Sunday morning I woke up on my couch. When I say Sunday morning, I mean one o’clock in the afternoon. Unlike the previous day, I remembered the night before. Lenny and I had closed the Saucer, after several repeat visits and banter from both Casey and Rachel, and returned to our homes at the end of the night. While I played it off, I was still incredibly nervous about meeting Diane. This anxiety led to an inability to find sleep, so I lay on the couch for hours watching the first season of Nip/Tuck until the Sandman paid a visit.
A full night’s sleep did nothing for my nerves. I was still considering backing out of the entire Diane Situation. Rather than dwell on it, I staggered into the kitchen and fixed a party cup of Raisin Bran. I’m lazy when it comes to washing dishes. I acknowledge this openly. Rather than allow my kitchen to become a mess of unwashed dishes, however, I eat off of paper plates and drink from disposable party cups whenever possible. It’s one of the few perks of living the bachelor’s life. Don’t be fooled, though. The perks are greatly outweighed by the shortcomings.
I carried my cup of cereal into my office, which is what I use the third bedroom for. After considering a morning shower, I decided to skip it. I was already pretty awake and wasn’t planning on going anywhere that day. As I sat down to waste a few hours on the Internet, my cell phone began to ring in the living room. The ring was one I’d not programmed in, so it wasn’t a friend’s number. I let it ring and pulled down my email. Aside from the usual junk mail advertising penis-enlargement medication and mortgage refinancing, there was one message from Casey. I opened it up:
Hey sweetie! Listen, I wanted to tell you that Rachel talked to me after you guys left last night, and she is really interested in you. I don’t think she’s right for you, but that might be me being overprotective of my ‘big brother.’ I also wanted to tell you that I don’t approve of this ‘Nice Ass’ experiment of yours. You’re such a nice guy that you shouldn’t have to pretend to be something you’re not, even if just a little bit, to get girls to notice you. I just want you to find someone who will make you happy.
Casey was always trying to block me from women she didn’t approve of while setting me up with women I wasn’t interested in. Being an only child, I guess that this is typical sisterly behavior. The alternative would be that she still bore a torch for me, and this was all subconscious jealous behavior on her part. I didn’t want to consider that. Rather than reply with an email, I decided to call her. I went back to the living room and flipped open my phone. The screen showed me that I had one new voicemail. I dialed into my mailbox to listen to it.
“Ben, it’s Kara. I laughed so hard at your message about going to Greece that I had to call you back. I forgive you for making the clingy next-day phone call. I’m busy this weekend, but maybe we could meet for drinks the weekend after next? Call me.”
Meeting for drinks or coffee is an ideal first date for pick-ups. Odds are that you didn’t really get to talk too much before exchanging numbers, so you don’t really know whether or not you’ll be compatible enough to survive dinner conversation. Drinks can be a quick meeting and a cordial farewell if things don’t click, or it can turn into dinner as the conversation rolls.
I brought Casey’s number up in my phonebook and dialed it. She picked up on the third ring.
“Hey hey!” Like me, Casey always answered the phone the same way every time. And she never sounded less excited than any other time.
“So what’s wrong with Rachel?” I asked.
“She’s just not a good girl, Benny,” Casey replied. “She’s got a lot of baggage.”
“Every single person our age has baggage, dear. It’s why we’re still single. And why would I want a good girl? Aren’t I entitled to a naughty one?”
“You know what I meant, you goof!” Casey laughed. “She just isn’t a big commitment person. She’s had about ten boyfriends in the eight months. She can’t keep a secret, either. You should hear some of the stories she tells about them.”
“Well, I’m not really interested in her anyway,” I said. “But thanks for looking out for me. She’s hot and all, but doesn’t seem to have anything upstairs.”
“I was beginning to think you’d lowered your standards with all this ‘Nice Ass’ talk.”
