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Turning 46 Gets Weird: Part 2: Pamplona

June 30, 2015

I got home from the spa appointment, feeling relaxed and content, still riding the high from Z’s visit. That had been the best possible birthday present. It was all extra, or “lagniappe” as we say here, from here on out.

I went to Target to return Paul’s shower head gift, which he politely allowed me to turn down, and to pick out some slimming underwear. I laid down for a little while before it was time to shower. I got an e-mail from the Parisian. It was midnight in Paris, technically my birthday, he said. I thanked him for the sweet message and gave him just a hint of what had already occurred, promising details later. I got up to negotiate shower times with Paul.

I put on a purple dress I had found in the back of my closet. Something I had bought at a thrift store but never worn. I asked Paul’s advise on shoes, then ignored him and we moved his car closer to Pamplona.

It was packed. The bar was full with no one I knew. We did our usual routine, standing behind the row of bar stools and I got the bartender’s attention and ordered wine. A couple turned around and told us they were leaving and we could have their chairs so we positioned ourselves for the hand-off.

We talked and laughed with another couple standing behind us who had just come from a bridal shower. Then Sarah showed up with her broken leg. I gave her my seat and Amy walked in, having driven Sarah over. She gave me her gift. “Yeah, pickled okra!” I said.

“It was the weirdest thing on the list,” she said. We put the first of three jars on the bar.

“How’s your day so far?” Amy asked.

“Guess who showed up at my door this morning,” I said.

“Who?”

“Z.”

“Awwww,” she said. Amy’s always had a soft spot for Z. Or for the story of Z.

Slowly and steadily people started arriving and the bar began to fill with Marie-birthday people. Mr. Moon’s Iranian friends came. My other brother showed up and gave me lithium batteries. Some Indian friends showed up, including a young girl who claimed to want to dance on the bar. Let’s call her Cindy. I know its borderline racist to give an Indian girl such a white nickname, but whatever. Cindy had been vying for my attention, of late. She wanted to be a designer and I arranged for her to spend time with Liz a few weeks ago. She and her best friend/crush/older brother-type had brought me some pet fish one evening as a random thank you gift for the photographs I had taken and shared. She was vivacious and outgoing and when I told her I had danced on the bar once (after-hours a long time ago….and ok, once for my birthday, just for a friend) she said she wanted to do it, too. I had every intention of hanging around until after closing and standing with her on the bar, doing some Bollywood moves for a few minutes before leaving.

Pumpkin Patch arrived with a friend and gave me Oliver Sacks’ new memoir and a Japanese waving cat thing. He and his friend made camp at the other end of the bar as I flitted between my family, the Iranians, the Indians and the stream of people arriving.

By then there were only three seats with people who were not part of our party and we obnoxiously plotted to encourage their departure or at least grab their seats when they left. Cindy and her friends were designated Team India and Paul and Amy were Team Whitie, flanking the poor hipsters on either side. I remember thinking that I was being way too obvious. Borderline rude, even and I instinctively looked around for Liz, my Jimney Cricket who usually points this out to me. But she hadn’t arrived yet. Oh well.

I stood by Pumpkin Patch and we observed our unfairly assigned enemies. One of the guys had long, flowing, beautiful, dirty blonde, curly hair. And he loved his hair. He touched it and flung it around with pride. Justifiably so. The girl next to him was classic hipster. She was wearing the uniform. A slightly oversized shirt, cinched in the back with a knot, the tension creating a gap so it showed off her flat, tan, pierced belly. She wore a long flowing skirt, sandals and hair that looked just unkempt enough. Finally they paid their tab and left and Cindy and her friend grabbed two of the seats and I announced Team India as the winners.

We had already had one round of absinthe cocktail shots, toasting “to marriage equality” honoring the Supreme Court ruling on the 26. Cindy said she wanted to try “real absinthe,” with the water fountain thing and the sugar cubes. I didn’t know which one to suggest so she got a menu and I asked Amy to come over and give them some advice.

My former life coach showed up with another pack of #2 pencils and some memo pads. I was touched that she came. This is the woman who cautioned me about using the word, “bitch” too often on facebook. When I put “Bitches Better Come to My Birthday” in the caption of my header image, I wasn’t sure she would approve. So, it was kind of cute that she showed up. We talked about writing and current events until the Indian delegation called me over for a second round of shots.

