She's wearing something that shows a little cleavage.
She's not with a group of friends.
And then you do the casual look around the shoulder as if you're innocently scoping out the rest of the patrons but you pause for just a moment on her before completing the full neck turn. You now have as good of an impression as you can get in a darkly lit bar.
Maybe a little older than you.
And she may have noticed you looking at her.
She then orders her drink and you can hear that she has a sweet voice. She places her purse on the bar. She pulls out a debit card and joins you in the wait for your drinks. There's this invisible pull that makes you feel you should turn around and say something and you think you see her attempting to make eye contact. And maybe you'll do something and maybe you won't.
SCENARIO #1: You Talk To Her
You try and figure out a way to smoothly work your way into her bubble. You notice a tattoo of an owl on her wrist. It's more of an abstract owl, drawn in the same style as the sky in 'Starry Night.'
She doesn't notice you've said anything to her until your persistent gaze burns a hole in her peripheral. She turns to you and she looks a little confused.
"I'm sorry, what?"
You point to her wrist and she laughs. Not a laugh that indicates you've said anything funny but rather a laugh that confirms you've officially made your 'in.' She tells you some story about how when she was little, this owl would always perch outside her bedroom window and often stay there all night. She always thought of it as her guardian. When she moved from her home at 18, she moved away from the owl as well. So she got the tattoo to serve as a reminder of her "guardian." You think it's kind of cheesy but you feign general interest. You talk throughout the night. Maybe you hop over to another bar and then a million different scenarios could play out from there.
SCENARIO #2: You Don't Talk To Her
You wait patiently, fighting the voice in your head that is pleading for you to say something but your other voice is making excuses as to why you shouldn't. There's a break between songs that is momentarily replaced by the voices of people talking all around you. You sneak a look over and make awkward eye contact with her. You smile it off as you shamefully turn your attention to the part of the wall that's directly in front of you. You're voice starts in again saying you've already made contact and that all systems are a go. But the longer you think about it you're other voice is convincing you that too much time has passed. At this point there's no way to avoid an even more awkward moment. Your drinks finally come. Except you don't remember ordering a vodka tonic. And she doesn't remember ordering a whiskey and coke. You seem to notice the error at the same time.
"I think this is yours," you'll say.
"And I think this belongs to you," she'll reply.
You apologize for no reason and she smiles and says not to worry about it. You both take your initial first sips without walking from the bar, giving this moment one last chance, both possibly waiting on the other to do or say something. Neither of you does and you walk away in opposite directions never to see each other for the rest of your lives.
Scenario #1 allows you to potentially change your life forever.
Scenario #2 allows you to drink by yourself and go home by yourself and go to sleep by yourself knowing that your life is exactly the same as it was before you left.
Scenario number one is obviously a better scenario. However I find myself in scenario number two more times than I'd like to admit. This isn't only at bars. This is in elevators, book stores, the DMV, your apartment complex, work, concerts, the bus, etc. Most recently, it happened at the airport.
After having spent two weeks in Illinois for Summer break, I'd grown accustomed to lots of grass, trees, pastures, fields and everything else that makes a landscape green. Even taking off on the airplane out of St. Louis, the ground beneath us was green for as far as I could see and it stayed that way until I got tired of looking out the window. Three and a half hours later the captain announced that we were beginning our descent into Los Angeles. Looking out the window now, everything was brown and ugly. The landscape, as far as I could see, was now littered with buildings and freeways. I used to welcome this scene with excitement but I'm not so sure anymore. Pros and Cons. Just like everything else.
We land and I am surprised at how quickly we're able to depart. As the rows in front of me file out of the plane, the woman sitting next to me leans in and asks If I'm staying long . . . which I remember thinking was an odd question.
"I actually live here," I told her.
"Oh really? Huh. You don't look the type."
"Yeah? What am I missing?"
She takes a moment to look me over before responding with:
"I'm not sure. But it's something."
As soon as I walked into the airport through the little hallway thing that connects with the plane itself, I called my friend Erica to confirm that she was on her way to pick me up. She let me know that she was on her way but she was stuck in a considerable amount of traffic. I decided that since I was more than likely going to be waiting for a while I would buy a pack of smokes before I left the terminal. Little did I know airport cigarettes cost $11 but I convinced myself that it would be worth it.
I really just wanted to smoke my cigarette in peace but this monk with books was really pushing his product. He had these DVD's and books on Buddhism and the way of the monk and he was trying his hardest to convince me that I needed to have these things. He even let me hold one and flip through it, making me think it was mine before taking it from me and telling me how much it cost. Turns out it cost however much I wanted it to. He was collecting donations. So if I were an asshole I could have given him a penny for it. I had nothing to spare and I apologized. I said that if I had some cash on me I would gladly make a donation but that just wasn't the case. And then the fucker pulls out a credit card swiper and says,
"It's Ok. I take credit."
