Wednesday, January 31, 2007


In the dream, we were in some kind of storage room together. He pressed me up against a stack of boxes, I put my arms around him, our faces tilted toward each other, and we kissed.

"How far do you want to take this?" Ben asked, ready to remove clothing.

He meant physically; it would be nothing more than sex.

"This far," I said, disengaging, cold disappointment flooding me.

Nothing else happened. I woke up. Less starstruck, more skeptical.

One day at a time, I'm getting over him. Thinking about him less each day, and with less of a halo effect when I do think of him. If I can stay away from the bar for at least another week or two, I think I can be well on my way to being cured.

Something I keep forgetting is that just about every time I go to Cozy Bar, men flirt with me, show an interest. I'm attractive to other men and there are other attractive men out there I can be drawn to. Men capable of initiation, reciprocity, conveying actual emotion instead of hinting at it, all that good stuff. At least, I'm optimistic enough to believe they're out there.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how this fixation with Ben mutated like this. I met him near the end of last year, when I was still battling my depression, right before my birthday, when I made a concerted effort to change my habits, my thinking, and rid myself of the gloom as much as possible. The big turnaround happened when I wrote the story, so it makes sense that I saw him as more than a muse, but as the source of this new vigor and passion for life. In all honesty, I think I just got swayed by his good looks and charm. He's the George Clooney of bartenders, and I should have known better than to actually care, but it happened.

I wonder if this was my way of secluding myself from an actual relationship in order to focus on the other parts of my life I've given priority to. If my romantic world is one of fantasy, then a real person can't interrupt my new routines and habits with their own. And I don't want my routines disrupted right now. At the moment, I get a certain amount of sleep each night, a certain amount of exercise each week, I'm vigilant about my diet, and selective about what I do with my free time. I'm on a very positive track here and cannot have anyone mess that up for me right now, least of all a bartender who knows how good-looking he is and the effect he has on women. I almost started thinking I wasn't beautiful enough for him, but stopped myself before I could follow that downward spiral. I'm not going to sabotage my new found poise and confidence on a man I pay to make me tipsy.

It's like having a fever; it makes you delirious and delusional. I think I'm slowly coming out of it; my temperature is coming down. Barman Ben is my kryptonite, so the only way to stay strong is to stay away from Cozy Bar, much as I love that place. I have to, because right now I am still intact, still happy, and my anxiety is fading. Going back would be subjecting myself to a potential ego-beating and heartache, and I'm not that masochistic. I don't want to get lost like that again.

I want to meet new people, flirt with new men, maybe even kiss one. It's on the horizon, I am pretty sure of it. Every day, it gets easier.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

lovesick... but not for long

Over the weekend, I met a girl waiting on line for the bathroom. She and I instantly bonded, so naturally, I told her about Barman Ben.

"Do you want to sleep with him, or do you want to be his girlfriend?" she asked.

"I just want to kiss him. Even once and it would be enough," I answered.

Her eyes widened, somewhere between awe and sympathy. "You love him a little bit, don't you?"

"I don't want to love him," I sighed.

I'm trying to get a grip. Yesterday, I signed up for a month's subscription to an online personals site, as a safety net. I'm still not actively looking, but going on a date or two might help put things in perspective. I'm busy with other projects, so I don't even have much time to devote to the site, but even registering felt like a step in the right direction.

There are moments when I get a bit overwhelmed. There's plenty to distract me, yet none of it is enough. I'm taking a big trip in March, to a foreign country, by myself, so I should focus on planning that forthcoming adventure. I wish the trip was tomorrow. I wish I could leave town for a few weeks, clear my head, get far away from Cozy Bar and Ben and these utterly irrational, overpowering feelings. I'll be able to avoid it tonight easily enough, and Friday I'm going to a party at Polly's place, but Saturday is the best night there (not crowded after 1:00am and Ben closes out the bar) and I don't know if I'll be able to stay away. Willow might have a small gathering at her apartment, which would be just the thing.

I need some kind of love intervention.

A person has only so much discipline. I've been focusing a lot of my energy on my new fitness regime and have been doing great. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my next career move. I've been putting a lot of effort into going to more events (readings, movies, concerts) and that's been fun, too. I was on this perfect streak of independence and self-improvement, content as could be, and was not expecting to be emotionally side-swiped like this.

I'm putting a plan into motion. I'm going to throw myself into my social activities, writing, etc. I'm not going to watch any more movies he's in. I am going to stay away from Cozy Bar, at least this weekend (if I don't see him, I think about him much less). I'm going to go on a date with someone else as soon as possible. There are already one or two potential prospects in the works (though ever since meeting Ben, I seem unnaturally drawn to tall handsome men in their early 40's).

It would, of course, be totally tacky to bring a date to Cozy Bar... right?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What I Did, What I Almost Did, What I Need to Do

I was a mess of nerves all day yesterday. Couldn't eat, couldn't think straight, just felt a buzzing under my skin, a heady din in my brain. This intensity isn't justified, and almost bothers me, but there's nothing I can do about it.

