Love At First Sight By: Sean McCallum It was a cool and rainy night in late May when a friend of mine phoned and told me that we were going to the bar because it was somebody's birthday and because it was Monday night and because glasses of beer, though not always cold, are only a dollar on Monday nights, and because the wings are good, and because we, quite honestly, have nothing better to do; ever. I had been up until four the night before with some girl that I didn't care for that much, and had spent the entire day on the couch, watching highlights of the Memorial Day games and reading a book by some Native American author, wondering why I was so bored, and when the fuck the rain was going to stop. So we walked into the bar and took a seat at one of those tables alongside and below the bar, where the overflow of thirsty patrons are forced to sit when there is no longer room on the stools where the small talk small with the tenders. We said our hellos to those we came to see and shook hands the way people do when they run into old pals from high school; those to whom they have nothing more to say, really, than “Hey man, what's goin' on? How've you been, man? What're you up to?” Most of my friends were high and on their second game of Golden Tee, and on their way to achieving drunkenness off of double white russians and caesars. Bloody. There were half-empty glasses and overflowing ashtrays all over the tables, and shells and peanuts all over everything else, and the juke box was playing some song by John Lee Hooker. I sat there in the droning noise and smoke of disenfranchised men spending their last on liquid, something, anything to wet their dried throats, to soothe their dried souls, to ease the pain, no matter how temporarily, of opportunity squandered. Potential pissed away in a sea of quarter-juke-box-opiate and alcohol-fuelled desperation one night stands with divorced single-parent waitresses. I sat, my head resting on my hand resting on my arm resting on my elbow resting on a stained table resting on a sticky floor, staring down into the abyss of my dollar glass of draft beer. And as the blanketing foam of my beverage began to slowly dissipate, the bubbles of my hopes and dreams, which once lay contentedly buried at the bottom of future and potential and tomorrow, began to rise to the brim, to the forefront, to where they were visible, to where they could be seen, heard in muzzled whisper, to where they could be understood, almost touched, in the brilliant fraction of a supernova second, before dissolving into nothing, into the liquid that I would inevitably use to subdue those hopes and dreams, to drown that potential, to forget about the way things might have been. And I sat there staring into that liquid, watching it all transpire before me, wondering when I would bring myself to take the first sip, wondering when I could bring myself to forget it all again. It's strange that it took me so long to notice because I'd already bought a shot for whoever's birthday it was, and I was already on my third dollar glass of beer when I looked up and saw her. Strange because new girls just don't happen at this bar, and strange because new girls like this just don't go unnoticed at this bar for this long. They don't go unnoticed by me, and they don't go unnoticed by the people I'm with. I'm staring. My lead jaw is nailed to the surface of the table, my eyes transfixed; there may or may not be drool dribbling down my chin. But I don't help it. I don't help it because I can't help it. There is something about this girl, this new girl that has taken over my mind, my conscience, my thinking. And though the dude that I came with is talking to me, and though the acne-faced bus boy behind the bar is in the midst of dropping a tray of empty glasses, and though my ex-girlfriend is staring at me from somewhere in the bar, seething with lust and rage at the fact that I'm here and that I'm here without her; I don't notice. I don't notice anything but the girl sitting across the bar, her shoulder length hair and her sun-darkened skin, and the smile on her face as she turns and laughs at something that her friend has said. The way that she looks at the people around her, the way that she sees through, the way that she sees them for what they are, what they will be; the way that she takes a sip from her drink, the way that she will one day be my wife, my lover, the mother of my children, my hopes, my dreams, my everything...but she doesn't know it yet. And she doesn't, but I do. And in that moment I know everything, and I can see everything, like in some prophetic epiphany; like having stared into the sun just long enough to be momentarily blinded, just long enough to see and feel and understand everything. But I am staring. And I am staring too long. And I have to stop. I go back to the conversation which I have been neglecting for what seems like hours. “Sorry? Ya. No, the Sox'll be alright this year. Only a game and a half out, and no Nomar? No problem.” Clearly I don't give a fuck about baseball or about these people that I’m here with or about these peanuts that I'm eating...what the fuck am I doing? You can't be