Monday, June 21, 2004

The Cure for the Lead Balloon...

It wasn't one of those kisses where you're wondering, "Should I? Should I? Does she want me to? Should I?" That happens to me all too often... or rarely.... whatever, it happens. But not this time. This time, I said, "Good night." as I brought her close. She wore a slight smile, an invitational smile, body language I could understand, and I leaned down a little and we kissed. And we kissed. And we kissed some more. And we kept on kissing. And, finally, we gave up on pretense - as if neither of us thought we'd keep kissing but our lips had minds of their own - and held each other close. And when we'd finished kissing, I showed her into her car and said, "Good night." She said, "Good night." And I leaned in and kissed her again. Who knows when I'd get another chance?


I woke up very early Sunday morning: 4:30am. It was still dark but, hey, one half hour later would be 5am, when some normal people would be up. So, heck, might as well get up, I thought and did. By 7am, I was back to sleep and didn't wake up until 11am. And there went my morning.

I was supposed to meet Vicky at 4pm at Dave & Busters to shoot pool. They don't reserve tables so I knew I'd have to get there early... say 3pm. And I'd have to shower and shave and get ready... say 2pm... no, 1:30pm. Well, heck, it was already nearly 1:30!

I had things I had to do around my apartment: cleaning, vcr fixing or shooting, maybe a little writing? And I still had no idea what to wear. I was going to wear jeans but my mom said, "You're going to wear jeans on a first date? Don't you have anything nicer?" Who says my mom's not jewish? What to do? What to do?

Simple. I played World of Warcraft. In that game, you didn't need to think about what to wear or if she'd like me or how you'd better not make an idiot of yourself, all you do is kill. Why can't life be that simple?

At 1:30, I thought, "Ken, when was the last time you needed 90 minutes to get ready?"

At 2:00, I still didn't know what to wear.

At 2:15, I figured I should, at least, start shaving.

At 2:30, I got up.

I shaved. I showered. I brushed my teeth. I brushed my hair. I took the blow drier to it and, as usual, it didn't make a bit of difference. I sprayed myself three times with cologne. I settled on brown slacks and a blue shirt and brown shoes... I looked fat. No fixing that this late. I got a couple more things ready... and I was off.

At Dave & Busters, waiting for a pool table is a way of life. I knew, when I got there at 3:30, that I'd be lucky to get one by 4:00. I walked up and asked, "Are there any pool tables available?" And the woman behind the counter said, "Yes."

Too easy. Far too easy. I might just have to kill someone...

Before I was shown to my table, I told the woman behind the counter that I was expecting someone and could she please be shown to my table. As I handed her my drivers license to secure the table, she asked, "And what's your name?" I said, "Ken La - It's on the driver's license."

Okay, I thought. Not far too easy.

I walked to the table with the girl who sets it up for you - Dave & Busters has their own, strange hierarchy. I mentioned to her, as she racked up the table, that someone might be looking for me. She said, "I'll show them here myself. Can I get you anything to drink?"

"Yes," I said. "Extra dry Absolut martini, no olive." It was a drink I was getting very used to ordering.

I thought a warm up game might be in order and shot a game full of great, complicated shots... which she didn't arrive in time to see. My next game was fully of the typical shots I make, the lame assed ones. Thankfully, she wasn't there in time to see that, either. But my martini was.

Ah, martini. You're always there for me.

I took a sip. It was so dry, I coughed.

For a moment, I took it all in. I looked fat, my palms were sweating, my mind was racing, I was drinking on an empty stomach, and I had awoken that morning with a mild case of athlete's foot. It was definitely time to run away. Far away. And fast.

I took another sip of my martini.

And then I saw her... and I saw her...

Oh, I'd seen her picture before but...

And I still can't put it into words.

Her face, I thought, is a lot like Julie Starr's. Her body is reminiscent of Rosa. Within seconds, I realized I was categorizing, my systems of order and control were sorting the experience and putting it into bins. Hell with that! I dashed those systems aside and just took her in... and I was back to the spot where there were no words... maybe two... one word... repeated twice... "Hubbah."

I'd practiced meeting her several times. The idea was... well, I had no idea. Honestly. Why had I bothered. We hugged - disturbing when you realized how much I'd sweated from nerves - and sat down at our table. (No, not the pool table. You also get a table to eat at. It's a complete experience.) She ordered a Purple Haze martini and we talked for a bit. I tried to be funny and failed miserably. And then, this flashed in my head:

Why being alone is better than dating.

You can do whatever you want.
You don't have to impress anyone.
There are no complications.
It costs less.

I was already preparing myself for failure.

Her martini came. We toasted martinis and drank. "Oh no," she said. "Just my luck." There was something in her drink... something that should not have been there. Her luck? My luck! Here I was trying to make this a good first date and.... aaaarrrggghhh!