I don't know why last night had to be pivotal, but it did. Luckily, I was meeting a group of female friends there, so I wouldn't be able to focus on Ben all that much.

When I got to the bar, it was more crowded than usual (though I'm starting to think a ton of people love this place as much as I do and "crowded" may be its natural state). No room to sit at the bar.

Willow and I squeezed in, waiting to be served. It was so busy, Ben didn't even see me for a couple of minutes. He finally looked over, gave me an I'll-be-right-with-you nod, then recognized me and waved. I waved back, feeling all "yay!" inside.

"I need to get an email address for you. I don't think it was on your story."

"No, it wasn't. I'll give you an email." Why did he need it?

He made our drinks and brought over a small notepad. "PLAY" was written across the top of the page, underlined. There were already a list of email addresses written out.

Oh. That's why.

I added my email, but didn't put my real name down (I have a cyber-moniker I use for online things, one other than Dolly). Gave him the pad along with a twenty.

Ben nodded, took the money, and gave me my change: a ten, a five, and five singles. I laughed.

Willow and I joined Sophie (my first mention of her, though for readers of Desperate Guy's blog, she is known as "Spinal Tap Girl" over there and she is lovely), who was sharing a large table in the front with a few friends.

This was good. Let Ben know I'm in the bar, but have better things to do than fawn over him.

I think it goes without saying that the circumstances for asking him out were beyond not right, were pretty much impossible. I was okay with that.

Next time I went up to the bar for a drink, Ben charged me (Polly pointed out he couldn't keep up the free drinks all night, which makes sense), and asked,

"Where did you go?"

"I'm sitting with some friends at a table."

"Did you write your email legibly?"

No, I wrote it backwards, with my toes, in pig latin, just to be difficult.

"I did."

"It's going to be a really fun show."

"It better be," I replied, "or I'm going to ask for my money back."

The guy next to me started cracking up.

"I want everyone to see it, it's going to be good. It's probably going to sell out."

"Well, you seem pretty confident about it." My tone of voice was slightly mocking.

There was no opportunity to talk to Ben, but something interesting happened at Cozy Bar. I found myself talking to everyone else. At the jukebox, outside during a smoke break, on my way to the bathroom, whoever was next to me at the bar. I wasn't doing it to show off for Ben, I was doing it because I was in a great mood and wanted to share it with others. I can't remember the last time I felt so confident and outgoing.

A little later in the night, I went up to the bar for a drink, and when Ben saw me, he said to two guys beside me,

"She's a really talented writer. She wrote this short story, it's very good." Ben turned to me,

"These guys work in publishing, you should talk to them, maybe they could help you."

I raised an eyebrow. "I work in publishing, too," I said in a not-impressed-at-all way.

Ben looked surprised. "I didn't know that about you."

"You don't know a lot about me."

I gave Ben a pointed smile and started talking to the two guys beside me. I didn't do it to make Ben jealous, I did it because my self-preservation instincts kicked in and I knew I had to stop pining at some point, and then and there seemed as good a time as any. Plus, one of the publishing guys was pretty attractive, and my age.

The three of us talked shop for a while. I didn't flirt, but I was exuberant and friendly. I asked the two of them to recommend some publications for my story.

Ben came over as I was putting together the list and I said,

"These guys are giving me suggestions on where to submit my story. I think I'm going to send it out. Just you wait, you're going to help me win the Pulitzer."

"I don't know about that," Ben answered, "It was good, but not that good."

"Hey, I do have another story in the works, so you never know. Baby steps."

I continued to chat with the publishing guys for a bit, then wanted to return to my friends. I couldn't, because the twenty I left for my last drink was still sitting there, so I asked Ben for a glass of water and my change. Once again, he brought me a ten, a five, and five ones. Hm, another free drink when I happened to be talking to other guys. Coincidence? (Actually, yeah, maybe it was.)

I wasn't really into either of the two guys and don't think they were interested in me, but it's nice to know people in the industry, so I gave them my email address. They stood to leave, and Ben held his hand out for them to shake.

"I'm here Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays."

(Whose benefit did he say that for, theirs or mine?)

He shook hands with one, then the other, then held it out for me to shake.

I shook his hand and said, "I'm actually not leaving. Still going to stick around for a bit."

Why did he do that? Not that I minded the physical contact.

Anyway, that pretty much summed up my interactions with Ben last night (apart from the "honey" thing, which I foolishly, drunkenly, made such a big deal out of).

Except that a little after 1:00am, when I must have been pretty tipsy, I made up my mind to ask him out. I'd go up there and say,

"So when are you and I going to get a cup of coffee and have a real conversation?"

Willow and Polly thought it was a cute and casual way to do it and encouraged me to go through with it. I just wanted the suspense over with, so I could get on with the rest of my life.

