Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Three Strikes

I've been trying to write about my recent trip to Iowa, but coming home is like trying to get back on a runaway treadmill. Between teaching and a play I'm stage managing and being a mommers/grandmommers, and too many fun things to do, and did I mention I've got a shit ton of papers to read and comment on again?.....Delores gets pushed out sometimes. She hates that, and I hate seeing her sitting there in the corner peeling the polish off her nails and braiding one strand of hair over and over and over. So I'm going to toss her a bone and tell this one short story about the single life.

Last Friday night was the bi-yearly celebration downtown that we call Urban Nights. Far too many events take place on Urban Nights to mention here, but I tried to do as many as I could. The Diplomat and I started out on a bike ride that was meant to highlight the number of cyclers in the city, but I suffered a low back tire early on and we had to abort and store our bikes in his office. We were on foot the rest of the night, but that was OK. We headed over to the dance pavilion where a bunch of local eateries were offering "tastes" of their menus for $3/taste. After we filled up on arepas, grilled tuna, BBQ pulled pork, shrimp skewers and pie, we walked down to the little hippie-ish district of town and met up with a couple of friends.

We walked around downtown, stopping here and there, picking up people and dropping others off. We wandered into a new consignment store where I bought a sexy little black dress just this side of indecent. And ran into some steampunk friends all decked out in their retro, techno gear. One of them peeled off to join our group and we headed back down to the District.

Eventually only the Diplomat, Martini and I were left. We wandered onto the enclosed patio of a deli that offers a weekly beer- and wine-tasting for a ridiculously low price. We stood in line for the wine, a generous four-ounce pour for $2 each.

Martini offered to split a flight--white for me and red for him and he was paying. How could I refuse? I couldn't help noticing the sommelier as he poured our first tastes. Mmmm. Cute, I thought. I wonder if I can get his attention even though I just walked in with two other men. I caught his eyes, gave him a little smile and made sure my hand touched his when he handed me the wine. As I moved over to the picnic table The Diplomat and Martini had staked out, I turned back once and caught him watching me walk away in spite of the line at the bar.

We talked and told jokes over our wine, and soon we were joined by a friend from the theatre world, D, and his group of friends. We took over the back of the patio, laughing and talking, sharing stories. The tasting was supposed to end at 11:00 but they kept pouring. Martini and I went back for our second taste. I asked the sommelier why he'd served me the sweet white first, instead of the dry .... although I didn't really give a shit. I just wanted to start a conversation with him, and he was willing to ignore his other customers to talk to me. I told him Martini had said the first red had a vegetative taste, but I thought he said "vaginal taste," which was true, and that I thought a vaginal wine was a good choice for a tasting. When we got back to our table I asked if it had been inappropriate for me to lead with the vagina. The men agreed it was never a bad idea to talk about the vagina. I took their word for it.

I drank the second taste a little faster and Martini, who had noticed a little something going on, suggested I might want to get a refill. By myself. So I did and ...funny thing .....that one didn't cost me anything except a little flirting. Neither did the next one, although I didn't stay up there long either time. I never want to keep a man from his work, but damn. He really was adorable. Every time I glanced over, he was watching--pouring, talking to customers....and watching. And I smiled just slightly before I looked away.

Eventually the sommelier and his helper shooed everybody else off the patio, except our group, and locked the gate. While his assistant cleaned up the bar area, the sommelier brought over the leftover bottles from the tasting and a couple of special bottles of beer for us to try. Party time!

He was on the other side of the picnic table and I was sitting on a tall bar stool with my feet on the bench, talking to a young guy I'd never met before about .... something. I don't really remember because I was too aware of the sommelier giving tastes of the beers and talking about where he'd found them, how they were made.....but rarely taking his eyes off me. I glanced over and smiled at him from time to time. And eventually I asked if I could go inside and use the facilities. He went in with me to find the key for me, even though we both knew it was hanging right behind the counter, attached to a rubber skeleton hand. He found it and stood a little too close as he gave it to me, held on to it a little too long. I pulled it away gently and brushed past him. He started to follow, but somebody else came in. I told him he could go back out; I'd put the key away.

Eventually we felt a group conscience to go somewhere else, find something to do. My favorite kilt rock band was playing down the street at a pub so we all walked down there, losing a couple of people and picking up another guy we recognized from karaoke. The band had just finished playing when we got there. I found the lead singer and the bass player, whom I've known for a while, at the bar and shared some hugs and conversation with them.

