My colleague’s got this picture of herself with a friend and the friend is tall and striking and I ask who she is. The colleague says her name is C. She puts us in touch through Instagram.
C. and I trade spotty messages over the course of two weeks. Mostly when I’m drunk and send an urgent-sounding message about something in her story.
“WHOSE DOG IS THAT????”
She’s friendly in response.
Conversation picks up and up and eventually I ask if she drinks and she says yeah so I ask if she’d like to get a drink with me and she says yeah, gives me her number, and shifting from Instagram to text we talk some more about our interests and habits and goals, what we’re up to. She makes music and takes photos, draws. She notices my Project and asks about it. Friendly.
Saturday comes and I ask if she’d like to get a drink tonight and she says yes but can’t because she has to go to a friend’s birthday party. I say that’s fine, we can reschedule. Then,unexpectedly, she invites me to the party.
I’ve never met this person face-to-face, and I won’t know any of her friends, but she’s smart and nice and pretty and, awkward as the situation might be, awkward is also the worst it could be, and I’ll just be fidgeting at home all night if I don’t go, wondering if I shoulda, and so, fuck it, I tell her I’d be happy to go. I make the commitment.
I leave work at 1 p.m. and when I get home I try watching a movie but keep looking at my phone. Party starts in 8 hours. Party starts in 7.5hours. Can’t focus. So I get undressed and take a nap and wake up at six.Restless. Do some chores and drink a lot of water as though priming myself for something and then I go next door to buy some beer to take to the party. Comeback to the apartment and put it in the fridge and stand in the kitchen for awhile, humming, opening cabinets and closing them. Look at my watch. Crack my knuckles. Take a seat on the couch and scroll through her Instagram, careful not to like anything.
My roommate comes by and we chat for an hour and I tell him I’m nervous and he tells me not to be and then he leaves and I try again to watch a movie but can’t focus. I pace and then shower.Listen to another podcast.
Suddenly my mom calls, apoplectic.
“Your brother, man…”
We talk for an hour and when mom’s off the phone it’s time to boogy and so I steal some cologne from my roommate and grab the beer from the fridge and call an Uber. Driver’s name is Jean Carlos. He’s got an ‘80s playlist going. “You Spin Me Round” and “Land Down Under” and “Tarzan Boy”. Alex Sorondo is a tall bearded smile in the backseat,texting the matchmaker. Nervous. Exited.
The party house is tucked away in a suburb and we spot it by the cars cluttered up on the lawn. I get out of the car with my case of beer and stand on the lawn and message the matchmaker. This doesn’t feel right suddenly. It’s gonna be so awkward. What was I thinking?
The matchmaker responds, prompt and drunk and helpful, gives a pep talk. Says some nice things. After five or ten minutes I walk up over the driveway and knock on the door. The birthday girl answers. Looks at me as one looks at a strange man who shows up on your doorstep at 11 p.m. with a case of beer.
“Hey, I’m C.’s friend. Are you B.?”
She is B.
I extend the beer to her and she welcomes me in and escorts me through the house to the backyard where I spend too much time talking with her parents before putting the beer away in a cooler. I take a bottle for myself and walk to a ring of chairs around a firepit where four bukly logs are burning orange and I see the backs of three women sitting with their knees up to their chests, talking.
Here it is. The big moment.
Turns out once I’m over there that none of them is C. and there’s an immediate vibe like I’ve walked in on something, like I’m not supposed to be hearing this, but it’s also too late to turn back (where would I even go??)and if there’d been a zipper to open my wrist right then I mighta yanked that shit down, too awkward to live.
But no. Tonight’s mantra is “fuck it”so I go up and start tossing out handshakes like the older white man I am and then I take a seat and sip my beer and make small talk until, from around the pool,C. comes walking lean and soft outta the dark and she moves so fast and fluid it looks like she could wear concrete slippers through a marble hallway and you still wouldn’t hear her coming. Greets me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek and in the firelight she looks better than her photos and so here, again, are the butterflies, and I drink my beer too fast as we sit and make small talk.More people join the circle. Conversation goes a bunch of different ways. Anecdotes,observations, riffs about the headaches of retail and hospitality.
