I spent part of the day on my own, though I received emails, phone calls, and texts throughout day wishing me well (I even got a Happy Birthday MySpace comment from Arty Adam!). It was nice to have some quiet time before meeting my pals; I took a long walk in the park, and the pretty scenery and endorphins helped my affirmation that this would be my best year ever.
The main destination that night was Cozy Bar, from the previous week. I'm not proud to admit this, but I have developed something of a crush on Barman Ben, who I maybe had a moment with the last time I was there. When we entered the place, I got the butterflies, the plummeting elevator sensation. He remembered me, and when I told him it was my birthday, reached across the bar, took my hand, and brought me in for a kiss on the cheek. Except that I turned my head a bit and there was some slight lip grazing. Oh my. It was both embarrassing and electrifying. I was rendered dumbstruck, unable to say anything without thinking I sounded utterly foolish and barely coherent. I haven't felt so off my game since the third grade, when I fell in "love" with my older (6th grade!) hall monitor (red hair, blue eyes, freckles, beyond adorable; I exchanged maybe three sentences with him my whole life, yet still Google him every few years).
Barman Ben and I did have a brief conversation, about music, during which I spent most of the time thinking things like, "Oh my god, Barman Ben is really talking to me, about non-alcohol-related things." "Oh my god, he just asked about my music tastes. I know this one. Um..." "Oh my god, he is totally lingering on this side of the bar. I hope he never goes away. Alas, there he goes."
Yeah. I kind of have it bad.
When I turned back to Polly and Chris, I was barely able to form coherent sentences. I know it's just transference, because I haven't met anyone I like in a while, etc. but he is so goddamn debonair I can't stand it. The best I could do was try not to spill my drink or look too starstruck, and keep the staring to a minimum.
Luckily, Polly brought her A game, and practiced a new technique she's pioneering called the Lasso and Abandon. She tried it out at the big holiday party last week, where she started chatting up a cute-ish computer programmer (Lasso), introduced him to Roommate Rachel, and then left the two of them to it (Abandon).
After a cigarette break, I came back inside to see that Polly was talking to a reasonably attractive guy (Lasso). I came over and he turned his attention to me; since Polly is now dating someone, I didn't have to worry that I was entering in medias flirt (she also made it easier by turning away and talking to Chris: Abandon).
Architect Abe was a couple of years younger than me and I can barely remember what he looked like beyond being cute (Brown hair? Brown eyes?). He wished me a happy birthday and we chit-chatted about who knows what. At what point, I asked,
"What are your favorite movies? And you're not allowed to say Star Wars, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, The Matrix..."
"How about The Lord of the Rings?"
"Nope, you can't say that one, either. That's another typical favorite boy movie."
He must have found my film snobbishness charming, because he not only stayed around for a while, but bought me a drink and also gave me a small box of Godiva chocolates that he had in his pocket. Sweet, no? Meanwhile, I had already determined that it couldn't possibly work, because one of his favorite musicians is Jay-Z (considering some of the questionable material in my collection, I fully own up to the fact that I have no right to be a music snob. And yet...). Even so, I kept on with the flirting.
We took smoke breaks now and again, played a game of pool (I won! A birthday miracle), and I tried to send telepathic signals to Barman Ben that he was the one I really wanted, yet my dashing cocktail man wasn't picking up on them.
It started drizzling, and Architect Abe and I huddled in a doorway to smoke another cigarette. He had his arm around my waist and I was leaning into him, and I knew what was coming, but I still started the short trip back to the bar, except that I semi-stumbled and laughed at my big shoes (I swear, I wasn't that drunk). Abe helped steady me, and then kissed me. It was a nice kiss, then a nice mini-makeout session, except for two things:
1. All of a sudden, I was very, very dizzy. Not tipsy dizzy, not smitten dizzy, but disoriented dizzy.
2. All of a sudden, despite the pleasant smooching, I felt a terrible urge to go away.
Which was a problem, because Abe was all set to come to Bar Z, our next destination, with us.
"Now we're really celebrating your birthday. Let's go to Bar Z and get some more drinks."
Back inside Cozy Bar, I started mildly panicking.
"We have to go now. Right now," I hissed to Polly and Chris.
Abe was at another part of the bar, presumably saying goodbye to his friends. My friends and I made a swift exit without him seeing, though I did manage to say good-bye to Barman Ben (another handshake and a "Nice to see you again" which is surely "Will you bear my children?" in BarSpeak. No?).
Outside, it was now raining in earnest.
"What's going on?" My friends asked.
"Aren't we going to Bar Z?"
"No! That's the last bar we can go to now!" I scurried around the corner. "Hurry, he can't see us!"
"We made out and I got birthday kisses and they were good and yay. But then, I just needed to leave. I couldn't have him be my date for the rest of the evening. I don't know what's wrong with me."
"Dolly, that's terrible," Chris chastised. "You just kiss a guy and run away?"
"I couldn't help it. He was so sweet, too. He gave me chocolates."
Coworker Chris continued to admonish my bad behavior. Polly left to spend the night with her man shortly thereafter, but Chris and stayed out for a couple more drinks. There was some platonic snuggling, and a mutual agreement that we would never make out, ever.
"I got my birthday kisses, so I'm good."
Chris shook his head.
"I know, I'm awful."
I still don't know what got into me. Was the idea of meeting a cool, down to earth guy so frightening to me? Have I become so commitment-phobic that I couldn't bear the idea of going to a second bar with him? Was the kissing too underwhelming? Has Barman Ben temporarily ruined me for other men with his stoic dreaminess? Sadly, I can affirmatively answer that last one.
All in all, a lovely birthday with lovely people. I believe karma did pay me back for the kiss and run with my first ever case of pink eye shortly thereafter (unpleasant!). Nevertheless, I like to think that the slate is now clean. Just in time for the new year.