I begrudgingly swiped my card and gave him three dollars. He handed me a book and a DVD that I had no intention to watch or read. By the time the monk had left my cigarette had burned out so I began to fish out another. Before I could do so, however, I heard a pleasant laugh coming from the other side of the bench I was sitting on.
Her hair was blonde and put up in a style that, for lack of proper hair style vocabulary, I would call interesting. She wore a dress that was reminiscent of 60's fashion and brown leather boots that went up to her kneecaps. She wasn't looking at me but she kept on laughing. Seeing as there was nobody near her nor anything that could possibly make a person laugh for no reason, I decided either she was thinking of something funny that had once happened to her or she was laughing at my exchange of words with the monk. Because of my uncertainty of the source of her laughter, I didn't say anything.
I returned my gaze to the frantic travelers that were concentrating so hard on getting where they needed to go and the two of us sat patiently on the bench awaiting our rides. I knew I should have said something. A normal person would be at least 300 words deep into a conversation with her by now. I sat thinking of something to say, some way to break the ice, but everything I pictured myself saying made the mental image of me saying it look like every other Joe Shmoe that has ever hit on a girl like that. I wanted to be unique. I wanted to say something she could admire. Something that, upon hearing, she would genuinely think, "Wow. That was good." But nothing came.
I'd say at least 15 minutes had now passed and neither of our rides had shown up. At this point however, a man of asian descent sat down next to me and in broken english asked where he could find Terminal 4. I tried to explain that we were already at Terminal 4 but my explanation was lost on him. I even pointed to the sign that we sat underneath that clearly read, 'Terminal 4.' Even still he kept asking, "You know Terminal 4?" Eventually I decided someone else could probably help him better than I so I just told him I didn't know where it was . . . which he seemed to understand just fine. When he stood up I saw that on the other side of him, some dude with a pair of Ray Bans and a leather jacket had sat down next to the girl and was in, what seemed to be, a fairly successful conversation with her. She was laughing and he was laughing and I hated him. Him and his fancy haircut and his $150 dollar sunglasses.
My phone rang and it was Erica updating me on the traffic situation. She informed that it had let up a little bit but that she might still be another 10-15 minutes. I asked if she wanted me to keep her company on the phone but apparently there was a cop in the next lane about four cars away from her and she was on speaker with the phone in her lap so she had a hard time hearing me anyway. I hung up the phone. At about that time a blue car pulled up to the curb that was driven by a tall beautiful woman. Upon seeing it, Ray Bans ended his conversation and met the woman by the blue car. They embraced each other in a hug that lasted five seconds longer than a 'friend hug,' and upon release, they kissed.
I wasn't sure, but upon averting my attention back to the girl, it seemed she had moved closer to me. Was it intentional? Why would she do that if not to get my attention? At this point she had pulled out a book that I had recognized. I'd actually read it. "The Sun Also Rises" by Hemmingway. At first I thought this was the perfect way to get in. Just as I was about to make a move, my inner monologue once again intervened.
"She's reading. It would be rude to interrupt her," I thought.
"Yeah, but she clearly wants you to talk to her so it's doubtful that she would be upset," my other voice retorted.
"Ok. Ok. But if I mention Hemmingway, what if she's a die hard Hemmingway fan and she wants to keep on the subject of his books. I've only read two. She would think I'm a fraud. I can't go in talking about Hemmingway."
This argument between me and myself carried on but I noticed that she had never turned the page. Enough time had passed for her to easily read at least four, even if she was a slow reader. Having had enough of my own cowardice, I decided to just go for it. There was enough evidence now of her intentions that I would be a fool to just sit here a second longer without saying something. I opened my mouth to say something however what I was about to say was lost on me. I was just going to come out with it. Whatever it was. I had barely uttered a consonant when her own phone rang. Her ringtone was of a Mississippi John Hurt song; 'Candyman Blues.' If I was infatuated before, the attraction I had for her now had no definition.
"No, I'm still at the airport," I overheard her say.
"I'll probably be there in a couple of hours. I want to go home first and kind of settle in, maybe take a nap or something."
"Alright girl, I'll call you in a little while."
She hung up the phone and seeing that she was stowing her book back in her luggage she had apparently grown bored with "reading." She pulled out what looked to be a small journal and began writing something in it with a black sharpie. A few moments went by and I was counting the little blackened patches of gum on the ground around my feet that had accumulated over the years when she spoke.
"Excuse me?" she said.
I turned and saw that she was now sitting right next to me. For the first time I noticed that her eyes were brown and she had just one dimple on her left cheek. I'd never noticed dimples before but hers really stood out to me. It really completed her smile. She also wore lipstick which is something you don't see all that much. I liked it.
"Yeah?" I replied.
"You don't have a cigarette I could bum off of you do ya?"
"Of course," I said.
I pulled out the pack and handed it to her while I searched for my lighter. It was caught in my pocket between my phone and my keys and I struggled to get my fingering around it. I eventually worked it out. She handed me back the pack having pulled one out. I lit it for her.
"Thanks," she said.
She did not retreat back to her original position but rather remained right where she was in my bubble.
