Spring Cleaning continues… The following is the second of a series of three columns that I wrote in the late 1980s for a little publication called “Air, Dirt & Ink” (ADI) that I produced and shared with family and friends. Yeah, I’ve been writing these sad tales for a very long time, and they seem to continue. Enjoy.
[ADI Editors’ Note: Is it true or fiction? . . . Well, you saw this whole spiel before, but then, some of you weren’t really paying attention. “Warning? What Warning?” So here it is again: BEWARE: Due to the author’s vagrant disregard for other’s sensitivity toward “salty language,” prolonged exposure to this article by small children, TV evangelists and field mice has been known to cause the kind of anarchy and chaos that only Charlton Heston has been known to overcome.]
The night is black and clear and the blinking red lights from the oil refinery towers on the distant hills are uncharacteristically visible. The faint light of a small plane silently glides across the starless blackness. Saturday night, a steady stream of oars cruise up and down Palm Drive behind my apartment. I debate with myself about whether I should open my bottle of White Zinfandel or wait until my prospective date for the night tells me that she already has plans.
A lifetime can pass in the moments it takes me to deliberate regarding such things as the fate of my bottle of wine in the refrigerator. What’s-her-face was in the shower when I called so I shall let the fate of the corked-one remain unchanged until I call her back. Her mother said to give her another twenty minutes—my jaded sense of what this night holds for me says that that should be just enough time for her to shower and get out the door before I call back.
Okay, in the last “Sex and the Single Brain Cell“ some of you might have thought that I was being a little over sensitive about the trials and tribulations of getting a date and/or asking a girl to dance.
I mean, seriously, how hard can the man be working if it takes him four and a half hours to hear three different women say, “No thank you, not right now” (Then again you may not appreciate the mental dilemma that one undergoes to walk across a room in front of God and everyone only to walk back in front of God and everyone when she delivers her now epic line, “No [sigh] not right now”).
Anyway, last summer I went to Baxter’s once with my sister (what does that tell you? Joyce is fun and all but there’s a certain stigma attached to going out with one’s sister. Not that she was the one needing a date, e.g., a typical dialogue between my mom and sister:
Mom: “Will someone please get Joe out of the house . . . Joyce, you’re nominated.”
Joyce: “Ah mom, do I have to? Every time I take him out, he slobbers all over everyone and won’t stay on his leash…”).
Anyway, she was quite forward in criticizing my style of asking women to dance, like I was the one being too selective. Come on, how selective can one be when there’s only three available women and 150 slobbering cephalopods (not counting yours truly, of course)? I mean, I just didn’t want to get trampled on in the bottleneck that was forming in front of the table of the three women.
So she told me to loosen up. Jesus, I was just asking them to dance, not to marry me, or even to stick around long enough to learn my name. Anyway, in the intervening month I’ve gone out twice and as unbelievable as it may seem, I actually got a chance to do some dancing. However, before you get all giddy for me you should know one other thing: the first time I was with a group of friends (so the dances were just about built in; but don’t think that the dances weren’t appreciated, Jenny) and the second time I stumbled into a black hole and found somebody who didn’t know it was uncool to say “Yes” when I asked her if she wanted to dance (“Yes? Wait a minute, maybe you don’t understand the question”). My buddy, Ed said that I’d better keep it up ’cause I was on a roll…
The formality of contacting tonight’s date and hearing that she’s got plans for the evening, along with the fate of my now-uncorked friend has been attended to—now I can get on with this exciting narrative in peace — Oh, but she is going to call me tomorrow about catching a matinee together. . I can hardly wait…
So this birthday party came up and I didn’t really know all the details but I figured if there wasn’t dancing there I’d probably be able to connect with my friends and go dancing someplace else. Cool. Then a couple of days before the party I ran into aforementioned my ‘Disneyland’ friend and she asked me what I was doing for the weekend. I mentioned the party and she said that she might be interested in going (did you catch that? “Might.” Now which one was “might,” “as a last resort” or “please leave”?). I must have stumbled into another black hole ’cause with only a minimum of negotiating she actually agreed to go with me to the party.
