A while back I went out with my group of girlfriends to celebrate my friend Becky’s bachelorette party. There is something about going through that very female ritual of smoothing scented lotion onto skin, stepping into heels, uncapping lipstick..you gather, like a flock of brightly colored birds, fluffing feathers and chirping compliments. Moving together into a bar or club, you feel…powerful..like all eyes are on you.. watching the hem of a dress slid against soft skin, the flash of sparkle at your wrist, the way your hair curls over your shoulder.
That night I needed the pulse of music on a dance floor and my girls around me shooting off energy and fun like fireworks. We danced our asses off, until breathless and hot, a few of us moved to the bar to grab a drink. Now, not to brag, (and I honestly have no idea how it happens because my girlfriends are BEAUTIFUL..I sometimes feel a little like that awkward ugly duckling when I’m around all of them) but it never fails that when we go out for the night..inevitably some guy(s) up at the bar ends up buying me a few drinks. On occasionally, they will even buy rounds for all of my girls as well. I don’t get it. I don’t say anything particularly witty or cute. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s a combination of a sparkly personality (cough cough..yeah right) and huge boobs. Or maybe just the boobs. My friend Lindsey’s husband nicknamed me “The Rack” one night when we were all out and the bar so packed that though many attempts were made, none of the people in our group could get a bartender to notice them. Clueless about my friends’ parched throats, I made my way back to them with drink in hand. “What?” I asked, noticing the surprise on their faces. Drew looked at the others and promptly declared, “Send in The Rack!” It took me less than five minutes to return, drinks precariously balanced in both hands. It’s a gift. What can I say?..some people are good at math, I happen to be good at getting drinks from busy bartenders..oh..and single men. Which brings me back to the bachelorette party.
We spotted an opening up at the bar and darted forward, capitalizing on some prime real estate. I caught the bartender’s eyes and gave him a big smile. Switching gears, he turned from the pile of people crowded in front of him, some even thrusting bills and credit cards into the air (ps.. so rude) and he began to head our way. Success! He took our drink orders and we were standing there enjoying the music and each other when I noticed that I could feel the guy next to me looking my way. I turned in my stool. He was huge! I mean the man was built like a damn freight train and easily towered over me. “Another smile like that and I’m a goner.” He told me, shaking his head and chuckling a little. “I’m Sequoia,” he rumbled in a deep voice. “Like the tree!” I exclaimed, breaking into a huge smile. He laughed, “Just like it.” I swear, sometimes..the things that come out of my mouth..arg…I am like the least cool person on the planet. He asked what the occasion was and so I spent a few minutes chatting with him and telling him about how Becky was getting married. I introduced Sequoia to all the girls and we took turns guessing his occupation. WWF wrestler? Professional football player? Lumber jack? I wasn’t romantically interested in Sequoia, but he sure was entertaining and a total sweetheart. When the girls felt like we needed to get back on the dance floor, he told us to have fun and enjoy our celebrating. He signed his tab, gave me a smile and walked away through the crowd, a full head and shoulders above everyone else. “How do you do it?!” They asked me after he was gone. “Do what?” I asked, confused. “He paid our entire tab Julia. Like, for EVERYONE.” I sat there for second, a little shocked. How had I missed that? The girls wanted to know my secret, how I get guys to do things like that. I don’t know, I told them. There’s no trick. I just talk to them I guess.
And when I really stopped to think about it, I came to this conclusion. Sometimes people just want someone nice to talk to them. They want someone to think they are interesting, to smile at them and mean it, to care about what they say and who they are. What they do for a living, how many siblings they have. There doesn’t even have to be anything sexual to it. Sometimes all we want is just to know that someone notices us. Now Sequoia was obviously not the kind of guy you run into often at the bar, but he sure made our night and it just goes to show that being that snotty girl, who doesn’t give guys the time of day unless they are “good enough/hot enough/ whatever enough” doesn’t get you very far. Certainly not in the dating world…or the free drink world for that matter.
I was having a great time out on the dance floor when one of the girls grabbed me to tell me we were leaving to go to another club down the street. Becky, for whatever reason, had decided that she really wanted to end the night at the new gay club. I was assured there would be great music and plenty of fun guys to dance with. While this sounded like an adventure, this single girl saw her chances of meeting any available men do a painful bellyflop. I forgot to mention that all night I had noticed this guy standing in a big group by the bar. He was tall, had dark hair and every time he smiled at what someone else was saying, I caught myself grinning too. FYI – smiling suddenly for no apparent reason can make for some slightly awkward situations..especially when people in your line of sight think you are smiling all goofy at them. Oh..uh..hey..don’t mind me..just bein a weirdo over here.
So as I was saying before, me..being dragged out of the place by some intoxicated bachelorette partiers..as I passed the bar, my tall dark and handsome stranger caught my eye! Apparently I wasn’t the only one doing some creepy staring earlier, because he put his hand out to stop me from walking past him.
Me: Hot and sweaty from shakin’ it to MJ (that’s Michael Jackson..psh..as if you didn’t know)
TDH: looking..well..you know..all tall dark and handsome.
Me: Thinking – come on Julia..be cool..beeeee coooooool
TDH: “Hey! Leaving so soon? I was going to ask if I could buy you a drink.”
Me: “Oh..hey! (be cool Julia!)..um..yeah..sorry. I wish you had said something sooner. We are headed out (and then I did it…ugh..if only I could blame the alcohol) to a GAY CLUB.