eating peanuts when the girl of your fucking dreams is sitting across the bar from you. It simply is not possible to look cool, to look relevant, to look meaningful, when you're eating peanuts at the bar. Put them down. Pick up your beer. Begin drinking it…but not too fast. Not so you look like you're some sort of raging alcoholic, not like you're trying to look like some hard-assed testosterone fueled macho jock cocksucker; just sip it. And play it cool. Make it look like you're having a good time, despite the fact that your palms are sweating and you can't put a sentence together without stuttering excitedly like some Christmas day child trying to tell his Grandmother, over the phone, what he found under the tree that morning. Just play it cool. Laugh at the stupid fucking jokes that your friends are telling. Pretend like you know more people than you do. Pretend like you care. Act like you don't. Ask your friend, “Hey, you know who that girl is over there?” and motion slightly with your glass, discreetly, like you're proposing some kind of toast in her general direction. “Nah. Not sure. But I think she went to my high school. One of the girl's she's with is Mikey's sister. But I'm not sure who that one is. But she's kinda hot.” “Yeah.” And I can't stop staring. Every few words, every few seconds, I look over at her, just to make sure she's there; to make sure she's real. And the conversation moves to this weekend. And she's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. So do you think we should get a keg for the party, or what? Can you believe this girl? I'm not sure who all's coming up, but it should be a pretty good buzz. I, honestly, don't know how to act around this girl. Hey man, you wanna get another shot for blah blah blah...The things that I would do for this girl include the following: 1) Anything she wanted me to. I mean that. Anything. I'm not a religious man, but, please, God, let me do something for her. Let me know what she wants. Let her ask the most impossible, the most embarrassing, the most painful, humiliating thing, and I will do it. Anything. 2) I can't think of anything else because I can't think because I can't concentrate because I am staring again. There is nothing else going on in this bar. A peanut may or may not have flown from across the bar and landed in my beer. I don't know. I am oblivious. I am not aware of anything that is going on outside. The weather, the news, the night, politics, violence, war, nothing. I am locked in on this girl and can do nothing else but- OMYGOD! OMYGOD! OMYGOD! OMYGOD! FUCK! “Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck!” I say to myself as I bring my hand to my forehead to shield my eyes and pretend to look down at something on the table, something under the table. Anything to hide my eyes. Anything to hide the fact that she has just looked up and seen me staring at her. Busted. Fuck. Idiot. Stare into your beer like some dunce cap wearing second grader who has been forced to sit, staring down at nothing; stare down at the golden bubbles flowing slowly upwards, pondering the stupidity of your actions. Fucking idiot. “What's your fucking problem, man?” My buddy asks. Ever the pillar of support. Apparently, my behaviour has not been as discreet as I would have liked it to have been. “You're fucked dude. I'm takin' a piss.” And he's gone. And I'm left alone. Me and my beer to stare at. No one to talk with. No one to laugh with. No one to assure me of my own self worth. Alone. Pathetic. Drink your beer. But not too fast. You don't want to run out of bubbles to stare at. This is bad. This is very bad. But maybe she didn't even notice me staring at her. Fuck. Aw, fuck it. I don't care. Even if she did, she's probably just some gutter slut who wouldn't be interested in me anyways because she doesn't know any better...what am I saying? I love her. She is everything. But I can't look down at this fucking beer forever. Look up. Look up, Goddammit! SHE'S GONE! SHE'S GONE FOREVER! What the fuck? How the fuck? How could she just? But she was just...?… But her jacket is still there. And her purse is still there. And she isn't gone at all. She's just...away...momentarily. And I am left to suffer the sweet and sorrowful pain of momentary absence. Nothing to worry about. I'm cool now. In fact, I'm glad she's gone....come back…please? Where are you? I look around the bar quickly, herky-jerky, nervous-like; but I don't see her. Just as well. I lean over and grab another dollar beer from the table beside me, the table that is covered with dozens of dollar-beer glasses, some full, some empty, some both. I nod at the person I kind of know sitting at the dollar beer-bearing table. When I bring my body and my head back to my table, back to where I am sitting, she is there. I gasp. I try to gasp. But I can't. I can't breathe. I can't move, I can't think, I can't feel. She is sitting in the seat next to mine, at my table, her legs up and crossed on the seat like some first grader sitting on the carpet in the class circle. Her chin is resting on her hands which are resting on her arms which are resting on her knees, and she is smiling, and she is beautiful. I