“Faking confidence doesn’t change who I am, Case,” I explained. “And if I fake it long enough, I’ll probably start believing it. You wouldn’t criticize an introvert for abandoning his lifestyle and leaving his house, would you?”
“It’s not the same thing, Ben.”
“It’s exactly the same thing. The only difference is that you’re afraid that me changing my lifestyle will affect who I am.”
“No, I’m afraid that you’re going to end up with a woman who doesn’t love you for who you are, but for who you act like.”
“At least she’ll love me. That’s better than I can say for about 99% of the female population.”
“I don’t know, Ben,” Casey sighed. “Why can’t you just be confident without being a smug jerk?”
“Because being confident isn’t enough, apparently. I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve done with my life so far. I’m not even lonely, per se. I just think that I can be happier with someone to share it all with.” I paused. “I really only have one insecurity. I don’t think there’s enough about me that can attract a girl.”
“It attracted me.”
“And I’ve gained an excellent friend out of the deal. No, I’ve gained a sister.” In the back of my mind, I wondered if she wanted to give it another try. “Don’t take this the wrong way, because I absolutely love you and love our friendship, but I don’t need more little sisters or plutonic friends. No one wants to sleep with their brother.”
“You could move to Mississippi. I hear it’s not so uncommon there.” Instead of laughing at her own joke, she gave another long sigh. “You know I just want you to be happy. I think you’re going to end up getting hurt in this.”
“Pain is a part of life, sweetie. If we never got hurt, we’d never appreciate the happiness of healing. I’m not saying it’s a perfect plan. I’m not even saying it’s a good plan. It’s just something I want to try and see how it works.”
“Ok. I’m working tomorrow night. Come by and tell me how the job fair goes.”
“I will.” I was already planning on swinging by afterwards. Something told me I’d need a drink.
“One last thing. If that woman is still married, you walk away.”
“Of course I will. I’m not an idiot. If she is married, and comes across as wanting something more than a potential business contact, nothing she can say will change that.”
“Good,” Casey said. “I’ll see you tomorrow night, then.”
“I’ll be there.”
I hung up the phone and, without thinking about it, I was dialing the number for Susan, the girl who’d written her number on the matchbook. She answered on the first ring.
“Hello?” Her voice was high-pitched and almost whiney, but it was also adorable. She had the voice of a Saturday morning cartoon character.
“Hey, this is Ben. We talked at Buddies on Friday.”
“Yeah, I remember. You teleported the penny into my boobs.”
Magic tricks are a common, and useful, tool in the pick-up artist’s arsenal. I didn’t rely on them at all with Nice Ass, but I would pull them one or two out if I thought it would get a laugh. Making a penny disappear and reappear in someone’s cleavage was usually a good way to accomplish this.
“Yeah, that’s me.” She was laughing, so I laughed along with her. “I don’t know if it’s too early to think about, but I was wondering if you’d like to meet up for coffee next Friday?”
“You know where Cool Beans is?” Cool Beans is a coffee house right next to the local college. It’s in the heart of downtown, and always full of people I think are too young for me. I wondered if she’d fall into that same category. They make some good coffee, though, so I went with it.
“Sure. How about we meet there around eight?” I added, “I’ll keep my pennies to myself this time.”
“Eight o’clock sound great.” I could listen to her voice all day. It made me feel like a kid. Well, more of a kid than I usually feel like. “And bring a penny or two, just in case.”
“Will do.” I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “I’ll see you there.”
I set the phone down and sighed with what I can only guess was relief. I’d set a goal for myself to call back all of the numbers I’d gotten and, with one exception that I would soon remedy at the job fair, I’d accomplished this. I would still need to call Kara back, but she had returned my call, which meant she was interested.
There was only one that I hadn’t made contact with. Even though I was going to see her the following day, I was tempted to call Diane. I thought about what I’d just said to Casey about if Diane was married and looking for another man. It was both smart and moral to politely walk away from that situation altogether. But I feeling neither smart, nor moral, when I thought about her.