that he’s interested in me. She takes it upon herself to call him over closer to us and to my horror proceeds to point out to each of us why we should go out together.

“She’s a great person,” she says to Mike while putting her hand on my shoulder. “And he’s a really cool guy,” she says to me with that actress face that only Kay can muster. “You two should really go out.”

Oh God! What is she doing? I ask myself.

“Shut it down, Kay,” I say out loud. What could be more of a chemistry killer than a third person saying to two people that they should be interested in each other? She belligerently continued with this bizarre line of conversation despite my efforts to get her to stop. I get so embarrassed that I excuse myself and go outside for a minute. When I come back inside I notice that the whole place has thinned out and we are among the last of the stragglers. Clearly it’s time to go home. I had walked the two blocks from my apartment but Kay had driven and I was worried about how she would make it home. She was clearly in no state to drive. Mike offeres to drive us both home. I thank him and accept the offer. Before I know it, Kay is on the phone saying to someone, “Can you come and pick me up?”

“What are you doing?” I ask, “Who are you calling?”

“George,” she says.

“Fuck no!” I interject. George is Kay’s off-again, on-again, dysfunctional whatever and my former roommate (see A Room With A View) and all around douche.

“Why did you call him,” I ask, “Mike offered to drive us home!” I go to the restroom and when I walk back out, Kay has vanished. Mike is sitting alone at the bar and James wis cleaning up. “Some guy showed up to take her home. He looked okay, so I let her go,” James says. Mike, quiet, calm, understated Mike observes, “As soon as he walked in, Kay suddenly got a lot drunker.”

“Really?” I ask.

“Yeah her head fell over and he had to carry her out.” James confirms this little display of affectation. What a piece of work, I think. Now I remember why I don’t hang out with her anymore. So Mike and I step out onto the sidewalk and there they are, just outside the door. George, looking typically angry and disgruntled with his disheveled, hippy look and the ubiquitous, Tibetan prayer beads conspicuously hanging around his neck, is holding Kay up and she looks semi-conscious.

“What happened?!” George spits out at me. “Did she TAKE something?!” I just stand there next to Mike, stunned and embarrassed.

“And by the way,” George continues, “I heard what you said on the phone!” I am so taken aback by the display before me and embarrassed that this scene is playing out in front of Mike that I don’t know what to say. After a few seconds I say,

“Well, George, I’ve had a lot to drink myself.” I should have gone off on him and told him to go fuck himself and the horse he rode in on but I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse. He carries Kay to his truck and Mike and I walk to his car. Just as George is putting Kay into the passenger seat he yells out across the street in his classic sarcastic, angry voice,

“And thanks a lot for the help!” Buddhist, my ass! What an asshole! Mike drives me home. I thank him and apologize for Kay’s behavior.

Inside, I take off my clothes and fall into bed. It’s 1:40am. Then I get another text from Mr. Syrian doctor,

“Pamplona can’t be open any longer. Are you still there?” What is it with this guy, I wonder. Then, “It is closed.” This guy is weird, I think as I fall asleep. What a night.

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From → Rantings

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