must have spilt beer on myself and my table because I can't envision myself reacting in any other way to such a shocking surprise. But she sat there. And she looked at me. And I looked at her. And in that moment I was no longer afraid. “Umm...Hey.” Was all I could get out; I always did have a charming way with words. “I noticed that you were staring at me.” She had noticed. I knew it. Idiot. “That's funny. Because I was just gonna say the same thing about you.” There's no way that she’s buying that. “Maybe it's because I wanted to pick a fight with you.” She is smiling. That is a good thing. “Well maybe you should have just thrown something at me.” “Well maybe I did; and maybe I will next time.” “Maybe you will.” I was cool. I could feel it. I have to ask her, I thought to myself as I took a sip from my glass; “So what's your name?” “What do you think?” Questions. “What do I think your name is, or what do I think your name should be?” “Mmm, I've never been asked that before.” “I know.” “Well, let's make it interesting; what do you think my name should be?” I had to think about this long and hard, because it could very well have been the single most important question that I would ever have to answer. It wasn't one of those simple questions that you either know or you don't, like “Who is the all-time grand slam leader?” (Lou Gehrig, 23), or “Do you know who designed the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo?” (Frank Lloyd Wright, 1915), and it wasn't one of those questions that simply did not have a correct answer, like “How much do you think I weigh?” (What does it matter how much you weigh?…where are you going?…), and it certainly wasn’t one of those questions that I had a premeditated answer for, like “What do you like to do in your spare time?” (write poetry, watch Oprah). It was a question from which a great deal could be interpreted, about myself, by the answer that I gave; who I was, what I thought I was, what I wanted her to think that I was, what, to a certain degree, I thought of her. Too much pressure, when you think about it. Why do I put myself in these Goddamn situations? What to do, what to do, what to do. I looked at her again, up and down, and she truly was beautiful, and she sat there smiling, and I thought of a book that I had read one time. “Umm...I think your name should be...Kessakara.” “Kess-a-what?” “Kessakara.” “Kess-a-kar-a. That's pretty.” “I know.” “Where did you get that from?” “It was in this book I read.” “Was it the name of a beautiful young maiden princess?” “Nah. It was the name of a dying grandmother with a skin disease.” “Thanks, that’s so nice of you. You sure do know how to make a girl feel good about herself.” “Yeah. That always was my one gift.” She is playful. She is fun. “But it’s not like I think that you look like you’re dying, or that your complexion reminds me of a skin disease or anything;” Was I actually saying this? What the fuck!? “this grandmother, she was smart. She was a story teller. Prophetic. Almost...magical. That, and they say that she was a bit of a looker back in her day.” Nice recovery. “And it's original. And it's cool. And it would be funny having your teachers ask you how to pronounce it on the first day of school for the rest of your life.” “How do you spell it?” “However you want.” “And what does it mean?” “Whatever you want it to mean.” “You have no idea what you're talking about, do you?” “Not really.” “That's what I thought.” She took a sip from her drink, her eyes, looking into mine, unwavering. “And what do you think my name is?” “And what do I think your name is...” “Yes” “I'll need to think about it…” “Well than think about it.” I did. What was her name? It could be anything. But it couldn't possibly be the same name as any of my ex- girlfriends because, well, because she was perfect. And they weren't. And it couldn't be my mother's name, because that wouldn't work. Nor my grandmother's. Or any of my aunt's. That would just be wrong. Or any of my teachers growing up, because, ugh, no. Although, Miss Davis was pretty hot, but I don't remember her first name. It probably wasn't Bertha. Or Gertrude, or Oga or Inga. And it probably wasn't Spring or Summer or Autumn, and I've never heard of a girl being named Winter, although that would be cool, in, some morbid, weary, sterile way. It probably wasn't Wanda or Rhonda or Vonda or Monda. It couldn't possibly be Wendy or Sandy or Mandy. Those were girls who picked on me in grade school, and for that reason, I just plain didn't like them. And it wasn't Billy Jean or Bobby Sue or Rita Joe. It just wasn't. And it couldn't be something plain like Jane or Jen or Julie. It wouldn't be a month. I was not sitting with an April, or a May, or a June for that matter. Tammy, Brandi, Sandy? Porn star names. She was not a porn star, although the thought was intriguing. Sarah, Melanie, Melissa? I don't think so. I have no idea. “I'm torn.” “Between what?” “Between two names.” “What are they?” “…O.K. I know what your name is.” “What is it?” “Vanessa.” “Vanessa?” “Yeah.” “Where did you get that from?” “The Cosby show.” “Do I remind you of Vanessa from the Cosby show?” “Not really, but it