On the evening of the party I was late leaving my apartment (what else is new, anyone who’s known me longer than fifteen minutes—the average length of time that I’m late—-is quite familiar with this particular scenario). When I pulled up to her place she met me in the driveway and before I’d even had a chance to say, “hi, you look great” or why I was late, she said, “So . . . why are you late?” I felt like saying, “’cause I’m Joe Bustillos.” Jesus, don’t they teach people anything in school? Writers don’t know what time it is. I left as soon as I’d given up on whatever it was that I was trying to write (a previous flame once warned me that I’d better find someone who’s willing to play second fiddle to my computer). Besides, my typical 15 minutes is well within the realm of being fashionably late for a party.
So, after the first few jittery moments I relaxed enough to make small talk about whether there would be food at the party, and about how good she looked in her white mini-dress and about the guy that the party was for, it being his 30th birthday and all. Blab, blab, blab. She then asked, “Um… so, how old are you?”
I laughed, “Oh, I’m 29.” [yes, this was written a very long time ago…]
Silence. There was still enough tension in the air about me being late that I didn’t want to plunge this date into an immediate tailspin by bringing new areas of incompatibility into the conversation. Besides, I was always told that it was rude to ask a woman her age. But I was dying to find out how old she was. I thought, you know, early 20’s. I mean, this is the 80’s, a woman’s age isn’t really that important. It’s not like she was too old for me or anything…
After a dozen failed attempts at maintaining a conversation that involved more than a question followed by a one-word response (you know those kinds of conversations, Q:”So, do you know these people very well?” A: “No.” Q: “What kind of music do you like listening to?” A: “All kinds.”), my curiosity got the better of me and I asked her how old she was.
She said, rather nonchalantly, “Oh, 19.”
Right. Nineteen. I took a firm grip on my steering wheel while my mind swam with thoughts containing the words “almost-jailbait,” “young thing,” “lucky guy,” and “trouble” (in no particular order). I have levis that are older than she is! I smiled at her. Nineteen. Right. There should be a law against sexy 19 year-olds wearing white mini-dresses.
When we got to the party it was seven-thirty. People were spread over two patios and a family room of this elegant Newport Beach home, talking, drinking beer and not dancing. No problem, Ed and gang wanted to go to a club called the White House in Laguna Beach later and do some movin’ to Motown sounds. ‘Disneyland’ said “no” and at eight-thirty announced that she was ready to go home. Eight-thirty (I guess her mom wanted her home early).
I thought, Okay, she might want to go someplace else and sit and talk (did I mention how low I scored on the SAT?). No, she just wanted to go home. I wondered if this had anything to do with the phone call she made a half an hour before she told me she wanted to leave? Hum-m-m. Oh, Probably not.
It was kind of quiet on the way back to her place. I took the scenic route. I figured if my night was going to end this quickly I might as well enjoy the drive back to Anaheim Hills (besides, with any luck I was going to make her late for her second date).
She asked me if I was upset ’cause she wanted to leave so early. No, not really, I thought to myself. Somewhere deep in my irrational mind I figured that she still wanted to spend time with me (perhaps not tonight or tomorrow night or next week or . . . ). As I parking the car in front of her place she told me that there was no need for me to walk her to the door and was out of the car the second it came to a complete stop (obviously she was under the impression that I was going to tear her lips off with an ill-advised but hotly passionate kiss . . . then again, maybe she was in a hurry to get into something sexy for her second date. Oh God, I wish I hadn’t thought that). She stepped away from the car and said, “um, call me tomorrow.”
Right. I had to chuckle because there was an unreal quality to the way the evening collapsed. Sure I’ll call you tomorrow, sweetheart. I’ll need someone to explain to me why I’m driving home from a date at nine-thirty.
So, like the proverbial dog returning to his vomit, I managed to find my way to a local Baxter’s. I sucked down two Long Island Ice teas, found two women to say, “No thank you, not right now,” and got home in time to watch Star Trek.
You know, I really wish she would have just said, “No.”
- image: Las icónicas torres de Satelite by iivangm, 2013 some rights reserved/creative commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivangm/8439557911/
- image: Taco Beach Cutie by Joe Bustillos, 2008 some rights reserved/creative commons