Hi. I'm back, sort of. If you aren't on the notify list, please e-mail me for details at elizabeyth:at:gmail:dot:com.
I've missed you.
As I have apparently turned into an incredibly vain person since you last heard from me, this entry is available as an audio file here. This and future entries will also be available as a podcast. You can subscribe directly by clicking on the "Advanced" tab in iTunes, selecting "Subscribe to Podcast..." and entering http://www.abeyance.net/podcast/abeyance.rss in the URL box. It will be available through iTunes itself, eventually. I think. If I did it right.)
So there was this guy. I met him through Eharmony, he was an actor, writer, standup, and had a day job at a government bureaucracy. His profile was very funny and very flirty. We talked on the phone every night for about two weeks, but only in short bursts, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, and never about anything very serious. Eventually he asks to meet me. He lives in Baltimore, and I offer to go there the next Saturday afternoon. We decide to meet for lunch at 2:00, so no one has to get up early, at the California Pizza Kitchen on the Inner Harbor, right on the water.
I arrive in Baltimore at about 1:30. I find parking that I believe to be reasonably close to the restaurant, though of course it will be $16 if I am there for more than 2.5 hours, but what can I do, it's a strange city and I'm sure that if I practice the kind of creative parking I do in DC, I'd get towed, so I suck it up, because it occurs to me that $16 would be a small price to pay for the possibility of a really good date.
I arrive at the restaurant, and he walks up about five minutes later. He looks nothing like his picture, but he does have that look of someone who's looking for someone they've never actually seen before, so I say "Dave?" and he says "Hey!" and we shake hands.
He puts his name in at the front and then asks if I want to wait outside (it goes right out on the water) and I say sure and as soon as we step outside he lights a cigarette. (In one of our previous conversations, he mentioned that he had not smoked for three days, and I think he intentionally left me with the impression that he was only a one or two cigarette at night kind of smoker, which I have been at times in my life, so that wouldn't have bothered me, but I don't think that was the case.)
The chatting is going fairly well, no big lapses in the conversation, he is sporadically funny. We go in and sit down. An extremely tall, extremely beautiful, extremely gay waiter comes to take our drink order. I say, "Could I have a lemonade, please?"
Dave says, "Shot of Jack, Coke back."
The waiter and I give him essentially the same look, which is, "Huh?" This is the CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN, not some local dive bar. The waiter says, "I'm sorry?"
Dave gets a little patronizing, like he is trying to be funny but not really. He speaks very slowly. "A shot of Jack" (motioning with his hand to indicate a small drink), "and a Coke back" (motioning with his hand to indicate a large drink).
The waiter smiles much too sweetly and says, "Is Pepsi okay?"
Dave sighs, and says yes, and the waiter leaves, and I say "Boy, that whole snappy lingo ordering thing didn't work out too well, did it!" Yay me.
(Current score: -3. Minus one for the cigarette, minus one for the SHOT, minus one for being snotty to the beautiful tall gay waiter.)
The waiter comes back with the drinks and asks what we want to eat. I say, "I'll have the BLT pizza on honey wheat."
Dave says, "I'm going to start with the smashed pea and barley soup."
The waiter says, "We don't have it."
Dave stares at him for a full two seconds and then says, "What?"
The waiter says, "Actually, they screwed up the recipe at the place where they prepare it and we didn't get a shipment this week. I'm really sorry about that."
Dave stares at him another two seconds and then says, in the exact same intonation as before, "What?"
Now the waiter looks at me for help, but all I can do is smile, and possibly roll my eyes, just a little. The waiter asks Dave if he'd like something else. Dave's all flustered now. "Yeah, but I need a minute. In the meantime, bring me another shot, but then cut me off."
(Current score: -5. Minus two for the second shot.)
I watch him look at the menu. He keeps sighing, putting his head in his hand, being ridiculously dramatic about the whole thing. Finally, I say, in the manner of a mother speaking to a petulant child, "Do you want to leave?"
He looks up at me and says, "Actually, I have to be honest with you, I really do, but that would be kind of rude, wouldn't it, and I can tell by your face that you want to stay."
I say, "Yes, I actually do want this pizza, if that's okay with you."
(Current score: -6. Minus one for having a hissy fit over soup.)
He finally decides on a salad and a pizza, the waiter returns with his (second) shot, Dave tells him to take my order first and the waiter says, "I already have her order, a BLT on honey wheat," and he winks at me.
I suddenly decide that I love the waiter.
Despite the two shots, or perhaps because of them, the conversation continues to be fine, he continues to be randomly funny. He's telling me about his nieces, and the conversation turns toward children in general. I make a joke about how I'm not sure that I really want them because I feel like I've been lucky to keep my cat alive this long. Turning on a dime, he suddenly gets all serious and says that that's really important to him, he needs to be a father, he must have little ones around, and it's almost like he's ready to get up and walk out right at that moment. I simply say that based on what I've observed in my life, I need to make sure I have a strong relationship with my husband before I can start thinking about having children. He just keeps saying that he really wants to be a father, over, and over, and over again. I finally say something like "How about we just get through lunch first?"
We move on to other things.
We're probably halfway through the meal when out of nowhere he grabs the elbow of a waitress walking by and asks to see the manager. "There's no problem," he says, "I would just like to talk to the manager."
I suddenly find myself wanting nothing more than to slide under the table and disapper into the floor.
The manager comes over. She is obviously very busy, very harried. At the point when she walks up to the table, Dave is chewing, and he keeps making motions for her to hold on, holding his hand in front of his mouth, holding up one finger, again like he is trying to be funny by doing it over and over again. At one point he starts faking sign language, but clearly SHE IS VERY BUSY and doesn't have time for this shit so for the love of God just swallow and say what you want to say.