Finally I turned around and found the sommelier standing near me, obviously waiting for me to finish, but I couldn't see anybody else from our group. I asked where they'd gone and he said they'd flitted off to the wind. That didn't sound right and I freaked out a little bit. Surely The Diplomat and Martini wouldn't leave me with a guy we'd just met. The sommelier bought a wilted flower from a downtown "entrepreneur" who had obviously found a bouquet of flowers in a dumpster, hoping to sell them to the late crowd. He only paid a dollar, but he didn't offer it to me. Hmmm. I started to lose interest, so I looked harder for my peeps and saw them behind me, tucked into a booth. Of course they wouldn't leave me. I headed over there, the sommelier trailing behind. He sat next to me on the bench.

We all talked and laughed, and every once in a while I leaned closer to the sommelier and said something just to him, asked him about his job or something. I went up to the bar and got a big glass of cider. I invited him to share it with me. I'd had enough to drink, but I wasn't sloppy and I'd ridden my bike downtown so I wasn't driving. We passed it back and forth until it was almost gone.

Finally the sommelier said he had to leave. Interesting move. Maybe he still had work to do at the deli. He stood up and held out his hand so I stood too and gave him a hug .... just like I'd do with anybody else. It was a good long hug, and his hand move just up under the edge of my shirt and touched skin. I may have leaned a little closer at that .... just a little. And then he slid his hand down the back of my jeans. I pulled back. Strike one, I thought. He pulled me back for another hug and this time stopped when he touched skin. Better, but I pulled away and said good-bye.

 As he walked away, he turned and motioned and said, "Come with me." What the hell, I thought. I followed him out of the bar. He walked down the steps, where the band was loading their gear into their van, and he kept walking along the side of the van. I stopped and said, "Where are we going?"

"I wanted to see how far you would follow," he said.

Strike two. I don't follow. "Then I'm stopping here," I said. I turned to go back inside.
He walked back and put his arms around me, looking into my eyes. And then he kissed me. It was an OK kiss. Not the best I've experienced, and not the worst. Certainly he had possibility ..... And then he stopped and said, "I wanted to see if there was really anything there ... between us." 

I probably frowned. What an odd thing to say. "Do you think there is?"

"I'd rather know what you think," he said.

Strike three. It's your game, buddy. Wrong answer. I pulled away and backed up a couple of steps toward the pub without answering.

"You taste like strawberries," he said, still standing there.

I was already walking. I turned and said, "Of course I do," walked up the stairs and into the pub. I didn't look back.

When I sat back down at the table, D was all excited. "Well, when are you two getting together again?"

"I don't know," I said. "I didn't make any plans with him."

"But you gave him your number, right? You will see him again soon."

"Nope, didn't give him my number. I don't give out  my number."

"What the fuck? What do you mean you didn't give him your number? There was obviously something going on between you two all night. How will he get hold of you?"

"I don't know. It's a small town. I can be found if he really wants to find me."

"How will he find you? You've got to go back in there for a sandwich next week. You've got to! You should have given him your number."

"I probably won't. I don't give my number and I've been found before in spite of that. I was impressed when that happened. I don't think he'll impress me."

"Oh my god. You kissed him and didn't give him your number? Doesn't that make you kind of a bitch?"


"Look at it this way," Martini said, logical as always. "Reticula just used her superpower to get us a bunch of free wine and beer. We had a lot of fun with the guy. It's not a bad thing." Nobody could disagree with that, but D was still quite disappointed with me.

I may go back to the wine tasting eventually but it won't be to see the sommelier. I'm practicing catch and release with men these days. It's kinder that way .... for me. And unlike a fish, which is left with a wound from the hook getting stuck in its mouth, my way is much gentler. No hook. No wound. Besides I always leave them better off than I found them. From the time I married Lt Col Ex at age 18 to now, only a few relationships later, I always leave them better off than I found them.** Or, more commonly as in the case of the sommelier, I leave them with nothing except one fun evening.

And that's not such a bad thing, is it?

* This is the Reader's Digest condensed version of the conversation. It went on for a while. Neither The Diplomat nor Martini were surprised that I didn't give the sommelier my number.
** The same cannot be said for me, but I take responsibility for my own feelings.


  1. Catch and Release? I say Catch and Filet!! You're a beautiful writer!

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  3. I am so glad that you decided to step off and say "I am NOT playing this game". Maybe he was trying to be mysterious or maybe he was just a game playing jerk either way it is something better explored when he is willing to establish some form of trust first. The power of friendship is a superpower also and it sounds like you have super friends.

  4. Thanks, Idiot Mom. I only filet the ones I'm going to eat. This one was sushi, which is lovely when it's fish....not so much when it's a man. I like my men hot!

  5. Diplomat, the superpower can be used for good or for evil...and sometimes for both at the same time. Better to let it out than to repress it, right?

  6. Vapor, the other option is that maybe he wasn't really all that interested. He certainly could have tried harder if he was. In any case, he was fun for a night and that's all I'm looking for. I've learned some lessons this summer.

    As for friends, I am blessed. They really are superheroes.