I didn't see Ben behind the bar, so I figured he was on a break, and went outside for a cigarette. I met a girl there and told her about Ben, the story, and how I was going to go back in there and ask him out. The girl was so excited for me.

"Good luck! Let me know how it goes!" she said when we came back inside.

"Thank you!" I turned to face my destiny... only my destiny still hadn't returned to the bar.

I waited until I realized that Ben was gone for the night. Saturdays must be his night for the later shift.

It was a sign. I knew what I had to do, in fact, I had already been doing it all night. Moving on. Getting on with things. Not acting like Ben was the center of my world.

It wasn't my intention to play it cool, but the crowded bar made it impossible to do otherwise. At the same time, it brought me to my senses a bit, made me realize that I can't do all the work. Ben has to meet me halfway. I made a big gesture, but now it's his turn. Except that I'm not going to be waiting for him to realize how special I am and act on it, I'm going to be out there living my life. I'm going to take off the blinders that made it tough to see other men and open my eyes, see what's around. Right now, the timing with Ben is off, but I have many other ways to pass the hours.

It will be at least a week before I go back to Cozy Bar, maybe more. I still can't eat, still feel that nervous hum that I know deep down stems from my feelings for him, but I also know this euphoria is something that does not have to be inextricably linked to Ben. Mom says I'm in love, but I don't want to believe that, not until I am sure Ben is deserving and can reciprocate. Not to be all Arrogant Girl, but I know I have so much to offer, and I deserve more than a one-sided romance. So I'm going to do the sensible thing, ride this happiness, and keep myself open to whatever may come my way.

Before I forget

Personal footnote, feel free to disregard.

Last Saturday, I had this problem. After the night out at Cozy Bar, I had dreams about Barman Ben all night. The next day, when I woke up, there was one thing that confused me, that I couldn't recall whether it happened in one of my dreams or the previous night.

Such a little thing, but it happens in my story, at a pivotal point, which is why I thought it only occured subconsciously.

I couldn't remember if he called me "honey."

Trivial, I know, but it was bothering me. I decided it must have been part of my series of dreams, because Ben was friendly, but never that verbally affectionate.

Except tonight, I had to make a note, because it threw me.

Ben, in all his stoicism, called me "honey."

I wish it didn't mean so much to me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I've had trouble sleeping. I've had trouble eating. I've spent the week in haze. I've kept busy, let my mind focus on other things, but when it has free reign to wander, it always returns to the same thing--or rather the same person. Ben. It's criminal to think about him so much, but I'm powerless to do otherwise.

Tomorrow night, I'm meeting a group of female friends at Cozy Bar. If things are going to move forward between Barman Ben and me, I'm going to need some kind of indication then. If I have misinterpreted the gestures and nuances for something more than platonic interest, I'd rather know sooner than later. This infatuation I'm going through, it's like some kind of crazy illness, and it's fun and giddy and inspiring (I have another story idea percolating), but it isn't real. There's only so much I can live in my head.

The advice I've received has been conflicting. Some think that because of my intense nature, I might intimidate him a bit, and should therefore go ahead and ask him out. Some think I should make him jealous by talking to/flirting with other men (I don't think I like that idea). Some think I should play it cool, not do anything rash, and see how things play out.

I have a problem when it comes to being patient. I don't know that I can wait weeks or months, visiting Cozy Bar from time to time, and gradually building a rapport with Barman Ben until it develops into something or doesn't. At the same time, I run the risk of eradicating any potential anything by being too forward, too eager.

If I ask him out, it would be for coffee, to have a proper conversation outside of the bar. In his voicemail, he already hinted at a full schedule rehearsing for a play, that he's "not going to be around much," so he may plead busy to spare my feelings. But at least this way I would know for sure, not be left wondering, waiting.

Anyway, I hardly ever do this, but I am confused and ambivalent and nervous and distracted and not thinking straight. I don't want to buckle under the weight of this crush, so I would like to open the floor for outside opinions.

Yes, I am actually asking for advice.

What should I do when I see Barman Ben tomorrow night?

[ETA: I have to give credit to this post in Dan's blog for giving me a lot of hope. Thanks, Dan!]

Monday, January 22, 2007

we'll get to that

"Did you get my message?" Barman Ben asked.

"I did."

I won't go into how Willow and I ended up at Cozy Bar Saturday night, but we did. We were in high spirits, pleasantly buzzed, and feeling especially charismatic and confident. It was the perfect time to stop by and pay Barman Ben a visit. Especially since I was no longer interested in him.

Ben reiterated what he said in the voicemail, but was even more complimentary in his praise. He enthused what a "terrific story" it was and what a special gift I had given him. He went on to say it reminded him of a short piece by Murakami, that both works had an undercurrent of eroticism and were rich in detail.

"Well, I figured you probably don't get a lot of people giving you things like stories... or maybe you do."