He says the food is great and the waiter is great and everything's great but he's disappointed about there being no soup. She says the same thing as the waiter, which is that something happened when they were preparing it at the regional kitchen and they didn't get any that week. He says, "Okay, two things then. First, you have a cookbook up at the front, can I see a copy of that?" and she says sure. "Second, you know how you can make it up to me? With a free shot!" and gives her a big smile as he holds up his empty shot glass.
Now, I can't help myself. I say, "No, no, he's just kidding, it's not your fault you don't have the soup, you don't owe us anything." She smiles at me and leaves.
(Current score: -10. Minus four for asking for a FREE SHOT to make up for not having any soup.)
She comes back a few minutes later with the cookbook. He looks up the recipe for the soup and says something about how easy it is and that he'd have no problem making it himself. By chance, she walks by our table again, and he stops her again, this time to ask her for a pen. She's obviously trying not to actually stop at the table and hands him the pen pretty much as she walks by. He calls after her, and when she turns back around, he asks for... wait for it... a piece of paper.
Forget melting into the floor. Now, I just want to DIE.
The manager looks at him with wide eyes. She says, "You can't copy the recipe out of the book. Buy the book if you want to, but you can't just copy the recipe."
I really wanted to find a way to tell her that I was on a first date with this tool so she would know that (a) I shared her pain and (b) I was not a regular part of his life.
(Current score: -1000. Minus 990 for asking the MANAGER for a PEN and a PIECE OF PAPER.)
At the end of the meal, despite his previous admonition to the waiter to cut him off, he orders a third shot (for dessert, I suppose) and puts his credit card in the check wallet. I ask him if I can give him money, and being the gentleman that he obviously is, he says, "Sure."
We pay the check and leave.
I have to tell you, I honestly don't know why I didn't walk away at this point. I guess the absurdity of what had just transpired hadn't fully hit me yet, and it was a beautiful day, and we were at the inner harbor in Baltimore, and I had driven an hour to get there, and after all, what do I know, maybe it is perfectly NORMAL for someone to have THREE SHOTS during a FIRST. DATE. LUNCH.
So I stay.
We walk around the harbor for about 30 minutes. He is smoking for approximately 29 of these minutes, and we talk about him/his life/his opinions for approximately 28 of these minutes.
We go into the Barnes & Noble because he is looking for a DVD for his roommate. He talks to everyone we walk by, answering questions he overhears one person ask of the person they're actually with. I follow him, offering glances of apology to everyone whose conversations he is interrupting.
He finds the DVD and tells the clerk how happy he is with the price because usually their stuff is way overpriced which is why he doesn't usually shop there. We take it downstairs to get it gift wrapped.
Finally we walk back outside and he says, "Why sure, you can buy me a drink!"
I say, "I'm sorry?"
He laughs, "Oh, you know, I thought I heard you offer to buy me a drink."
I say, "No, you really didn't."
(Current score: -1,000,000 for either being an alcoholic and not telling me, or for finding me such hideous company that he has to be drunk to get through two hours in my presence.)
We find ourselves at the Hard Rock Cafe. There's an outdoor section. He says, "Do you want to sit for a little while?" I say fine, but that I have to run inside to the ladies' room. He says fine, he'll just go in and sit at the bar. I say fine, because it's a beautiful day outside and why would we possibly want to sit in the fresh air with a view of this gorgeous harbor when we could be sitting inside the dark smoky bar of a chain restaurant that hasn't been cool since 1987.
I go downstairs to the ladies room, trying to convince myself that this whole date really has been as ridiculous as it seems to me. There are three or four other women in there, and as I'm drying my hands, I say, "Can I just ask you girls a question? I'm on a first date with a guy who had three shots of Jack Daniels during lunch and is upstairs right now probably having a fourth. It's okay if I don't go out with him again, right?" They all reply with "Hell, yes!" or some variation thereof. One of them pats me on the shoulder in sympathy.
I go upstairs and he is indeed sitting there with his shot and his "coke back." He does not ask me if I want anything, but I order a Sprite anyway. He does his shot and starts telling me about this independent movie he just finished making. We watch people who are having birthdays stand on the bar with drinks that have candles in them while he tells me that his character's small penis is apparently an important plot point, though I have to be honest, by this point, I had sort of stopped listening to him.
He gets the check and pays for the Sprite in what I can only assume is a moment of accidental drunken chivalry.
We walk back outside and without saying anything, I just start walking in the direction of my parking garage. He says, "Look, I really like you, but it seems like we want different things."
I say, "I totally agree."
He says, "I feel really bad, though. I think you're a really cool person."
All I know is that I need to make sure that he doesn't go away from this thinking that he's the rejector and I'm the rejected. I say, "Please, do not feel bad in any way. It's totally okay. We are not right for each other."
He says, "I know, but I'm Jewish, I have to feel guilty."
I literally stop walking, look him right in the eye, and say, "Why would you feel guilty? We are OBVIOUSLY" (big emphasis on "obviously") "...not a good match."
He then says something about how we should keep in touch anyway, to call him if I ever come back to Baltimore, and he'll call me if he comes to DC, and I'm all, sure, fine, whatever. He insists that I hug him goodbye and hangs on a little too long, perhaps copping a chest feel, but who knows. I walk back to my car and as soon as I close the door, I break into hysterical laughter. It's all I can do. For the entire ride back to DC, I laugh, and say out loud, over and over, to every car I pass on the highway:
"He had four shots of Jack Daniels."