just kind of popped into my head. And it was either that or Rumplestiltskin, and I figured that you'd probably rather be named after Vanessa, because she's kind of hot, and you'd get to have Bill as a dad; and because most girls wouldn’t be too fond of my thinking that their name is Rumplestiltskin.” “Well, that’s very considerate of you.” “I know. So, is that your name?” “Vanessa?” “Yeah.” “No.” “Was I close?” “No.” “What's your name then?” “I don't even want to say now, because it's been built up, and you might not find it as attractive as say, I don't know, Vanessa?” “Forget it then, I don't want to know. I'll just call you ‘hey you!’” “Angela.” “Angela?” “Angela.” “As in 'Angie'? As in, the Rolling Stones, Goat's Head Soup, circa 1973 Angie?” “I guess.” “That's the coolest.” “What is?” “Being named after a Stones song.” “I'm not sure if that's what I'm named after.” “I am.” “You’re named after a Rolling Stones song?” “No, but I'm sure that you are.” “Of course.” I took a long sip from my drink and continued to look at her. She was smiling, as she had been since the moment I first saw her, and the way that her hair moved when she turned, softly, reminded me of an Angel. Maybe that's why her parents had named her that; but all I could think about was that song. “So, Angie, do you want to know my name?” This was beginning to seem like a game, but with less of the cat and mouse chase, and more of the spin the bottle butterflies-anticipation. “I already know your name.” “And how do you know my name?” “Them.” “Who’s them?” “You know”, as she coyly looks around the bar, “them". “I see.” But I didn't. How could she have asked anything about me, without my knowing; without my knowing that a girl like this had been inquiring? “And what did they have to say about me?” “Not they, them.” “Sorry; what did them have to say about me?” “They said that you were probably the smartest guy in the bar, and that I shouldn't bother wasting my time trying to talk to you.” “...I'm waiting for the punch line...” “There is no punch line. That's what they said.” “Well, I wish I had some kind of explanation for that. I guess I owe them a drink or something.” Who the hell could have said something that ridiculous? “So why didn't you listen?” “About what? Wasting my time?” “Yeah.” “Because I don't think that you're the smartest guy in the bar.” “And would the smartest guy in the bar know better than to get involved with a girl like you?” “Maybe.” “Well then, I guess you’re not wasting your time.” “I know.” She isn't looking around at her friends. She is looking nowhere but at me. Normally, this would make me uneasy. But it does not. For a brief moment, I consider wondering where the buddy I came with is. But then I realize that I don't care. “So where will you take me?” This question has caught me off guard; so I say the first thing that comes into my mind. “-The Jersey Shore.” “The Jersey Shore?” “Yeah, I mean, if that's what you were wondering. Like, if I could take you anywhere, where would I take you? It would be the Jersey Shore. I spent a lot of time there as a kid.” I took another long sip of beer. “Probably on a long weekend; the fourth of July.” “That sounds romantic.” “It would be.” “And what would we do?” “Lots of things. We'd get a room”- “Two beds or one?” “Whatever you want.” Trick question. “But probably two; one for sleeping on, and one for jumping on. So yeah. We'd get a room in one of those plastic 70's touristy motels along the beachfront, and we'd fill the sink with ice and cold beer and spend all day at the beach, crashing into the waves and throwing the frisbee and the football. We'd walk up and down the boardwalk eating salt water taffy and cotton candy and french fries. We'd play mini golf and ride the ferris wheel, and when the sun would begin to set we'd walk barefoot along the hot sandy streets, carrying our sandals and our towels and our coconut-smelling sunscreen, and maybe some sort of stuffed-animal-prize that you would have won in a boardwalk game, back to our room where we'd shower and then lay our damp bodies on the dry, warm sheets of our hot, summer hotel beds”- “I love hotel beds.” “So do I. And then we'd go out for dinner somewhere, fresh seafood with cool tunes, and then we'd spend the rest of the night under some lifeguard's perch, talking for hours, playing with the cool sand in our feet.” “Do you promise?” “Promise what?” “To take me there?” “If you play your cards right, maybe I'll think about it...” She was loving this...and so was I. “And where would you take me?” “To a football game. Maybe in Green Bay.” “Will you marry me?” I honestly think that I truly meant it. “If you play your cards right, maybe I'll think about it.” I have to smile. I can't help but smile. It is one of those nights where you wake up in the morning and your face hurts because you were unable to stop smiling the entire night before. Like St Patrick's day with your Irish grandfather at the only place to be on St Patty's day, the Irish folk tunes blaring from some drunken immigrant band, and smooth black Guiness perpetually flowing. “So what five records would you take? If you could only take with you five records, for the