He paused, smirked a bit, and looked at me. "Nothing that's actually any good. Once I started reading your story, I couldn't put it down until I finished it."

"That's really nice to hear. I wrote it pretty quickly, in about a week."

He would interrupt his cocktail-making to lean in and say more.

"I could tell that. Not from the quality of piece itself, of course, but when you were in here before and I saw you writing, I knew you... had it."

"Actually, I hadn't written anything for over a year before that story." (Probably shouldn't have said that, but there had been lots of drinking and it took all of my effort just to stay outwardly composed and serene.)

"Well... you're not rusty. You're very talented. Is that number I called your home number?"

"It is." I wonder...

I thought that would be it, but he kept talking to me. We touched on the play he's in, various art house movie theaters, and I don't know what else. It was the most natural I have ever been with Ben, and the longest we've ever spoken. It definitely felt like we had some kind of rapport (though exactly what kind has yet to be determined).

Ben waved away my money when I tried to pay for my drink. Willow asked for a soda, and when she tried to pay, he gestured to me and asked,

"Are you with her?"

A nod.

"Then you don't pay, either."

I turned back to Willow and I realized that while I was able to be easygoing and witty with Ben, once I was in the company of my friend, my sentences kept trailing off and my mind wandered. Having him so close by was utterly distracting (in the most wonderful way). While I managed to be calm and collected on the surface, inside me was a chaotic mess of pounding heart and fluttery stomach.

Damn it.

Here's the thing about Cozy Bar. It attracts some pretty decent, friendly, grown-up people. Real prospects. But I can't look at anyone as long as Ben is behind that bar.

Ben would come by for snippets of talk from time to time.

"How long have you been in New York?" I asked.

"We'll get to that."

"What?" I gave him a puzzled look.

"We'll get to that. This is my time right now," he gave me a pointed look, "And I have questions for you, too. I'm going to get my chance to interview you."

"Well, you have my number," I said lightly, feeling like I was on a roller coaster that just took a major dip.

When he walked to the other end of the bar, I turned to Willow.

"Did you hear that?"

"I did," she nodded, eyebrows raised.

"That was a thing, right? That was some kind of moment just now, right?"

"I think so."

After a while, this British guy and I started chatting (we'll call him Magazine Mitch). He was cute and engaging, fun as hell to talk to, but I wasn't attracted. Turns out he has known Barman Ben for years, since he first started working at Cozy Bar. Not only that, he told me Ben's last name and a few other inside bits of info, like what kind of music he likes. Then Mitch would move on to flirting with me.

"You and I should hook up." (I didn't say he was subtle.)

"I'm actually not dating in 2007."

"I never said anything about dating."

I shook my head and laughed.


"You are pretty damn sexy. Do you know how sexy you are?"

"I have my good and bad days," I shrugged and launched into the evening's worst segue:

"What about Ben? He knows he's attractive, doesn't he." It wasn't a question.

Mitch nodded and we looked at Ben on the other side of the bar. "He does know... but he doesn't get carried away with it."

Willow went home at around 3:00. I stayed. Asked more questions.

Mitch told me that Ben has done a number of movies.

"Which ones?" I got my pen and paper handy.

He named one, and told me not to tell Ben, who overheard.

"Oh, don't tell her to see that movie, it's terrible." He turned to me, "Don't listen to him. I'll tell you a couple of better ones to see."

"Go ahead, you can write them down." I showed him the pen and paper.

"I'll tell you later."

Magazine Mitch wanted to smoke a cigarette and asked me to get him another pint while he was gone. He gave me a twenty and told me to get something for myself, too, if I wanted.

I ordered the drinks and held out the twenty.

"Who's money is that?"

"Mitch's. He asked me to get another round while he went outside."

"Okay," he took the bill from me, "his money I'll take."

Magazine Mitch ended up introducing me to a couple of the other regulars, who were a bit older and very sweet to me. At one point, I had all these men around me like a modern-day Scarlett O'Hara (it was awesome).

"She's a keeper," Ben said to them. This left me simultaneously elated and confused. I mean, great, now I know he holds me in high regard, but that kind of statement might be treading on I-love-her-like-a-sister territory (If I'm such a keeper, he should be doing the keeping).

Barman Ben announced last call and played the Rolling Stones. He was mostly his usual subdued self, but more upbeat than I've seen him. It was great to talk to him so easily and joke around a bit (at one point, I called him "The King of Dramatic Pauses" and he froze in place for fifteen seconds before replying, which cracked me up). I feel like I got to see more of Ben the person, and it only made me like him more.

Meanwhile, Magazine Mitch was tried to get me to come over and smoke weed with him and his friends.

"Are you drunk enough to make out yet?" he asked.

"No. Sorry."

"Well, I am."

"So tell me, is Barman Ben a player?"

He thought about it. "No. No, I wouldn't say he is," then the penny dropped and he gave a sly smile, "Oh... are you interested in Ben?" He looked from Ben to me. "Yeah, you could probably get with him."

