Saturday, April 22, 2006

Right Person, Wrong Time

One thing about this whole experience: it forces you to get to know yourself. The job search had kicked my ass that week. No call-backs. No leads. Just applying, applying, and applying. By Thursday, I had to get away. My favorite retreat? The local multiplex. The movie: “Lucky Number Slevin”.

This is NOT going to be one of my famous film reviews. I’ll only say that someone in Hollywood finally paid attention in Storytelling 101 class. Sharp dialogue, quirky characters and a plot full of enough twists to keep you guessing makes for a fine moviegoing experience. Not to mention a great group of actors. Kudos to all involved.

I liked “Lucky Number Slevin” so much, in fact, that I saw it a second time—for free. I cleared out as the film ended and the teenaged cleanup crew arrived. I hung out in the men’s room for about ten minutes or so, doing everything one can do in a men’s room. Then, I just sat on one of the plush benches the theater provided in the hall outside of Theater # 452, where “Slevin” was showing. Ten minutes after that, I went back into the now-vacant show space. Taking a seat in a middle row, I pulled out the copy of Asimov’s Foundation that I’m currently engrossed in and began to read. The next show started in a half-hour. Yes, I know it’s less than honest; so is charging $10 per ticket.

“What are you reading?” said a female voice behind me.

“Um, Asimov,” I said, picking my startled eyeballs up off the floor. “Foundation. Where did you come from?” I turned to notice that she was an attractive, slim Asian girl, roughly 22 years old. She wore a gray ‘hoodie’ and a form-fitting pair of black slacks.

“I just crouched down in the top aisle after the show ended,” she said. “The ushers never come up that far while they’re cleaning. I get free movies all the time that way.”

Long story made short: her name was “Katie.” She was 24 years old and playing hooky from her classes at a local college that day. She asked me my story; I used the ‘freelance copyeditor working from home’ speech. She bought it. By then, a couple of senior citizens shuffled into the theater and “Slevin” started again. As the show began, Katie moved down and sat next to me. A couple of times, she playfully nudged me in the arm as she laughed at Josh Hartnett’s and Lucy Liu’s wisecracks. When Bruce Willis graphically dispatched an opponent of his with a gun, Katie grabbed my wrist and said “Oooh!” It was pretty obvious that she was lonely.

After the second showing of “Slevin,” I gathered up my jacket and book and started to leave.

“Hey? Where’re you going?” Katie asked, touching my shoulder.

“Home,” I said. “I think two viewings is enough, don’t you?”

“What’s your rush? Wanna go for coffee next-door?”

There was a Starbuck’s next to the multiplex.

“Well, I don’t know,” I stalled, trying to remember if Mommy had lent Johnny enough allowance for a hot chocolate.

“Come on,” she smiled, “my treat.”

Damn, I thought, this girl MUST be lonely. No woman ever offered to pay for anything for me, not even girlfriends I’d dated for years. And Katie did have a nice smile—straight white teeth and the salmon-colored, bee-stung lips I’ve admired on many Asian beauties. How could I refuse?

We repaired to the local mega-chain caffeine distributor. Katie ordered a chai tea latte; I, feeling adventurous, went with a true man’s drink—a small vanilla ‘steamer.’ We took a booth by the window.

My whole adult life, it’s been the same story. Women, for some reason, love to talk to me. Notice I didn’t say “talk with me”. They just love the way I listen. Usually, I don’t mind. Women are infinitely better conversationalists than men. They instinctively know how to weave the most mundane events into ripping good stories. This time, as much as I tried, I’m sad to say that I simply wasn’t into it.

Let me emphasize that it was not Katie’s fault, it was mine. Katie was an intelligent, charming woman. The problems were with her story and the moment at which she happened to catch me.

I should’ve recognized Katie as a comrade-in-arms. She described herself as “confused” about her “life-plan”. She was six weeks away from graduating with a Business Administration degree she wanted like a hole in her head. Mom and Dad, very ambitious types, had “pushed” her into it. Katie was a movie freak and would’ve preferred majoring in cinematography. It’s true that the girl recognized that the makers of “Slevin” had borrowed more than a few pages from Quentin Tarantino’s book. She even quoted the same Biblical passage Samuel L. Jackson had famously recited in “Pulp Fiction”—as loudly as Mr. Jackson had too, to the chagrin of everyone sitting around us. I must admit that I was falling for her. She asked me what my favorite part of “Slevin” was.