rest of your life, what would they be?” And she has stolen my question. Because that is my question, and that is the question that I must always know the answer to when it comes to girls. And she has asked it. “I can't believe you're asking me this.” “Why?” “Because that's the question that I usually ask. Because it's the question that I have to ask. Because that is the answer that I have to know. But it's usually three records, not five. Because five seems like I ripped it off from some movie. And because most girls can't really name their five favorite records. Women; so indecisive” “Three is OK. But I like you. I think that you're interesting. Maybe even fascinating. And that's why I want to know five.” She leans in close, like she has a secret to tell. “I've always thought that you can tell a great deal about a person by their music. Not just what they listen to, but what they own. What they make a part of them, what they bring into themselves, into their heart, into their soul, what they allow themselves to be shaped by, and what shapes them, sometimes without them even knowing it. The things that they don't even realize are a part of them until one day they aren't there anymore. Like, did you ever want to listen to a song, and then, for whatever reason, you can't? Like, you can’t find that record, or that CD, or that tape that some boy made for you however many years ago? And it drives you absolutely crazy. It becomes compulsive. Like you have to find it; you have to hear that song; you have to feel it. And up until that point, you had no idea how important that song was to you, how much a part of you it was; but it is.” “You're a smart girl.” “I know. But I want to know how smart you are; I want to know what your five records would be.” “Do you know yours?” “Of course. I think that everybody should. I think that if they don't, they're missing something. They're incomplete. So I want to know how complete you are, if at all.” She was the most beautiful girl I had ever met, and not only because of the way that she looked, but because she was real. I don't think that a girl had ever spoken to me like this before, until just now. “The five records, but only five, that I would take with me...?” “Yes.” “Where am I going?” “Wherever.” “Will you be there?” “If you want...” “O.K., ahh...” “OH! But one of those records has to be Canadian; either a Canadian singer, or a Canadian band.” She seems excited and enthusiastic about her rule, her requirement. “Canadian? Why?” “Because one of mine is Canadian. And it's not fair if I have a Canadian band, and you don't. And I want to know how much you know about Canadian music.” “Why? Are you Canadian?” “No. But I have an aunt who lives up there.” “O.K. So five records, one of them Canadian?” “Yes.” I could have named thirty albums, and I probably could have ranked them in order of importance to me, their quality of music, and the years which they were released. But that whole Canadian thing threw me off like you couldn't believe. So I started on my top four: “All right. Ahh, Muddy Waters, "Hard Again"; Tom Waits, "Rain Dogs"; Johnny Cash, "Live at Folsom Prison"; Beck, "Odelay"; and...some Canadian content...gotta go with…Treble Charger, "Self-Title".” She was staring at me blankly. Had I done something wrong? Had I offended her with my, what I thought to that point was, fairly profound and sophisticated, taste? She didn't say anything. Just kept...staring “What?” I asked dumbfoundedly. “Nothing. It's just...an interesting mix.” “Interesting good, or interesting...?” “Just interesting. There's kind of a wide variety of stuff there.” “I know. Most girls aren't really into my kind of music.” I was pretty proud of myself at this point. “But you can tell a lot about people from their music. So what can you tell about me?” “That you're trying too hard to impress me.” “Ouch.” She was right. “And why do you think that?” “Well, maybe you could have thrown in some Miles Davis or Charlie Parker or something, you know, to have a more perfect and cohesive blend, covering every genre of American Music.” “What about Treble Charger? They're not American?” “Let’s see…former indie modern rock group sitting on the fence between pop and alternative; you needed one of those. You got lucky because they’re Canadian as well. Two birds with one stone. Maybe you are the smartest guy in the bar.” “Whatever...” She seems to know more about what I'm talking about than I do. This is frightening, in an amiable, masochistic kind of way. “So what about you? You said that you knew your top five; you said that everybody should know their top five; so lets hear 'em.” “Velvet Underground, "Loaded"; Guns & Roses, "Appetite for Destruction"; Top Gun, "The Soundtrack"; Portishead, "Dummy"; and Corey Hart, "First Offense".” I was laughing out loud at this point. Not at her selection in music because, in all honesty, it was pretty impressive for, dare I say it, a girl; no ‘N Sync, no ABBA, no Faith Hill. I mean, for this beautiful girl to be into the Velvet Underground and Portishead, that's pretty wild. And Guns and Roses? Awesome. But I couldn't help but laugh. “What's so funny?” “Nothing...really...Well, I