"I didn't say I was interested, I was just asking." Thank goodness Ben was out of earshot.

While Mitch was busy talking to his friends, I leaned in and asked Ben,

"What's a nice way I can tell him that I'm not going to hook up with him?"

"Mitch is a good guy, don't worry about him. He won't give you any trouble."

"I mean, I did already tell him I'm taking 2007 off from dating, so I'm hoping that got the message across."

I think that might have made him smile (he doesn't do that much).

I know I'm recapping every little interaction and should just give the highlights, but I want to remember every detail, so please bear with me. This next part is important.

In my short story, when my main female character goes to the bar, the bartender always changes the music to Nina Simone for her, because she once told him how much she loves Simone's voice. It's one of the subtle ways he shows he cares about her before he's even fully aware of it himself.

Well, Barman Ben knows I love Favorite Singer. We talked about him before and his name came up again Saturday night, though I don't think I've ever heard a Favorite Singer song played at Cozy Bar.

For the last song, Ben specifically searched for and queued his iPod to a Favorite Singer song. It might have been a coincidence, but I think it was for me. Could have been a gesture, could have been a crumb. I'll take it.

There were a handful of people who lingered when the lights came on. Ben stood by the back tables and didn't seem to be in a hurry, so I went over and offered him the pen and paper. It was nice not to have the bar between us (Man alive, he is so tall! And so just-the-right-amount-of-good-looking).

"So are you going to give me that list of movies?"

"I'll call you and give you the list."

"Sure you will."

"I'm serious. I will call you."

I said good-night and he brought me in for a hug. Brief, but two-armed, full-bodied. Heaven.

I dreamed of him all night. Nothing racy, just of him and me in a bar. In one of the dreams, he called me "honey".

I looked him up on IMDB. Turns out he's been in several movies I have in my collection, including a couple of indies where he has played the male lead. I saw one of the films on the Sundance Channel, about a month before I met him (and watched it again today). No wonder there was something vaguely familiar about him. Happens to be a pretty good actor, too (let's not even get into all that).

I can't begin to guess what might come next. I dare not hope that he is interested in me romantically, though I could die a happy woman if I only got to kiss him, even once.

I know I should switch off my phone and stay away from Cozy Bar for a while, but that's not going to happen. I already have standing plans to go back with friends at the end of the week.

Try to resist it (I did), but you can't help who you are drawn to. It's a strange, helpless feeling, but also oddly euphoric. Dangerous, but that's life. I could avoid it, but I don't want to, because I love how alive I feel right now. All I can do is enjoy the high as long as it lasts.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

In Rum Veritas

Okay, so I thought he was out of my system, really I did.

I am such a liar.

Barman Ben. I thought I was over him, completely and utterly.

I'm not.

Still smitten. So very smitten. So very foolish of me, but I can't help it.

And I can't help but think he might like me a little bit, too.

I couldn't possibly be more doomed...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bar Z

"Do you think those two are straight?" I asked Willow.

"I don't know, I think they could be. They don't look like they're together that way."

Willow and I were in Bar Z, where she was flirting with one of the regulars who guest bartends on the weekends (let's call him Guest B). I was concerned my presence might verge into third wheel or cockblock territory, but Willow insisted I stay and hang out. After all, it was a three-day weekend for us, so drinking on a Sunday night felt a little more indulgent than usual.

"Guest B, how's your gaydar?" I asked.

"I have very good gaydar."

"Those two," I pointed to the end of the bar. One had strawberry blond hair and was drinking a martini; the other was wearing a striped shirt and drinking a beer. "What do you think?"

"I think they're straight. But I can find out for sure," he made a move like he was going to walk over there.

"Oh no you don't! I'll find out myself," I said, eyeing the stack of board games placed conveniently near the two attractive men whose sexual orientation we were trying to determine. "Let's play a board game."

"I'd be up for that," said Willow.

I went over and examined the boxes, chose VH1's I Love the 80s game.

"It can't just be the two of us; we need teams."

"We have to find a way to play this game," Willow was insistent, being a fan of both pop culture trivia and the decade in question.

"I think I'll be able to find us teams." I went back over to the other end of the bar and, nervous but bold as anything, asked the two guys if they'd be interested in playing the board game with us.


Introductions were made. Martini guy was Lawyer Luke and stripes and beer was Programmer Paul (friends, roommates, and very much straight). Neither was much of an expert on the 80s, so I decided to make the teams boy-girl. This meant I had to make a command decision about which guy I was more interested in. Programmer Paul and I seemed to have more of an instant flirtation happening, so I chose him for my teammate. Meanwhile, Willow left the game from time to time to smooch Guest B outside, which made me feel bad for Lawyer Luke.

The game was pretty close, but Paul and I pulled ahead. Guest B would come by once in a while to check our progress, put his paws on Willow, and show us just how much drunker than the rest of us he was.

