See if you can spot what's wrong with this sentence:
"Oh, I'll bring her your book. I have to go see her and ask her out, anyway."
Let me tell you a story.
So, there was this girl I had been talking to for the last year. Not only did I occasionally bump into her on campus, but irony wanted it that we'd end up working in the same place as well. This is not just "well, golly gee, isn't that funny" irony. This is the "Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Got it?!" type of irony in life that leaves you feeling like God actually does exist and he has a wicked sense of humour. Take this as a warning shot across the bow. There is a good chance that Big Guy in the Sky's next round of comedy will be on you.
Since I was single and sane, and so was she (single, don't know about the sane, to be honest), I thought of asking her out. Besides, she had recently ended a four-year relationship with a rather charming and charismatic individual, what better time to plow in like a scavenger?
It also just so happened that a mutual acquaintance who works with us had a book to give her, so I offered to bring it down, while casually popping the question. Incidentally, she wasn't at work that day, so both I and the book left until the next time.
When next time rolled around, I entered where she works, placed the book on her counter and I said, as if I had been discussing the rather awesome humidex we're enjoying, if she was doing anything and would like to go out with me.
This caught her by what appeared surprise--I really couldn't tell. But she did manage to immediately regain composure and smiled. Good sign, no?
"Well," I continued, "I'm working an insane amount of hours this week and I have a few shifts of volunteering to complete, so I can't ask you out this week. How does next week sound?"
I don't know about you, but it would appear that I had, possibly, been asking her out.
"Okay," she says, blushing, looking down. I took this as a promising sign that perhaps I don't appear as the freakishly burly ogre most people seem to take me for. At least, not in her eyes. Yet.
A week later, as promised, I make my appearance. There were people around, so I waited for a quiet moment and when it arrived, I said:
"Hey, how do? Still up for going out this week?"
And she was really freaked out by this. She looks at me as if she's never seen me before and states:
"Oh, you are... Lord Lansdowne."
This completely caught me off guard. I was expecting three possible answers: "yes," "no" or "fuck off, you freak." But to pretend you don't know me when you've been saying hi to me even on campus makes absolutely no sense.
There was a pause at that moment which probably lasted less than a second but felt like an eternity as we stared at each other. Her eyes in mine, mine looking into that round darkness of hers, trying to find a hint of a clue as to which bus I obviously had missed.
I was tempted to say, "okay, good work there, Einstein. What's next on your list of discoveries for today? The cure for cancer?"
It became perfectly clear at that point that I couldn't make more of an imbecile out of myself even if I tried. But, I thought, I am here now, the show must go on. I may as well get through with this farce.
I heard myself say:
"Hello, nice to meet you. Now that we're introduced, remember last week I asked you out and you said yes? Is this week still looking good for you?"
"OH!" she said, as if I had been foaming at the mouth and humping her leg with vigour. (Because, as we all know, I love doing that.) Then, finally, gives the answer I was waiting for, putting my (somehow still hopeful) heart at rest:
Okay. I can take a hint. You win some. You lose some. You move on. I'm happy I had at least the balls to ask you out and that I have a definite answer, rather than a "what-if" floating in my mind. Shame about the outcome, but so it goes.
And lo, life went on.
Until a week later when I found out what happened.
The mutual "friend" whose book I had delivered, shortly after I asked the girl out the first time, dropped by her workplace, leaned casually on her counter and said something that every woman I have asked has confirmed is pretty creepy:
"Soooo... Lord Lansdowne thinks you're the one."
Yeah. And in my left hand I am holding a red pill and in my right a blue one. Thanks a fucking bunch, Morpheus.
Her reaction was to back off completely. Aside from me appearing like the freakish, brutish ogre I had been trying to avoid, it also put emphasis on the fact that people can't keep their big fucking mouths shut. Something between her and me had become public domain in the workplace: not cool. Especially in a place that is worse than high school when it comes to gossip. Who can blame her?
I asked "Morpheus" what percentage of crack cocaine he had been smoking that day when he said what he said. His reaction was that she took it the wrong way. Fine, also plausible that her sense of personal boundaries is far more selective than mine. But it still doesn't change the creepiness of the context of his words.
According to him, I was obviously over-reacting, being a baby and, just as I was about four inches away from snapping and destroying him, he explained, "well, it wasn't going to work between the two of you, anyway."
Turned out the girl actually liked me. At least, up to the point before "Morpheus" showed up. This, for some reason, pissed me off. I didn't kill him because I thought finishing school is far more useful to me than spending the next twenty-five years in jail.
Obviously the damage had been done and there was nothing to salvage. Other than a little dignity. Mostly mine.
I picked up a card showing the lower part of a baby crawling on sand. In other words, a bare ass and two tiny little legs. Inside the card I explained how the image on the cover reflected how I felt--and I'm not referring to the legs. I apologized for any discomfort I may had caused as well as unnecessary third party comments "Morpheus" had decided to say. I placed the card on her counter with the aid of one of her friends and left it at that.
Which brings me back to the question I asked at the beginning of this story. While it would've been nice had "Morpheus" kept out of my business, the girl didn't have this rather exaggerated sense of boundaries, ultimately, it's entirely my fault. It's far too easy to blame the "friend" for saying something stupid or the girl herself for being--well--strange, especially with the "I have no idea who you are" behaviour. But I said too much without realizing it. I'm entirely to blame for this cosmic joke that slipped completely out of my hands. You keep right on laughing up there.
There are probably a variety of things I should learn from this, but I find it difficult to even look for them, when I can't follow a tried and true adage applicable not just here, but in a large variety of situations I've been in my life: the fine skill of keeping one's mouth firmly shut.
For sure that's what I'll now do when the police come asking if I know anything about the mysterious disappearance of "Morpheus."