think that it's kind of funny that you would have the Top Gun Soundtrack as one of your top five albums of all time. I mean, I like Kenny Loggins as much as the next guy, but come on.” “Whatever. I don't even know who half of the guys on your 'so called' list are.” She is playing. Of course she knows. She knows all. “You'll learn.” “Will I?” “Yeah. You'll have to. I mean, I don't care about a girl's political views or her religion or her family background or her stance on abortion or anything irrelevant like that; but she's gotta like some good tunes. I mean, there has to be something inherently and unalterably wrong with a girl who can't even listen to good music.” “Is that what you think?” “That's what I know.” “And is there hope for me?” “I would say so.” She was still looking at me in that playful way, sipping on her drink and smiling like she knew what I was going to say next. And then she asked me to do something that no girl ever has before: “Use your worst pick up line on me.” “Sorry?” “Yes. The worst pick up line that you've ever used. I want to hear what it is.” This was clearly not what I was expecting. “Why?” “Just do it.” “Umm...O.K... I remember we were at this bar”- “Who's 'we'?” “You know, them” “Of course.” “Yeah, so we're at this loud and dirty bar, ‘Backstreets’ or something, in upstate New York, this grungy college town; and we decide that we’re gonna use the worst lines we've ever heard, just to see how the locals would react. You know, things like “If it's true that we are what we eat, I could be you by morning!’ or, I don't know, ‘Do you want to see something swell?’. And of course, there's the ever popular, and highly successful, ‘Can I buy you a drink or do you just want the money?’ You get the idea. So, I walk up to this girl dressed in one of the shortest skirts I've ever seen, and this little crop top, and I ask her; ‘Could I touch your belly button...from the inside?’” “No you didn’t…” “Yeah, classy, I know.” “What did she do?” “She started dancing with me.” “Really?” “Yeah, really sexy like. Grinding herself, her back, her ass, up against me like. And then she turns around and she has her hands all over me. And I'm just hammered out of my mind, and I'm obviously eating it up. So then she starts kissing my neck, and I'm like, holy shit, this chick is really into me. I can't believe that that fucking line actually worked.” “So did you go home with her?” “Well, she said that she had this friend that she wanted to introduce me to, and that if I were into it, we could work out some kind of a three way thing. I'm just like, oh my God, this is the greatest night of my life. So, she takes me over to this table to introduce me to her friend…And sitting alone, with half a dozen empty bottles in front of him, is this physical specimen, this huge, beast of a man. So she says to me, ‘This is Eric; he plays hockey. He is my fiance’. And then she turns to this sasquatch, and says, ‘This fucking pervert so graciously informed me that he would like to touch my belly button...from the inside!’” “Oh my God!” “Yeah, so, like a true gentleman, he promptly takes me out back and kicks the living shit out of me. It was at that point that I promised myself that I would never use any kind of a pickup line again.” “That's pretty funny.” “I thought you might think so. But it wasn't funny for me; at least not at the time.” I had to think about what the hell I was doing. The last thing that I wanted to do at this point was to get into a discussion concerning the partially compromising morality of my past. I mean, we all have stories, right? I remember working with a guy who told us, straight up, without cracking even so much as a smile: ‘If you guys could see some of the girls that I've fucked, you'd probably never talk to me again’. Ahh, the beauties of being an inexperienced, curious, and coitally inspired young male. This was clearly territory that I would rather not to venture into. “But that was many, many moons ago, and I've grown up a lot since then...” “I'm sure that you have…” She probably wasn't buying it. Why do I always open my big fucking mouth about stupid shit like this? I truly am an idiot. But I was too into this girl, too into this night, into this everything, to dwell on my stupidity. And I needed another drink. But I didn't want to get up. And I just couldn't get over how odd it was that I had never seen this girl before. I needed to know. “So…why do you think it is that I have never seen you—“ “Shhhh...” she says, as she puts her finger to my lips, and all at once, I am unable to move. Though the electricity from her touch that flows through my body leaves me trembling with excitement and potential and hope and utter, uncompromising happiness, I am paralyzed. She keeps her finger on my lips, staring into my eyes. And I have seen it all. I have seen it all in the beautiful eyes of a girl sitting cross-legged on a wooden chair at a dirty, oft-spilled-upon table in a loud and smoky bar. And I know. And she continues to look into my eyes, to look through them, to look behind them, to look beyond them, and her smile is serendipitous benevolence. She is everything. And with her finger still pressed gently against my lips, she asks, “Do you think that it is possible for a person to love someone without ever really knowing them?” “I think she can.” “And what about you?” “Me? I know I can.” She leans back now and crosses her arms. I think that she is waiting for me to say something, or to do something, important. Never before have I experienced this feeling of urgency, this feeling of now. So I speak: “So then...are you going to let me buy you a drink?”