Paul and I were up. Willow asked our question:

"Who posed as a high school student while writing the screenplay for Fast Times at Ridgemont High?"

Paul shook his head. "No idea."

I thought about it, "It's someone like John Hughes, but not John Hughes."

Willow shook her head.

"I feel like I know this one." I wracked the part of my brain that forgets birthdays to store trivia like this.

"You don't know. I'll give you... two hundred bucks if you get this right," Guest B chimed in.

"It's definitely not John Hughes, maybe Cameron Crowe."

Willow kept shaking her head.

"I know it's someone I'm familiar with. I'm going to guess Cameron Crow."

Willow smiled. "You're right. It's Cameron Crowe."

I high-fived Paul and turned to Guest B. "Looks like you owe me two hundred bucks."

Everyone agreed, and Willow showed him the card to verify I got the question right. He didn't say anything and went behind the bar for a bit.

We laughed it off and kept playing.

A few minutes later, Guest B returned and handed me a handful of twenties. I counted out a hundred dollars.

"This is what I could get."

I laughed in astonishment. "I think a hundred bucks is fair. Call it even." We shook hands.

The next round was on me.

Programmer Paul and I ended up winning the game. Willow and Guest B went off, and I left with the two guys, hoping they'd stick around long enough to make sure I got a taxi (it was around 3:30am at this point). Luke walked on ahead, but Paul stayed with me. The streets were totally empty and Paul recommended that I walk a few blocks over, where there were more cabs.

As we walked, we continued to chat, and put our arms around each others' waists. I was lightly buzzed, but far from drunk. A bit about Paul: he's my age, from the Midwest, hates sports (yay!) and gives good banter. Easygoing, friendly, flirty, but mildly so. Turns out he doesn't like the 80s much at all, so bonus points that he endured hours of the game (I suppose my sparkling company made it all worthwhile).

A few blocks later, still no taxis.

"Maybe I should call a car."

"You could do that. Or you could come over for a quick drink."


"I live just down the street."

How convenient that he led me in the direction of his apartment. He didn't press the issue, though. Left it up to me.

"One drink."

Luke was in his room when we got there, so we had the living room to ourselves.

I just need to pause the action to point out what a lovely apartment these guys had ("yes, we are straight," Paul confirmed, when I complimented their taste in decor).

"I feel like I'm in an actual grown-ups apartment. I'm so impressed," I said, as I glanced around: minimalist design, autumnal color scheme, soft lighting, and cleaner than my place is on its cleanest days.

Paul poured us some wine, and we settled on the plush (suede?) sofa. Between the delicious wine, the comfy seating, and Paul's laid back demeanor, I felt instantly at ease and happy that I came over.

He sat about a foot away from me and we talked. And talked. For hours. About our families, our experiences growing up, our thoughts on New York. He did not make a move and I knew I wouldn't mind it if things did not go beyond conversation, because I was enjoyed his company quite a bit.

Paul did sit a bit closer, though, and put an arm around me. He kissed me. Soft, then more intense. It was nice, then it was better than nice. We had the best kissing chemistry I've had since TV Tyler (and that was a year ago).

He invited me to stay over. I wasn't going to do it, hated the idea of doing the walk of shame in my miniskirt and boots, but it was nearly 6:00am and I was extremely sleepy. And I knew I didn't have to worry about Paul. I felt safe. He didn't run any stupid routines on me or act cocky or confident in a phony way; he was genuine, playful, nice--but in a good way, not a boring way.

I stayed for a bit, but left in the early afternoon. There was a point where I vaguely felt like I wanted to be in my own bed, but my need for escape wasn't as acute as it was on my birthday. This time, I was sober, very much aware of my decision, and very glad I stayed.

Naturally, considering the circumstances, I don't expect him to call. Still, it was a fun and surprising evening, and the perfect antidote for my recent dry spell.

Plus, I made $100! (um, I could see how that could be misconstrued...)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Epilogue: Barman Ben

I did not get to sleep until 8:00am this morning (another story for another time) so I'm pretty much ready to crash. Forgive any potential incoherence in advance.

Willow and I were on the phone yesterday, when I saw another call coming through. It was a phone number I didn't recognize and my heart gave a little jump: Barman Ben. It had been nearly two weeks since I gave him the story. I had been too busy to give it much thought and didn't expect to hear from him.

"Willow, another call is coming through, but I'm not going to take it. I think it might be Barman Ben."

"Are you sure you don't want to take it?"

"Absolutely. I want to see if he leaves a message and what he has to say."

It was a while before my phone beeped again. I was going to finish talking to Willow before checking my messages, but curiosity got the best of me.

"Do you mind if I call you back?"

Not at all.

I checked my phone: three missed calls, all from the same number; one new message.