At some point I was standing by a couple at the far end of the bar, waiting for the bartender’s attention. I looked over and surveyed the crowd. The whole damned bar was full of people who were there just for me. It was a little unbelievable and I felt like a very lucky person. I jokingly welcomed the couple to my party. They laughed. They were from Biloxi. “Get out?” I said. “I used to live in Ocean Springs. I was the editor of the little paper there for a while and I worked at the City of D.”

“You know M.J. is in jail now, right?”

“What?” I said laughing. I remembered my old boss, a mild-mannered, up and coming local politician with republican talking points, a big house and a perfect family with three blonde little girls, their portrait, all dressed in white in his office. And now he’s in a cell somewhere. Something about Katrina-money fraud.

“How old are you?” the woman asked.

“46”

“No,” she exclaimed.

“I’m afraid so,” I said. She looked about 10 years older than me.

“I’m 46,” she said.

Uhhh, I don’t know what to tell you, babe, I imagined myself saying.

Cindy, who had seemed to me at first like a pleasantly, unusually outgoing Indian girl, was turning into that drunk girl at the bar. She clearly had too much to drink and her friend was watching over her like a hawk. She hugged me and told me I was so beautiful and said she wanted me to be her adopted mother. I went along with it, joking with her and laughing but growing increasingly concerned about her state of drunkenness and loss of inhibitions. I was relieved she was moving to Boston in a couple of days. This could get to be a problem.

They picked out an absinthe drink and ordered four, including one for me and watched as the bartender dripped the water over the sugar cubes. We practically downed the horrible tasting drink.

My son, Shawn had shown up earlier with his best friend from Mississippi. When I looked over at the other end of the bar he was talking to the Iranians, animating with his hands. Oh God, I thought, What is he telling them? I walked over and interrupted him saying, “Whatever he said, it’s not true.”

“He’s been saying good things about you,” one of them said. I looked at Shawn like he was an alien.

I made them laugh explaining Shawn’s lifetime lack of respect for rules and his contrasting sense of injustice over the breaking of rules on the road. Shawn will yell at someone who is jay-walking or not using their turn signal like they just committed murder.

I went back to Pumpkin Patch, making sure he was enjoying himself.

“Can we make out later?” he asked, his face close to mine.

“Maybe,” I teased.

Later, I got Shawn to come over to Pumpkin Patch to tell his Kerri/ Kelly story. Which can’t possibly translate in writing but involves Shawn telling a Vietnamese friend that a girl’s name is Kerri when it’s actually Kelly and watching him say those two names exactly the same way. With Shawn’s seasoned, fake Asian accent, honed by years with his grandmother and other first generation-Asian friends, it’s pretty damned funny. And yes, a little racist.

Finally, Paul, Amy and Liz said they thought it was time to go to the Moon and everyone starting paying their tabs. I broke it to Cindy that there would be no dancing on the bar. There were too many people still there and she was in no shape to dance on a bar in heels. And honestly, it was partly because of the staff. They weren’t the cool, crazy group that used to be there only a year or so ago. If James and Katie had been bar tending and Brendon managing, we might have ended up on the bar after all. But the vibe wasn’t right.

When the bartender handed me the bill he leaned in and said, “They told me theirs was on your tab,” gesturing to my Indian delegation. “Oh, shit,” I said. I looked at the bill. It was $250. “Ok,” I said and pulled out my phone to move some money around so my card wouldn’t be declined. “Are you sure you want to pay for it?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t have a choice at the moment,” I said looking over at drunk Cindy becoming more animated and less in control by the minute.

In their defense, it is customary in Indian culture for a host to lavishly treat their guests, especially on one’s birthday. I’m sure they just assumed that was understood. Plus, it’s only money. So I spent some money on my birthday. It was worth it.

I told them we were going to the Blue Moon and they were welcomed to join us but it there was a $10 cover.

“Each?” Cindy asked in disbelief.

“Yes, each.” I said to her as she put her arms around me. I knew they wouldn’t come. I thanked them for coming and said goodnight and we headed to the Moon.

Pumpkin Patch assured me he was going, too.

“Come find me,” I texted him.

……..to be continued

 

 

 

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