I’m not used to getting hit on. Sometimes, after a conversation that in retrospect seemed flirtatious, I’ve spoken with friends and asked, “So was she…?” only to be smacked upside the head. “Yes, you moron, she was interested in you.” These conversations occur, of course, long after the fact.
So tonight I was in the Little Café Near Home, and I had an interesting conversation with another patron whom I had met once before. We talked about all kinds of stuff. It was when he paid for my drinks and waited for me to saddle up and leave that the alarm bells went off. I reviewed our previous conversation. Plenty of things that could be misinterpreted. For instance, while we were talking I got a message about a possible gathering on Thursday. I mentioned it, and he asked if he could come along. “Sure, sure, the more the merrier,” I said.
“We’ll have to think of a story for me, to explain why I’m there,” he said. Now, sitting here, it’s obvious, although maybe tomorrow it won’t be again. I did not stop to think why he would want a cover story. A friend joining me at a gathering seemed perfectly natural. I didn’t think past that, I thought it would be fun to invent a completely fictitious background for him. It was a creative writing exercise. I ran with it. My story involved prison.
There were other questions he asked, mildly personal ones, that had I caught on I could have answered with equally innocuous but meaningful answers.
So now I’m contemplating what to tell him and how. It’s my own fault; if I had a clue I would have read the signs long before and not allowed this situation to develop. On the plus side there is the fact that I carry around me an aura of remoteness carefully crafted keep people from getting too close. It should work on anyone, I figure, as long as I remember to use it. But I am classically clueless, unable to recognize even the most obvious of come-ons. Mostly I think it’s because I can’t imagine why anyone would hit on me in the first place.
Note to all and everyone. Hints don’t work on me. I can sit in the corner and watch the subtle nuances of a conversation and tell you things the participants themselves don’t know, but make me part of the interaction and whatever observational or analytical skills I have vanish in a haze of self-delusion.
* * *
Time has passed, and now I find myself in the Budvar Bar, the closest drinkery to my house. Hockey is on, Czech Republic hosting Finland, and it’s Thursday, so the waitress has no shirt on. Old men are playing cards for money, and one of them has no nose. Generally I avoid this place on Thursdays, but, well, I know that no one will talk to me here, and right now I don’t want to talk to anyone. I have a lot of work to do. I am conspicuously the one of these things that is not like the others.
I have mentioned in the past that it is a peculiar Czech talent to turn a woman serving beer with no shirt on into an oddly unsexy event. Tonight, however, if you will allow my Y-chromosome to speak for a moment, we have the exception that proves the rule. The difference: her smile. Rare enough among waitresses throughout the land, waitresses without shirts wrap themselves instead in a wall of studied disinterest, boredom, and downright disdain. I can’t blame them. Tonight, however, the waitress has a pretty smile, and that makes all the difference. (“You’re the best”, I just heard from the table next to mine. “Thank you,” she said, blushing a little, proving it. She is much more comfortable with the arrangement than I am.)
It still bothers me when she stands in front of the hockey game, though. I haven’t seen hockey for quite some time. (Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen breasts either, but somehow boobs seem subordinate to hockey in August.) And now a little more time has passed, The Czechs beat the Fins in a shootout, the crowd (and the smoke) is thinning, the Partial People (one with no nose, one with no larynx) are playing cards, and the only topless woman who has ever tweaked my imagination has gone home early. Obviously, I did not have the same affect on her. But…
It was a good night.