It was Barman Ben. He left a 1:52 minute message (long, right?). He did have a deep, rather sexy phone voice, but sounded utterly exausted. Without transcribing the whole thing, here's a general sketch:

"Hi, it's Barman Ben from Cozy Bar. I can't talk too long, my voice is pretty shot, and I start rehearsal tomorrow. But I did want to tell you that I thought your story was really, really good, and I think you are very talented. I would have called sooner, but I figured I'd see you in the bar, and then got busy with other things... But I did want to call because I read the story probably the day after you gave it to me, in one sitting, and remembering what I felt reading it, it was just so detailed, I didn't want to put it down. There's something really wonderful there. Maybe when I get out of this play and whatever else is going on... I want to make a short film and if you have the time, maybe I could grab one of your short stories, if you have one collecting dust. I'll let you know about this play when it goes up, if it looks like it's going to be any good. Anyway, I'll see you when I do. I'm not going to be around that much. I did want to thank you again for giving me the pages. It was such a nice gift, a rare gift, and you are super-talented, and I'm happy to have gotten to see a bit of your work. Have a good Sunday."

To save this message, press 9.

And that's it, just like that, the fantasy is over, my image of Barman Ben irreperably shattered.

It was dreadful to learn that Barman Ben is an... an... (even writing it saddens me, but I must)


I need to pause just to shake my head. I had hoped Barman Ben wouldn't be such a stereotype, but alas.

At this point, I'd rather get romantically involved with a man in prison than an actor, so even if Barman Ben showed a keen interest in me, I'd never, ever go there. Besides, there were enough hints in the message to express how unavailable he is. Which is fine, because I am not available, either.

Still, it has to be said that the message is quite kind and complimentary. The fact that he read the story, saw "something really wonderful there", and called to tell me how "super-talented" I am, makes me feel good. And hey, he still inspired a hell of a good short story, so that's worth a lot.

Now to find my next muse...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

say it ain't so

I discovered something awful about Barman Ben.

It's terrible. Absolutely terrible. Oh, the horror just thinking of it. *shudder*

I have to get ready to meet Willow, so details will have to wait.

Suffice it to say, every last trace of my crush has now been eradicated. I am officially crush-free!


Saturday, January 13, 2007


Wow, where does the time go? This past week was so action-packed, I was too busy to blog (Too busy to blog! So unlike me!).

See, I've been putting my Dolly 2.0 plan into action, but I don't know that the details would be of interest to many people besides myself and my circle of friends. Feel free to skim.

Basically, there are three things I putting my energy into this year: developing my career, getting myself into really good shape, and exploring new personal interests. That's exactly what I have spent the last couple of weeks doing. I've been adusting to my new (rather strict) diet and exercise routine. I have received loads of new responsibilities at the office, so I've been getting used to the extra work, while exploring other job options in my spare time. I've been diversifying the way I spend my free time: this week alone I played Scrabble, went to see Janeane Garofolo do stand-up, and attended a Robert Altman double feature.

This does not leave a whole lot of time to see my friends, to say nothing of dating.

In fact, I do not have the time, desire, or level of masochism required to start dating again. I may just take the year off from dating altogether. Does that mean I will turn down every man who asks me out? Actually it does, unless I sense a real potential.

My mother tried to play matchmaker recently and put me in touch with this nice guy who came into her office, saw my photo, and was instantly smitten. This guy was sweet in his emails but--without sounding like a total snob here--I knew he wasn't dynamic or intelligent enough for me (half of his emails have been all in caps; who does that anymore??). He referred to himself as "an average guy". Is it too much to want somebody a little above average? When he asked me out, I told him I had a lot going on personally and professionally, and didn't think I was in the right headspace to date.

And it's true. I want to put my best self out there, but right now my energy is going into bettering myself, so I'm unavailable. I like it that way. It's nice taking responsibility for my happiness again (of course, that's usually when a guy comes along to try to mess it all up; I'm no stranger to life's irony).

I won't lie, I do miss sex. I really miss kissing. But if neither of those things happen within a greater emotional context, they are hollow and fleeting. Right now, I'm finding fulfillment from the other aspects of my life.

This isn't to say that I'm a total nun. I've corresponded a bit with a cutie in Italy and another in England. Last night I shared some charged flirtatious banter with an attractive guy who I'll probably run into at future events (actually, if he asked me out, I probably would say yes to him). As for Barman Ben, I have pretty much written him off (literally and figuratively).

See, if I put in all this time challenging myself and raising my level of awesomeness, I'm going to need someone who will rise to meet me. Until a real contender comes along, I'll continue the reinvention, the honing, the discovery and rediscovery of what I'm capable of, the having adventures big and small, the being happy again.

Yeah, I somehow turned this ship around. I'm happy again.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

One Year Later

I thought about doing some kind of retrospective post last week, but decided not to for a number of reasons. However, I do want to put down a few thoughts today, because my blog is now a year old. Woo, happy blog birthday to me!

