I kept fiddling with my wine glass, nervously staring at the crack in it, but not particularly caring. When I had first arrived, I thought the crack in the glass was a charming detail to the moment. I was in a hole-in-the-wall after-hours jazz club, a tiny, cramped, elongated room with incredibly low ceilings and maybe a little too much lighting. I was told that this is where popular jazz artists used to come after performing. The crowd was an interesting assortment of age, style, and skin color. Wine was served in single-serving bottles and cracked glasses. Everything had a sensory implication - the music, the lighting, the glasses, and each person that walked by. I couldn't help but feel immersed, every nerve ending abuzz. The sun would be up in less than 3 hours.
How did I end up here? I glanced up as I sensed someone in front of me. I shook my head, Yes, that seat is taken. I think. I went over the night in my mind. We had gotten out of work early - very early, around 3:30 p.m. And as most lawyers, and all young lawyers, are wont to do, we scooted off to happy hour. Just another Friday night. This was a bigger group, with the same core cast of characters. We started at one bar; pitchers coming two at a time, never empty, plastic cups littered around the table, tables cast aside and chairs gathered into groups. We moved to the next bar, sitting outside and crammed onto three benches around one table. Beers so large that I could not drink from it without using two hands.
At both bars, I ended up sitting next to a colleague to whom I had not previously spoken, but had introduced myself some time ago. He's one of those coworkers that you know everyone in the group noticed when he walked into the room on the first day. (And, if you're me, the second day, and third, and fourth, etc...) There are always a few people that you know everyone admires, right? The attractive, intelligent, well-spoken, self-assured ones that dress really nicely and are fun to talk to. There are always a few in every group. This was one in particular with whom I was smitten. I hung onto his every word. His voice was smooth, assured, and entrancing.
At the first bar, we chatted easily, talking about ourselves, and our backgrounds, bad movies, baseball, etc. I was delighted to speak to him; he was every bit as fun to hang out with as I had hoped. I was happy to know that I'd be spending an indefinite number of years working alongside him. He lived in a neighborhood that I haven't had the chance to explore yet, and he offered to show me around. At the second bar, I didn't speak to him as much. He told me I wasn't going to be able to finish my beer. Stated as easily and confidently as fact, like an observation about the weather. He told me I wouldn't go to his neighborhood. Another challenge. He reminded me about visiting his neighborhood. Next weekend, we'll... is what he said. A few times, dropped in conversation. Next weekend, we'll...
And, as most bad ideas go, we decided to leave the bar and head to a colleague's apartment for more drinking. By this time, our numbers had dropped dramatically and it was just the few of us left. We sat on the rooftop, looking out over parts of the city, the skyline dotted with lights and some gritty dirty buildings. It was not until the others had gone in shivering, and we remained outside drinking, talking, and it was not until he asked me about myself, we discussed our families, how we got where we are, what we think about what's next... that I started wonder. I'm enamored with him, but never thought twice about it. Who wouldn't be? But if he might be interested in me, that's a whole different ballgame. I quickly pushed the thought out of my head. Are you crazy? He's polite, and interesting, and friendly. That's it. Stop imagining things that aren't true.
My thoughts were interrupted by yet another person trying to sit in the stool across from me. The older man who had first asked to sit there indicated to the other man that yes, the seat was taken. The older man set his drink in front of it, and stood behind it, so as to prevent others from sitting. I smiled at him and thanked him. You can go ahead and sit there. I'm not sure when he's coming back, and he's been gone long enough. Well where did he go? He went to talk to another girl. And that sick feeling in my stomach came back, that feeling of maybe I made this all up, but even worse, I sensed that I hadn't made it up, but that in the end, he decided that he wasn't really interested in me any longer.
Could I have made this up? When we finally came inside off the roof to join the others, I was still certain about nothing. He had hinted a few times about possibly going to his neighborhood tonight for another drink. Of course, issued as a challenge. You won't go. I, foolishly, always respond as predicted to such things. Of course I'll go! I'm totally up for it. But I'm still wearing my suit, and carrying my work bag, and I feel like an asshole going to such a hip neighborhood looking like this. Don't worry, no one will even notice, he assured me.
He mentioned it to some others as well, and they like me gave lip service to the idea of moving along, but as time progressed, it became clear that we weren't really going to relocate again. By this time we had been drinking for at least 7 hours. At one point, he and I made eye contact across the room. I can't remember exactly what he mouthed to me, but it was something along the lines of, 'If you're up for it, then I'm up for it.' Or, If you're in, then I'm in. Even though I wasn't certain what exactly he was talking about, I nodded. Whatever it was he was talking about, I was totally in.
Another coworker sitting next to me, the near-miss from last Friday, murmured to me. I turned to him, and saw him looking over at the other guy. Clearly Near-Miss had seen it as well. NM said, You're totally going home with him aren't you. You are so going to hook up. NM kept looking over at the other guy. I tried to keep my cool and looked directly at NM the entire time. Don't let him know I'm talking about him. No, I'm not going home with him. What are you talking about? Damn, I wish. NM said, he wants to. I can tell. After making what I thought were the appropriate denials of any knowledge of what was going on, NM stopped pushing it. Inside, I was screaming, Yes! I think so too! I'm not making this up! There is something happening here! I am not crazy! Even another guy was able to pick up on this! And all guys are legally mentally retarded when it comes to things like this! (As an aside, it doesn't mean you aren't eligible for execution when you fuck something up, like a date or a relationship.)
I decided to leave, and I was banking on the fact that he will leave with me.
to be continued...