“And I’m sure, David, I’m sure that somewhere there’s someone for you.”David falls into a spiral of self-pity and revelation
Twice in two months I received this obnoxious and humiliating kick in the balls. And not from the same woman, either. I used to think that the phrase was meant to salve the hurt of the rejected, but the more plausible explanation is that, for the deliverer of the line, it’s an uncontainable expression of relief.
So I did what I should have done the first time. I flew to Boston to visit a friend who’s good at partying the pain away, and who had claimed to have had once pooped white.
“Like off white, right?” I asked. “Gray?”
“No, David. Paper white.” It was only many, many months later that she admitted she’d eaten, in one sitting, an entire stick of hard salami.
When I landed in Boston, I immediately bemoaned the sad state of affairs that had befallen my life.
“My needs are small,” I said. “A warm body to wake up to every morning. Someone to talk endlessly about everything. To cuddle on the couch and watch movies. To ejaculate into a fertile vagina and reproduce. You’d think I was asking for the world. I’m surrounded by women terrified of life.”
“Don’t worry, David. I’m sure there’s someone out there for you.”
“Funny. In quotation marks.”
“Look, let’s go out to this new celebrity chef place for cocktails.”
“Do they do fancy sliders?”
“It’ll be fun.”
“Do they have chicken wings with gourmet peppercorn sauces?”
Before we headed out, she produced a ridiculously huge pipe that looked impossible for her tiny fingers to curl around. “So this place,” she said, exhaling, “Jimmy Peppers. It’s owned by that chef on the Food Network.”
“The buffoon. What’s his name?”
“Oh, right, him. And yet, who wouldn’t want his job?”
We forgot all about the restaurant until we became ravenous, and by then we couldn’t get out of her apartment fast enough, or into her car, and she couldn’t drive us there fast enough, while we obsessed over the likelihood of getting a table, considering the celebrity chef dimension, and that it was Saturday night.
“In Boston,” she said.
In the restaurant’s parking lot, in the cold night, I realized I was in big trouble. I could barely feel my feet on the concrete. Even the slightest turn felt like I was whipping my head around, and the new vista would come into view slightly delayed.
We carefully entered an incredibly loud restaurant complex filled with people and about a million wait staff, all of them blonde for some reason, and intensely polite. They moved quickly on earnest missions to the open-style kitchen, where a harried expeditor tried to get the right calamari and smoked chili sauce, and the right mushroom gorgonzola quesadilla into the right hands.
Trying to enunciate every word, I asked for a table. “For two people,” I said, and I looked at my companion, who nodded like a child.
“Sorry, we don’t have anything now except at the bar.” In the bar area was one of those tall cocktail tables, so we took that, and then spent the next ten to twenty minutes examining the drink menu. I’d get close to figuring out what I wanted, and then forget what I’d decided and had to start over.
“This is very, very strange,” I said. It was hitting me all at once.
“I want some kind of margarita,” she said, “but I don’t know whether to go traditional or fancy, you know, with blueberries.”
“I don’t know,” I said, looking around anxiously. “But I’m really hungry.”
By the time the waitress came by for a third check-in, we were finally ready to order drinks and food. I know that wings were brought, and a flatbread littered with bright, chopped up vegetables. I also recall guacamole in a stone bowl. Each delivery was a surprise.
I wanted to tell my friend all about my heart, which was not exactly broken as much as deflated, flattened to a smudge and stuck on my ribs like a piece of old, chewed up chewing gum. I was filled with so many words — angry and despairing — describing my heartbreak (let’s just call it that) that I couldn’t even put them together into sentences, into something that would acknowledge that I’d lost the wrong woman. Oh, I’ve lost plenty of right ones along the way, perfectly great women, who would have made perfectly fine partners. This one, this woman, had been messier, deeper, tougher to handle, but the one I could have spent my life with. I turned out to be too much for her. It turned out that my cost was too high.
“I feel like everyone’s watching us,” I said.
“I know. I know!”
I’d hit the paranoia stage, convinced now that our slender table was the center of scrutiny. From somewhere came the notion that my friend and I had leapt back to our high school years, and that this was the kind of fumbling first date warmly remembered years later — the first restaurant, the first awkward ordering, and the first faintly illicit sip of wine — but at the time is pure torture. And that’s what this felt like: torture. That’s what every bite of pizza tasted like. Every sip of wine: torture. Every chip dipped. Every napkin wiped against lips. Torture. Everyone at Jimmy Peppers knew the truth; that we were two gawky kids trying to be grownups in a grownup restaurant, eating grownup food.
Amid the cacophony, we had fallen silent, hurled deep into ourselves. It seemed justified, this reversion to adolescent foolishness, because it was emblematic of what had become stunted in me. But it was only Jimmy Peppers, and it would only be Jimmy Peppers for an eye blink. Once I left, I could grow up all over again.
“Anything else I can get for you?” asked the waitress, still blonde.
“No,” I said, looking up at her, clearing. “Everything.”