The clever writer or the avid reader will surely have noticed that the above paragraph smells of conclusion. Originally, that's where this tale ended. Life, as it does without any tribulation or difficulties, went on.
But as the saying goes, even if best to leave sleeping dragons lay where they are, sometimes it is the dragons themselves that come poking at you.
Her friend shows up sometime later to tell me that the card I left was really well received by Hot Girl. Yay, I say, damage has been done and chances have been blown. Apparently it made everything better, though as to how that's possible, I haven't a clue. I do know that a woman's mind seems to work in rather mysterious, non-logical ways so there is little point in trying to make any sense of it. Generally, if things roll in your favour, keep going. If they don't, run away. Fast.
"You really should go talk to her again, and maybe in a short while, ask her out for coffee again," continues Hot Girl's friend.
I thank Hot Girl's friend for trying, but I explain how the entire thing backfired and obviously she's not that much into me. Hot Girl's friend insists that I have no idea what I'm talking about, that she has heard her speak positively about me and that I should totally try. She insists several times she sees me during that week.
Because I am not completely na?ve, I decided to allow myself to come to some sort of conclusions: this wasn't her friend decision to come talk to me. Perhaps this was still part of the idiotically stupid games people are compelled to play when they like someone. Having messengers acting likes "spies" is one of the secret aces you can pull out of your sleeve and use at your advantage. Both of you perfectly know what's going on, but both pretend that you don't.
So, Saturday, I show up to speak with Hot Girl at work. I'm carrying with me two Venti (which in Italian means "twenty" not "large" but go explain that to Starbucks) of iced black tea mixed with pink lemonade.
As I enter her department, rather than seeing her face--which is so radiant, my Geiger counter always goes off--I see that of Theodore.
Theodore is this strange, balding Asian dude that seems to have reached a level of enlightenment that none of us, combined, will ever dream to comprehend. Ever.
You know those statues of soldiers that some Chinese emperor had fashioned for whatever egocentric reason, buried somewhere in a cave, somewhere in Xinjiang, China? He was probably the model they used to carve the perfectly stone-faced expression on every single one of them.
Now, for some reason, I was a little surprised to see Theodore standing there. But nevertheless, I entered and expected him to say something like, oh I don't know, "hello Lord Lansdowne." But Theodore can't be bothered to lower himself to such standards: he has reached enlightenment, let's not forget.
So we stare at each other. Or I stare at him as his eyes are glossed. Eventually I decide that this is ridiculous (I would know...) and state, rather boldly:
"So, uh, is Hot Girl working?"
And Theodore answers with a "yeah." This "yeah" felt suffered. Like, using his vocal cords and pushing some of the air resting in his lungs to generate the guttural sound to make some sort of acknowledgement, in order to avoid moving any other muscle in his body (like his head to nod) was such a deep sacrifice of his inner self that I am surprised no heavenly appearance was made by any deity of choice appeared to punish me for shattering his mantric-like state.
There is another long pause. I'm somewhat hoping he'd provide me with more information. Ideally a conversation of this type should head somewhere along the lines of:
"Hello Lord Lansdowne."
"Hello Theodore. Is Hot Girl working?"
"Yes. She's on lunch/break/whatever and will be back in oh-so-many minutes."
"Gee, thanks Theodore! You're a pal."
This is clearly not happening. "Is she on lunch or break?" I ask, hopeful.
"Yeah," he does again, this time more weakly. His face has remained exactly the same. He hasn't yet moved. Just standing there, looking at me and yet not looking at me.
"Okay, Theodore, do you know where she went?"
He, to my shock, raises an arm, and points towards the store across where he is, Club Monaco. This Club Monaco is dedicated solely to furnishing your home with expensive products made in China. In the majority of stores of the chain I work for, there seems to be a Club Monaco built in or attached with the main building for whatever reason. They sell most of the exact same stuff we sell, but for about ten times the price.
Through Club Monaco there is also an exit that leads to the parking lot and is usually taken by staff to go sit outside to escape the paging and muzack from the store. This greatly annoys the well-dressed and overly flamboyant staff in Club Monaco, which makes the rest of us just more eager to annoy them more diligently.
Gingerly and eagerly I walk through Club Monaco and head outside. Looked around. Through the flower department, the entrance, the flowers outside, the usual sitting spots. Nada. I head back to her department. Theodore is still in there, rigid, like a concertina. You could use him as a stunt-double for Keanu Reeves.
Since it was time for me to go and I had wasted my early arrival wondering around, I parked the drink on the counter, told him to give it to Hot Girl and won't she please page me when she returns, I'd like to talk to her.
I go upstairs, punch in, change into my store uniform and step on to the grounds clerks and humanity have to share.
At around 2:30, I go back downstairs to see if she's in. Theodore is still there. I leave. At 3:00 I go back downstairs. Theodore is still there, as well as Hot Girl's friend, who starts at 3.
I knew the answer but I asked anyway: "Hot Girl left?"
The drink is gone. Later I discover that (surprisingly) Theodore managed to deliver the message, but she just took the drink, enjoyed it and when her shift was over, left.
This annoyed me greatly. Hot Girl's friend that I shouldn't take this the wrong way. That Hot Girl thought the drink was really thoughtful. That she just had to take care of some chores, which was why she left so abruptly and blah blah blah. Seriously? I figure I'd wait and see for some hint from her. Maybe she'll flirt at work or at school, or find some excuse to talk to me.
The hint did come. She began by pretending she could not see me each time we met. After several encounters of this type, I stopped saying hello and she began by greeting me with the extreme enthusiasm usually bestowed on some foreign Royalty visiting. After the second time this happened, I stopped questioning the insanity. I'd smile and back off slowly.
And yet, I twitch hopeful each time I see her.