TDH: Looking slightly thrown at the words “GAY CLUB.” “Ah…well..cool.”
Me: (to self) Way to go dummy. Now he probably thinks you don’t even like men. Arggg
Swept away by the group, I left TDH standing there, staring after me with a confused look on his face. Now, obviously this guy wasn’t my soulmate (I think), but this whole situation made me ponder the idea of fate, chance encounters and missed connections. Sometimes, the smallest decision can put you on a path that you never even could have dreamed about. And sometimes, not taking that chance can make you wonder the rest of your life..what could have been.
Like this…a beautiful Craiglist Missed Connection – posted from Brooklyn, NY.
Missed Connection – m4w
I saw you on the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Q train.
I was wearing a blue-striped t-shirt and a pair of maroon pants. You were wearing a vintage red skirt and a smart white blouse. We both wore glasses. I guess we still do.
You got on at DeKalb and sat across from me and we made eye contact, briefly. I fell in love with you a little bit, in that stupid way where you completely make up a fictional version of the person you’re looking at and fall in love with that person. But still I think there was something there.
Several times we looked at each other and then looked away. I tried to think of something to say to you — maybe pretend I didn’t know where I was going and ask you for directions or say something nice about your boot-shaped earrings, or just say, “Hot day.” It all seemed so stupid.
At one point, I caught you staring at me and you immediately averted your eyes. You pulled a book out of your bag and started reading it — a biography of Lyndon Johnson — but I noticed you never once turned a page.
My stop was Union Square, but at Union Square I decided to stay on, rationalizing that I could just as easily transfer to the 7 at 42nd Street, but then I didn’t get off at 42nd Street either. You must have missed your stop as well, because when we got all the way to the end of the line at Ditmars, we both just sat there in the car, waiting.
I cocked my head at you inquisitively. You shrugged and held up your book as if that was the reason.
Still I said nothing.
We took the train all the way back down — down through Astoria, across the East River, weaving through midtown, from Times Square to Herald Square to Union Square, under SoHo and Chinatown, up across the bridge back into Brooklyn, past Barclays and Prospect Park, past Flatbush and Midwood and Sheepshead Bay, all the way to Coney Island. And when we got to Coney Island, I knew I had to say something.
Still I said nothing.
And so we went back up.
Up and down the Q line, over and over. We caught the rush hour crowds and then saw them thin out again. We watched the sun set over Manhattan as we crossed the East River. I gave myself deadlines: I’ll talk to her before Newkirk; I’ll talk to her before Canal. Still I remained silent.
For months we sat on the train saying nothing to each other. We survived on bags of skittles sold to us by kids raising money for their basketball teams. We must have heard a million mariachi bands, had our faces nearly kicked in by a hundred thousand break dancers. I gave money to the beggars until I ran out of singles. When the train went above ground I’d get text messages and voicemails (“Where are you? What happened? Are you okay?”) until my phone ran out of battery.
I’ll talk to her before daybreak; I’ll talk to her before Tuesday. The longer I waited, the harder it got. What could I possibly say to you now, now that we’ve passed this same station for the hundredth time? Maybe if I could go back to the first time the Q switched over to the local R line for the weekend, I could have said, “Well, this is inconvenient,” but I couldn’t very well say it now, could I? I would kick myself for days after every time you sneezed — why hadn’t I said “Bless You”? That tiny gesture could have been enough to pivot us into a conversation, but here in stupid silence still we sat.
There were nights when we were the only two souls in the car, perhaps even on the whole train, and even then I felt self-conscious about bothering you. She’s reading her book, I thought, she doesn’t want to talk to me. Still, there were moments when I felt a connection. Someone would shout something crazy about Jesus and we’d immediately look at each other to register our reactions. A couple of teenagers would exit, holding hands, and we’d both think: Young Love.
For sixty years, we sat in that car, just barely pretending not to notice each other. I got to know you so well, if only peripherally. I memorized the folds of your body, the contours of your face, the patterns of your breath. I saw you cry once after you’d glanced at a neighbor’s newspaper. I wondered if you were crying about something specific, or just the general passage of time, so unnoticeable until suddenly noticeable. I wanted to comfort you, wrap my arms around you, assure you I knew everything would be fine, but it felt too familiar; I stayed glued to my seat.
One day, in the middle of the afternoon, you stood up as the train pulled into Queensboro Plaza. It was difficult for you, this simple task of standing up, you hadn’t done it in sixty years. Holding onto the rails, you managed to get yourself to the door. You hesitated briefly there, perhaps waiting for me to say something, giving me one last chance to stop you, but rather than spit out a lifetime of suppressed almost-conversations I said nothing, and I watched you slip out between the closing sliding doors.
It took me a few more stops before I realized you were really gone. I kept waiting for you to reenter the subway car, sit down next to me, rest your head on my shoulder. Nothing would be said. Nothing would need to be said.
When the train returned to Queensboro Plaza, I craned my neck as we entered the station. Perhaps you were there, on the platform, still waiting. Perhaps I would see you, smiling and bright, your long gray hair waving in the wind from the oncoming train.
But no, you were gone. And I realized most likely I would never see you again. And I thought about how amazing it is that you can know somebody for sixty years and yet still not really know that person at all.
I stayed on the train until it got to Union Square, at which point I got off and transferred to the L.