I excused myself and walked to a server. "Can you come by my drink? Some foreign object was in my date's drink when it arrived. We're going to need a new drink?"

"Uh, that's not my table." I guess my look spoke volumes. "I'll be right there."

While we waited for the new martini, we shot a game of pool. She's good. Really good. When faced with someone that good, I did what I always do. I told her I was a cripple.

Her martini came but we had to finish the game first. Actually, I should say, SHE had to finish the game. I certainly wasn't playing; I was getting my ass kicked.

So, she finished kicking my ass and we sat down.

Okay, I was far too nervous. The martini was icky. And my charm had taken a holiday on another continent. Time for the Hail Mary play. Vicky had told me about the last guy she'd met off of Match. This guy met her picking his mouth while talking to her. Understandably, she found that less than charming. We'd joked about it and I promised not to pick my mouth. But how to turn his icky into my charming???

"Okay, I've got four pieces of paper in my pocket. Each paper has the same word printed on it but they're all slightly different. I want you to pick out which one looks the best."

The first paper said, "mouth". The second paper said, "Mouth." Third: "MOUth." Fourth: "MOUTH."

"Why am I doing this," she asked.

I replied, "I was hoping you'd pick my mouth for me."

It worked. She laughed. She smiled at me. All was good.

We played another game and I won. I was back on top of my game... a game at which I'd not been on top in years... in fact, it had been so long that being on top was less comfortable that not knowing what I was doing.

We ordered another drink and some avocado and shitake mushroom nachos. (I suggested we should get that one since neither of us had ever tried it. Good move - we both liked it.) The whole time we ate, I thought, the table is costing me $12/hour. Stop thinking of money, Ken. Stop thinking of money.

When we were done, I asked, "Best two out of three?" It was close. I only won by virtue of her sinking the 8-ball in the wrong pocket. Thank you Luck!

We'd talked about going to the arcade (yes, they have an arcade) after shooting pool but I wasn't really in the mood. "Would you like to go to the arcade now?" I asked.

"Would you?"

"Actually, I was wondering if you'd like to stroll the mall a bit and then hit the arcade after?"

She liked the idea. I settled up the bar tab and the table tab, which were both far too much and only eased by the thought that I haven't been on a date in months, and we went walking.

I really wanted to hold her hand. I didn't.

We got on the subject of shoes and height and she told me she was really short. I didn't tell her that she was two inches taller than Rosa. Girl, I've known short.

As we walked, I noticed a couple more things to categorize and put into bins. When I looked at her a certain way, her appearance was a bit reminiscent of Ruby, the woman who had poisoned Rosa's opinion of me after we split up. Nice, that. Also, Vicky has expensive tastes... like Rosa. (Uh oh!) But she put my mind at ease when she told me she felt awful about paying full price for her purse.

"I have way too many purses."

"How many?"

"Way too many."

"Five hundred?"

"Not that many."

"So, it could be worse. One hundred?"


"So, it could be much worse." I thought for a moment. "Let me ask you this. Do you have a closet full of purses?"


"Well, I shouldn't say this but my ex-wife did so you could be a lot worse off." It was the first time I'd mentioned Rosa to her. I've learned, over the years, that mentioning exes too early can tarnish things.

"A whole closet, huh?"


She paused for a moment. "Now, I'm feeling inadequate."

I laughed.

We passed by a store with a Father's Day sign in the window. "Oh shit."

"What?" she asked.

"Oh, I was supposed to call my dad today. What time is it?"

She looked at her watch. "Quarter to nine."

"Ah. They'll probably be in bed by the time I get home."

"Are you parked closed?"

"Oh, yeah. But I'm not leaving. I'm having too good a time."

We went back to the arcade. The first game we played was a racing game that you sat in... which really sucked. When it was over, it was plain Vicky had hurt her foot. I went over to help her out. Her foot had slipped and she'd cut it. She didn't want a first aide kit. "I have a band-aide in my purse. I'll just clean it and put a band-aide on it."

Meanwhile, my mind was busy saying, "Good move, Ken. First date and you take her somewhere where she cuts her foot!"

When she came out, I brought her to a table where we ordered another drink, shared spinach artichoke dip and a piece of chocolate cake. (Chocolate being the healer of all wounds.)

After, we played a couple more games. Then, Vicky told me it was 11pm.

"I guess you should be going home, huh?"

"I guess I should," she said.

I walked her to her car, a Ford Escape. (Lordy, I thought. That's Cindy's car. Next thing you know, she'll be Catholic!) I said, "Thanks for coming tonight. I had a really good time."

"I did, too."

I said, "Good night." as I brought her close. She wore a slight smile, an invitational smile, body language I could understand, and I leaned down a little and we kissed. And we kissed. And we kissed some more.

And after she'd gone, I walked halfway across the parking lot until I realized I didn't know where I'd parked.

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