“I only saw the film for one reason,” I said. “Lucy Liu. My all-time favorite actress.”

Katie smiled that delicious smile of hers. “Horn dog. Still, I see your point.” She ran her fingers through her long, straight black hair. “I’m often told that I look like her, even though I’m Filipino and she’s Chinese. Hey, let me ask you something. . .what’s it like?”

“What’s what like?”

Katie looked at me intensely, as if trying to read something from my face. “Having it all together. You seem so cool and collected. You know what you are and where you’re going.”

“Well, uh, I,” I stammered, and you know exactly why.

She rested her chin on the ball of her hand, still staring at me. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-five. Why?”

“I can’t wait to be your age. All I have now are questions, things I’m unsure of and I hate it. By the time I’m your age, I’ll know what you know. There’ll be no more questions. By that time, I’ll have it all figured out. I’ll be as cool and collected as you are.”

At that moment, I could’ve gone one of two ways. I could’ve taken the honest route and told her the Way It Is. How you never, no matter what your age, never really figure it out. That life is like one of those old movie serials, in which you’re always left waiting to find out what happens next. I could’ve told her how I was, at that moment, a thousand country miles from being cool and collected. That “having it figured out” is an illusion you leave behind on your college campus, along with thoughts like never selling out and pursuing your passion, “no matter what.” Or I could’ve been Mr. Supportive, and told her, like Elvis once sang in a crappy movie of the same name, “to follow that dream wherever that dream may lead. . .” But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to go either way with Katie. So I took a third option.

I glanced at my watch. “Hey! Look at the time! I promised a friend I’d. . .help him. . .drain the crankcase on his ’71 Dodge Charger. I’ve gotta book or he’ll be pissed.” I finished my vanilla steamer and stood up. “Thanks for the steamer.”

“Are you sure?” Katie asked, anxiously. She stood up, too. “Couldn’t you hang for, like, another half-hour or so? Why cut off a good conversation?” Her chestnut eyes were wide and yearning. She really wanted me to stay. I really wanted to, too.

“Naw,” I lied. “This guy’s an old buddy and I promised him. Can’t break a promise to a pal, right?”

Katie dug into her purse and pulled out a pen. She scribbled on a napkin and handed it to me. I looked at the napkin; it was a phone number.

“That’s my cell,” she said, drawing close to me. “Call me anytime between four and nine. You’re a really cool guy and a good talker.” She rested a hand on my shoulder and kissed me, gently, on the cheek. Katie’s lips were very soft and warm. “Let’s keep in touch, huh?”

I patted Katie on the shoulder. “Oh, thanks. I will. You know it.” Without pausing, I stuck the napkin in my pocket, turned and walked out of the coffee house.

I still have the napkin. I haven’t called the number—I don’t know if I will. But I can’t bring myself to throw the napkin away, either.


Blogger Lori said...

Sounds like she wanted you BAD BAD!!!....LOL

Have a great day!!!

8:29 AM  
Blogger Happy Villain said...

Ah, what to do about the younger suitor who puts you on a pedestal and throws herself desperately at you, all the while looking cute. If it happened to me and it was a young handsome guy resembling youthful versions of Clive Owen or George Clooney, I'd never have left to begin with. Good luck with your perceived dilemma. ;)

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Bloggeries said...

One question from me....

Are you crazy? Until this moment, I thought you were one of the most sane people I have ever sort of gotten to know.......

Haha....I'm just being funny. It was very responsible of you....Rigggghhht.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Thao said...

I tell all my guy friends to stay away from Asian woman because they are crazy. But the men, they always want the Asian woman. Heck, even I want Lucy Lui.

This little eggroll wanted you bad. And I could tell you my stories about dating a man 11 years older than me but then that would just take up all your commenting space.

7:38 AM  

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