…I can’t believe what I’ve just said. This is the best that I can do? In this climactic moment of supreme importance, the best that I can come up with is a fucking line? The kind that I would use on some middle-aged strumpet sitting at the bar, preying upon the young and underconfident? Can I buy you a drink? You've got to be fucking kidding me. Her answer is not surprising. “No.” “Why not?” I already know the answer. “Because that's a line. And you said that you don't use lines anymore. And because buying a girl a drink is so…cliche... and I hate cliches.” “What about caricatures?” “Not if they're done in good taste.” And she is smiling. And like that, I am off the hook. And in love. “Well, if you won't let me buy you a drink, what will you let me do?” “I want you to take me for a walk.” “A walk?” She is biting her lip, and nodding, “...like, now?” “Yes. That is what I want from you.” “Where to?” “Anywhere.” “You just want to...” “…Get out of here.” I do not need to think about this decision. I spend the better part of my life at this place, and my early departure will certainly not leave me wondering “what if?’ or ‘what might have been?’ Not at this place. Not tonight. And sure it's somebody's birthday. And sure my ride will probably leave without me. And sure it's a cool and rainy night. But there's this girl, you see. And this decision isn't even a decision, really. “Yeah, that sounds good.” “I know.” I take some money out of my wallet and drop it on the table. I'm not sure how much I leave, probably too much; I don't care. I've been needing to take a piss since she sat down, but have been unwilling, unable to leave her. Physical necessity clashing with emotional and intellectual desire, each desperately fighting, scratching and clawing for power, for control. Now, for the first time, we are both standing. “I just need to run to the bathroom for a second...” “Okay.” As I brush past her, she grabs my hand and looks at me with the most innocent and sad and sincere eyes that I have ever seen. They are the sky at early dawn. And she asks, “Do you believe in fate?” “Yeah...yeah, I think I do.” “Me too...I'll be outside.” “...I'll be there in a minute.” Then she turned and began to walk towards the door, holding my hand just long enough to leave me reaching. I watched her for a second before turning and rushing into the bathroom with the excitement of an eight year old returning to the bench after hitting his first little league homerun. The guy pissing beside me must have asked me how my night was going because before I knew what was happening, I was telling him how great it was to be young and alive, and how tonight was one of those nights that you look back on years down the road, how it would be one that would encapsulate everything about this time and this era and this youth and this spirit. The guy was clearly drunk, and I think that he was becoming genuinely afraid of the prospect of me putting my arm around him and telling him, through tear filled eyes and splashing urine, that I loved him. And while, it is true, love manifests itself in strange places, I don't think this is exactly what he had in mind when he walked into this conventionally sacred place. He finished pissing without shaking and walked out without washing his hands, disturbed, and muttering something about taking it easy, man. I couldn't help but laugh at myself and at the situation. The advertisement hanging above the urinal asked, ‘now if you could only remember what you told her; was it film director, or race car driver?’ I laughed to myself because, for the first time since I could remember, I hadn’t felt like I had to lie in order to keep the girl that I was talking to, interested. As I read to the bottom of this clever piece of marketing, I noticed on the wall for the first time the numbing, heart breaking, cold-sweat-inducing, pit-in-throat- producing words, in faintly scribbled letters: IS A DREAM A LIE IF IT DON'T COME TRUE.... OR IS IT SOMETHING WORSE? And that was it. And in a moment I was out of the bathroom and rushing past whoever it was that I came with, leaving my jacket somewhere, hanging on the back of my chair, hurrying down the stairs, out the door, and into the cool mist of the night. But even then I knew. And even as I searched frantically around corners and behind walls, and even as I screamed her name down the empty chasms of dark and deserted alleyways, and even as I maniacally searched the splashing, passing cars in the street, for a glimpse of her face, for something, anything, I knew. Even then I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would be sitting inside, alone, resting head on hand, staring once again into that dollar glass of beer.