"Waiting on a ride?" she asked.
"Yeah, I guess she's stuck in traffic or something."
"No, no. Just a friend who happens to be a girl."
"Do you live here or just visiting?" she asked.
"I live here."
"Really?" she said with what seemed to be genuine shock.
"Does that come as a surprise to you?" I asked.
"Sort of. Yeah."
"That's the second time I've heard that today. I'm starting to get a little concerned."
"Oh no. Don't be concerned. If anything it's a compliment."
"Well in that case, thank you."
"You're very welcome. I guess I'm just used to people being more forward around here. Like that guy that was talking to me a second ago. Did you see him?"
"Oh you mean Ray Bans? Yeah I saw him."
"Yeah well he was definitely from around here."
"Ok. I think I'm getting it now."
"My name is Dahlia by the way."
She extended her hand to me and I met it with my own.
"Jared. Very nice to meet you Dahlia."
"Well you almost didn't, huh?"
"I kept scooting closer." she said. "I was trying to get your attention. I assumed you weren't going to talk to me unless I forced you to. Do I smell or something?"
Having been called out, I laughed an uncomfortable laugh and then attempted to preserve my dignity the best I could.
"No. You actually smell kind of nice. And I mean that in the least creepy way possible. But I saw you. I wanted to say something. I just . . . didn't know what to say. I don't know. I'm weird like that. But thank you for being the man here."
Just then a black SUV pulled up to the curb and caught her attention. She stood and as she threw down her cigarette I took notice of the pink blotch of lipstick she'd left at the tip. With her luggage in tow she extended her hand once more.
"That's my ride. Good talk."
I wanted to say more. To suggest maybe we hang out sometime but I was unsure of whether or not that would be too forward. So I decided to just let this be one of those chance encounters that will become a story to tell and something to think about on those days when I get caught up thinking about all of the things that could have been.
"Definitely. Take care." I replied.
I had my cigarettes in my hand and I saw her glance at them ever so slightly. I guessed that maybe she wanted another. I extended them out to her.
"Cigarette for the road?"
She smiled and said, "No thanks. I don't usually smoke." Her stare lasted a moment longer than normal, as if something were being conveyed that I was simply just not picking up on.
"Maybe you should have another, though," she said. "Sounds like you still have a while to wait."
I watched her as she loaded her luggage into the back of the SUV and continued watching as the SUV merged into the chaos that is LAX. And then she was gone. I sat back down on the bench and noticed I had gotten a text from Erica that read, "Exiting the freeway. Be there in ten." I noticed, however, that the message was sent six minutes ago. She would now be here in four minutes and I decided that was just enough time to squeeze in another cigarette.
I pulled out the pack and upon opening it, I noticed the corner of a little piece of paper slightly protruding out of the top. I pulled it out and unfolded it. In black Sharpie it read:
If you decide to stop being a pussy, give me a call. . .
I read it over and over again as if there was something to decipher. I determined that I liked her handwriting. It wasn't girlish. In fact, it was kind of sloppy.
I found it difficult to stop smiling. I looked up half expecting to see her standing there, as if this moment were part of a movie and we were reaching a heartwarming climax where the jilted lover arrives at the airport in the nick of time to stop me from getting on that plane to Amsterdam, but I was instead greeted by the sight of Erica waving enthusiastically from the driver side of her Jeep which had just pulled up. I folded up the note, shoved it in my pocket and made my way towards the car.
On the 405 going south there was hardly any traffic at all. The northbound lanes, however, were a complete shit show and It put into perspective just how much of a pain in the ass it can be to pick someone up from the airport. Despite this, Erica seemed very energetic as if she'd drank a case of red bull on the way to get me.
"So how was the flight?" she asked.
"It was fine I said. Pretty typical."
"Did they show a movie?"
"No. I don't think my airline does that."
"Lame. . . So what are you doing tonight, you wanna do something?"
"What did you have in mind."
"I don't know I'm just kind of in one of those 'don't care what I do just want to get hammered' type of moods. We could go to the bar. Maybe Short Stop. I could definitely dance tonight. You wouldn't have to dance but I would dance. Dancing bars are good places to meet girls. It usually helps if you're dancing but you could work your game at the bar I suppose. Oh but I guess you don't really have game, huh?"
Dahlia suddenly popped in my head. Those brown eyes. The boyish handwriting. That left-cheek dimple.
"No. Not really. But I don't know I guess I'm kind of tired. Jet-lag, you know?"
"Oh come on," she pleaded. "I don't have any other friends. Please, please, please, please, please. I swear I won't make you dance."
"Well yeah but drinking by myself doesn't sound all that fun either."
"Well shit, call somebody then. It doesn't have to just be you and me. Let's make a thing out of it. You have friends. There's gotta be someone you can call."
I really was tired. I wasn't lying. And the idea of going home, taking off my pants and watching a movie was very appealing. But alas, I agreed. Partially because I knew she would have talked me into it anyway and partially because I did in fact have someone to call.