samedi, janvier 29, 2005
I was off every single time. We went first to the sushi place my friends recommended and it was truly awful. She’d never had sushi before and I felt bad that the introduction was sub par. She was a good sport, though, trying to figure out the chopsticks, spilling her soy and wasabi and finally just using her fingers to rid every piece of its seaweed wrapping. (She didn’t like the taste of seaweed and everything she’d chosen from the menu was rolled.) I apologized and promised that next time we’d go to the restaurant her friends had recommended.
And I did go later. But not with her. Her friends’ favorite sushi place is now mine as well. (My friends with their taste for bad sushi are incomprehensible to me. I’m too polite to bring it up with them, however.) I don’t know if to this day she’s ever had good sushi. We are the kind of friends who call and e-mail and insist we soooooo want to get together and hang out and then never do. I think that’s a girl thing. I think.
After that little fiasco, we drove to a bar that had bands every night. And I mean good music. And as this is New Orleans, good music is really good even if it’s kind of messy. People are here to have fun. And nobody hangs onto the day’s problems late at night with standing room only, smoke everywhere and music blowing over the crowd. I don’t know what it is about this town but there are always a couple of girls at the front of every crowd who kick off their shoes and dance barefoot on the filthy floor. Nothing uptight about it.
Anyway, when we walked in, the place was empty save for a door man, bartender and two people drinking at the far end of the bar. I knew the place was supposed to fill up soon, so we ordered drinks and I showed her the around: dirty bathrooms with no doors, the long, narrow room where the bands played, another bar and a dingy pool table, and finally, out under the Louisiana sky, a little patio area with wobbly tables and chairs and a few benches thrown in for good measure. The patio scared her a little, I could tell. It was dark enough to do a lot of things in the corners, back behind the bit of lattice that was propped up over to one side. I had to admit it was a little creepy with nobody else there. But we had no use at all for that darkness so we wandered back inside.
As we walked past the pool table, though, a huge cockroach strode out and blocked our path. We tried to step around and the damn thing blocked us again. (Do cockroaches know that we’re more afraid of them than they are of us? Do they play games with us? Are cockroaches bullies? I guess that’s what I want to know.) Finally, squealing like the girls we are, we went the long way around the forlorn pool table and scurried back to the main bar. We hurried through our drinks and left as the band was arriving. The whole thing was a waste of time.
Third time’s a charm, right? I had the bright idea that we could salvage everything if we went to get coffee and dessert at Jacques-Imo’s Café two doors down. When we got there, though, they were full and pointed us toward the bar promising we could get anything on the menu there. I ordered chicory coffee and sweet potato pecan pie (did I never tell you that food is love? No joke and no lie. It was that delicious.) I can’t remember what she ordered- something different.
I thought I’d gotten it right, finally, because she loved the place. I pointed out the naked Barbie in the stuffed boar’s mouth over the bar and told her about the owner and chef. The place had a cozy noise level to it- still busy late at night. To her left sat a guy writing in a little book with a gorgeous pen. I had pen envy and simultaneously a paranoid thought that he’d come here to eavesdrop on conversations for a book he was writing. I squinted at the words as he talked quietly to the bartender- fiction? poetry? lyrics? I was distracted by the sight of brightly colored red silk walking out of the kitchen. No way in hell. I laughed and poked her arm, as thrilled as I was the first time I saw one of the big five on a game preserve in Africa. There he is, I said, talking to the hostess.
She turned subtly, glanced once and then turned wide eyed back to me. “He’s wearing boxers!” I nodded and grinned. The owner and chef of one of the city’s favorite restaurants stood seven feet away from us wearing a white chef’s jacket, clogs and red boxers covered in a print displaying hot peppers of every variety. I laughed and shook my head- thrilled that I’d seen proof of such eccentricity. I drank more coffee and felt giddy. I can die happy now, I mumbled. I’ve seen him running around in his boxers.
"He’s checking you out!" she whispered. I looked up into the glass over the bar and lo and behold, he appeared to be appraising my choice of garments as well. Fair’s fair, I guess. Now I really wanted to squeeze his cute face. Too adorable. The door opened then and 7 or 8 truly drunk young men walked in and talking loudly, they took over the end of the bar to my right. They ordered shots and one of them decided it was time to take this party to the next level.
I knew that one was behind me because her eyes lit up as she looked over my head. I turned to glance and felt like I’d been punched in the solar plexus. The feeling left immediately. And I found myself marveling at THAT and being completely underwhelmed by his eyes. In his defense, the man was terribly, terribly appealing. This one goes to eleven and that sort of thing. It became clear that I was his intended victim- a second shock. I mean those implants of hers were an investment which usually paid off and her gorgeous brown eyes and receptive manner- what didn’t he get about her appeal? Not to imply that I doubt my own attractiveness. I am obscenely confident physically and (usually) socially, but I hadn’t thought of myself as… as what? I just hadn’t thought of myself, I guess, in a long while.
He stared into my eyes while introducing himself, while asking my name, while putting his elbow on the bar and the other arm around my side- effectively closing me in. I had only two thoughts running through my head: I’ll bet those eyes almost always get you what you want and What has happened to me that leaves me completely unfazed by those eyes? The second thought was more fascinating than the first. I mean here was one of the hottest men I have ever been close to (now, hear me on this- the world is full of good looking men, people- but this one was outstanding.) He was begging me to drink shots with his buddies (one of them had just gotten engaged earlier that day) and drive with them to the next bar and the next and the next. And I was as amused and unaffected by his charm as I would have been if a thirteen year old boy had been hitting on me.
He leaned closer and closer and his hand moved until it rested on the side of my bra and still nothing. I did not care. “Do you go to LSU?”, he said finally. I smiled brilliantly, sympathetically, No honey, I don’t go to LSU. And I’m happy for your friend but I’m not in the mood to drink tonight. But you all have fun, okay? At this point one of his friends started to catch onto the conversation and began insisting that we drink with them. The bartender got in on the act. (Why not? He was the one selling the drinks.) I looked up and saw owner/chef/ eccentric boxer wearer was standing there- still behind me, still watching- and I smiled. Pleased by those eyes.
They left eventually and she told me she had wanted to go with them. I blinked at her and said, Why didn’t you say something? I didn’t feel like going but you should have felt free to go if you wanted to. I’d gotten it wrong again, apparently. Even the bartender hitting on her didn’t cheer her up. At that point I just gave up. I didn’t care anymore.
Red silk boxers, I tell you.