C. and I, side by side, do our best.She’s into Star Wars. She’s a vegetarian. Practices two types of yoga at a church nearby and she meditates throughout the sessions and after. Lives on a farm. She pays close attention to everything I’m scrambling to ask. Her head is tilted downward as she listens, and her eyes are big. She moves her shoulders a lot, hands in her coat pockets. Smiling.
Conversation among the group reaches a kind of crescendo and then breaks off. I’m on my third beer and then take a single cautious hit from a joint going around the fire. We’re both smiling and,again with the radical candor thing I’ve been going on about in the blog, I tell her – when we kinda lean into a conversation of our own – that I think she’s really cool and that I figure this isn’t an ideal place for a first impression and that I’d still like to take her for a drink sometime if she’s up for it,and she’s nodding all along, says she knows it’s an awkward situation. Says she’s super introverted and that she’s glad to’ve been able to talk to me as much as she has.
She insinuates that this is going well.
The party goes on, and she disappears. I make conversation with the only other guy still sitting in the circle.
Eventually I find C. again at the opposite side of the backyard and join her and try to make conversation but it doesn’t work and she goes and talks to somebody else – which is a thing that happens at parties, it’s fine, but I don’t really know anybody else here, so it’s a sticky situation, and part of me says it’s an obvious sign that I’ve overstayed my welcome, I should go, but she also just went on at length about her debilitating shyness and I’m thinking like maybe she just needs a breather from the pressure of, like, the somewhat performative tightrope banter of a first date, so I go off and, kinda awkward, stand by a foldout table where some people are playing dominoes and I watch them. The beer and pot have made it weirdly engrossing.
It’s time to cut cake and sing happy birthday so I go and stand by C. as it happens but she’s looking uncomfortable and so as soon as the candles are out I say goodnight and call an Uber and leave. In the car, again with my fucking, “oH it’S goOd To bE cAnDid” shit (exacerbated by the alcohol), I send her a text saying she’s friendly and pretty and cool and that I hope she wasn’t uncomfortable with anything and that I’d still love to take her out sometime.
She doesn’t respond.
I get home around 2 a.m. and tell the roommate about it. He’s supine on the couch, eating popcorn with his dog,and his eyelids are heavy and he doesn’t look at me but when I’m done with the story he mumbles matter-of-factly that it “sounds pretty hoh,” which is a word of his personal lexicon, meaning “lame”.
I go to bed and sleep hard for six hours. Jump to my phone first thing in the morning but there’s no message from C.
I take the dog out and shower and watch an episode of Loony Toons with the roommate and a few clips from Scared Straight (the roommate’s been quoting it for days: “I’m Crazy Chris, the Nightmare Man, and I’m gonna use you, I’m gonna fuckin’ abuse you…”).
The phone doesn’t leave my hand.
At lunch with my dad I tell him the story and rant. “Why am I so caught up in this? I can’t focus on anything.”
Afterward, on my way to buy a notebook at CVS, I text Bob and tell him the same thing. “I’m all bent outta shape, it’s ridiculous.”
I walk to the Brickell Starbucks a couple blocks down and order a coffee and take a seat and uncap my pen,preparing to jot some open-ended notes about the party, figuring it’s the next best thing to talking about it, and suddenly my phone buzzes with a text from C. Three paragraphs.
“…friendship…hope you can understand.”
I jot a quick sentence saying I understand, no worries. Then I write this whole post you’re reading and head from Starbucks to Bob’s house where I ask the matchmaker via text if she’s heard from C., if she might know where things went wrong, and she says no, they haven’t spoken yet, but, “if I had to guess” – and then she tells me something about C. being in a situation so maddeningly similar to my own (meaning a headspace that isn’t so conducive to opening up with a new person), that I get excited in a morbid way, like if I were to see,through the glass of a fish tank in which I’m drowning, that a very beautiful woman is drowning in the very same model fish tank just across the room (“So…do you drown here often?”) and I say to the matchmaker, like, “Maybe this can work,” as though C. and I can connect over the fact that we’re having such trouble connecting with people.
The matchmaker, bless her, gets real delicate with me. Tells me no.
And Bob and I go for a drink.