Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Blame Javier

I slept in late on Friday because I had nothing else to do. That’s more or less my explanation for everything. I called my ardent supporters at 26 Street Color Labs to tell them I’d be in Monday to get the chromes I should have gotten immediately. But it was only for a job. I had better things to worry about, like my wounded soul [sic].

Kerry had canceled our date, and it was a blow. It was a date that never should have been conceived of to begin with, and when it had been, it had given me hope. I thought maybe I had underrated Kerry, myself, and the race of man. Then she had canceled, and I realized that in fact, once again, I was right about everything. I was not going to get a piece of that.

However, she had suggested that she felt bad about the cancellation, and that we should reschedule. This could have been just cover. Or it could have been true. I had to decide which of these interpretations I would respond to. In the hungover cocoon of my bedclothes, I grasped the phone which would dial her number. I decided to give her one more chance. I would take her at face value: I would propose that we get together again the following Saturday. I was even prepared to consider, if she were not available, the Saturday after that. All without thinking less of her for it. That was how far I was willing to meet her halfway. I dialed her number.

It rang once. I reshuffled phrases in my head for use in the clear, concise message I would leave. It rang twice. I had second thoughts about allowing her such control over me after all, but then reconsidered. It rang three times, and I mentally ran through my oratory. But instead of an answering machine message, I heard, “Hello?”

I said, “Kerry?”

The voice, which didn’t sound like Kerry’s, said, “No, this is Erica.”

I said, “Oh!”

She said, “I’m Kerry’s roommate.”

I said, “I know who you are, we —”

“Oh, because a lot of Kerry’s friends, or the people she knows, they don’t know me, and —”

“This is Jack Task. We’ve met.”

She paused for a second, considering that. “Yes,” she said, “Jack. How are you?”

“Well, I’m fine, uh, actually. How are you?”

“Oh, I’m okay, I guess, thanks. Did you want me to take a message for Kerry? Or do you want to just call back and I’ll let the machine get it? She’s away for the weekend, you know.”

“Yes, I do know,” I said, and I thought about what I had wanted to say to Kerry, and about Erica sitting in her room listening to it, precisely targeted direct to the wrong ear. “Well, I guess I don’t have a message. I was just returning her call.”

“She had to leave town suddenly,” Erica said again.

“Yes, she told me,” I said.

“Meeting in San Francisco,” Erica said.

“So I understand,” I said.

“Did you two have plans?” she asked.

“I was just returning her call,” I said.

“Because if you had plans, obviously, well, I’m sorry to say she’s left town unexpectedly.”

“It’s not your fault,” I said. There was a pause while I tried to figure out what was happening.

“Thanks,” she said.

“Erica,” I said, “are you available tonight?”

“Tonight?” she said. “Friday night?”

“Yeah, tonight. It’s Friday.”

“Well,” she said, and I pictured her looking around their apartment, “actually. This particular Friday I happen to be available.”

“Because I was thinking that maybe —”

“Most Fridays I’m not available,” she said. “This Friday happens to be convenient for me because —”

“I thought that, since you’re free, we could —”

“— because this Friday I happen to have no friends at all because I’m very unpopular due to the fact that no one likes me. What did you want to do?”

“Should we get dinner?”

“I can be ready in ten minutes. What time?”

I looked at my watch. It was three in the afternoon. “How about we meet at Café Ombre? At eight o’clock?”

She said, “All right, that’s fine. I don’t know if you remember, I’m a tall blonde —”

“I remember. I look forward to seeing you, Erica.”

“Great. Okay, great. See you then.”

I went back to bed. At around six I wandered into the bathroom and reconstructed myself by chipping away everything that didn’t look like a gigolo. I had a couple of stiff ones and trudged out across town to that West Village enchanted bistro, Café Ombre, where I have never had a date that didn’t end in tragic, Lake District lovemaking. For a moment, on the M8 bus, I was struck with remorse that I was leading Erica down the garden path. I had no right to take her to dinner, especially not at a romantic spot where she was guaranteed to agree to give it up. This was between me and Kerry. Erica was an innocent. The fact that she had answered the phone should not have made her party to the conflict.

But then again, in any court of justice, the fact that she was a blonde with big tits made her fair game. I refrained from asking the driver of the M8 bus to turn back. I was soon at the café, where I spoke to Javier, a man whose job was equivalent to that of the owner but without the ownership that would entail, nor even the salary level of a manager. He seemed to be not so much a manager as the waiter elected from their number to deal with the non-waiters. He was my friend. He gave me the You Will Get Laid table, a leather booth behind some leafy plants far away from the other tables but close to the bathrooms, so your date couldn’t go hide in them with someone else without your knowing it.

Javier brought me, personally, my usual fine Russian vodka in locally available glassware. I had only taken a sip of it when Javier brought me the next course: Erica looking flushed from the cold, beaming, struggling out of her coat with his help. He gave me a broad stage wink, and took off with the coat, another prevention against your date leaving without your permission, and I rose to give Erica a proper greeting with a chaste peck on the cheek involving an unavoidable press against her chest. We sat in the booth. She looked happy so far.

“Thanks for meeting me tonight, Erica,” I said.

She beamed and said, “It’s my pleasure, Jack. I’m just happy to get out of the house for a change.”

I considered for a moment her outfit, which must have been witty when you considered its brevity. Red heels, tan skirt, and a kind of orange tube top normally worn when it is not winter and you not are a non-hooker. It struck me how sad it was that a girl whom nobody invited out wouldn’t have appropriate date clothing, but would still have hooker tube tops. (I was in a blazer, slacks, and a collarless shirt — all black. Do you approve?) Anyway, she looked pretty hot.

Javier’s assigned waitstaff professional took her cocktail order — vodka Gimlet; what does that mean? We considered the menu and I ordered a professional bottle of wine. It all went off quite well, with the leafy plant swishing importantly whenever the next course was brought or someone had to go to the bathroom. Erica and I gazed into each other’s eyes for our own separate reasons, and finally I got the check and paid it with the money that I get from working. Now we know why I bother.

At my signal her coat was returned and we stepped out into the night, standing on the street corner for one final negotiation.

“Thank you so much for the wonderful —”

“How about one more drink?” I asked.

“Well, sure, all right, where do you —”

“How about your place?”

“Sure, I have some drinks,” she said. “We can go to my place for a drink. That’s no problem!”

“Let’s do that,” I said. She smiled at me, and I felt bad, but I remembered that tube top under her honest winter coat. Wasn’t she just as much to blame as Javier?

by Jack, February 2, 2005 3:50 PM | More from Drinking & Women | More from Erica | More from Kerry

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shimamoto said:

Jack, this girl is a perfect match.

And only you can make "take her at face value" sound dirty. You naughty man.

Jack Author Profile Page said:

That's a good point. It only sounds dirty because you've read the denouement. Or just because everything I say is dirty.

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