Yes, exactly one year ago, I decided to begin an anonymous blog to have a place to freely discuss sex, dating, and relationships. I expected to jot down some thoughts and experiences and have maybe a dozen people read them. I didn't think I'd end up meeting pickup artists, dating two guys at the same time, crashing a wedding, doing drugs in the bathroom of a bar, writing two book proposals, taking the best vacation of my life, and falling into the worst depression of my life. As well as all the things that happened in between. Never in a million years did I think my blog would be quoted in newspapers, attract the attention of literary agents, television producers, and documentary filmmakers, not to mention get me invited to a seduction conference in Montreal! I never thought I'd have to create an email folder called "fan mail." I mean, wow. Looking back on it like that, it was easily the most eventful year of my life. I'm glad I chronicled so much of it on this site.

There's no telling what this year will bring, but I'm determined it will be good things. My job search is underway, my fitness regimen is in motion, and I have regained my passion and enthusiasm for life. More than that, I have regained my sense of romanticism. I don't want to view courtship as some kind of game or playing field. The less calculating and strategizing, the better.

I don't know how this blog is going to evolve going forward. I have honestly thought about taking it down (even though it would still exist in cached form somewhere, probably). I have some concerns about whether it might be a liability at some point in the future. Also, having recently rediscovered the pleasures of writing fiction, maybe that's where I should focus my attention. To be an effective diarist, you have to give a lot of yourself, and I don't know if I want to continue doing that. At the same time, this blog is a lifeline for me, a great catharsis at times, and I'm astounded at the varied responses it has garnered. So I'm not ready to shut down just yet. Nor am I going to take all the blood out of it by writing about less personal things. I guess I'm somewhat conflicted. And what better place to share that ambivalence than here?

I guess as much as I try to subvert it, what I really love is telling stories, whether they are fictional or autobiographical. That's something I want to continue doing, probably across various media.

Speaking of various media, one of Penny's listener's sent her an email commenting on her podcast with me and calling me a "playa". First of all: hahahahaha. That's just as silly as calling me a female pickup artist. Apart from a month or two last year, I'd never use either label. Don't I keep talking about how I'm into monogamy, love, romance, all that good stuff? I guess I can see how someone could read the blog and think I was somehow tainted, but I think everyone has had dabbled in debauchery, while very few people are actually honest about it (at least, in public). As I said in the podcast, anyone I'm going to be serious with is going to have to accept everything I've blogged about and not judge me for it. I also don't think I'd want to go out with someone who knew about the blog beforehand, because I'd want to share these things over time.

(I promise, I'm almost done with the navel-gazing here.)

What I'm trying to get at here is that I do worry about whether the blog could potentially sabotage a relationship (revealing too much too soon, that sort of thing) because I have done lots and lots of dating and I think I'm kind of over it. It's been tumultuous and fun, but I've always believed that when I meet the right person, I would pretty much know right away, not after five dates. And I wouldn't want that person to get the wrong impression of me based on what I wrote on the internet.

Okay, that's enough rambling. Enough recapping, enough introspection, enough thinking I have a solid grasp of this crazy little thing called love. At this point whatever happens next in my love life will be a complete and utter surprise.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

new year, new oneitis, new cure

Can I just say how happy I am that the holidays are over? I truly am. No more hordes of tourists in my work neighborhood, no more false cheer, no more pressure to be warm and fuzzy. In fact, now that the ubiquitous carols have been muted and the decorations are coming down, I'm perking right up (wouldn't mind some snow, though).

For those who didn't listen to the podcast, I am in the throes of a massive crush on Barman Ben, the most dashing bartender to ever grace a drinking establishment. Yes, it's a bad idea, so everyone says, so I realize. However Barman Ben has become more than my object of unrequited affection, he has also become my muse.

Sounds crazy, but it's true. Apart from this blog, I haven't done any creative writing in over a year. Since I started going to Cozy Bar, I sensed inspiration buzzing; a story started to form. I can't remember the last time I felt this kind of urge to write: I'd have to stop in the middle of anything I was doing to scrawl a word or phrase or concept; I had trouble falling asleep because stray sentences would keep circulating; I'd wake up at 3:00am to scribble bits of dialogue in a notebook.

Last week, Podcast Penny accompanied me to the bar, to visit Ben and see if he would provide any more inspiration. Despite being preoccupied, he did, so did the bar's retro atmosphere, and so did Penny, who helped me iron out some details for the story. I spent the rest of the week working feverishly; I barely saw or spoke to anyone and put in hour after hour on my laptop. The final story that emerged is, I have to say, pretty damn good. It's bittersweet and has an open ending. It's the first thing I've been passionate about in months. It's the best thing I've written in years.

Naturally, since Barman Ben inspired the piece, I needed to give him a copy. I mean, how often does a person have a living, breathing muse? It's rather flattering, no?

I went to the bar last night, expecting it to be pretty quiet. Instead it was full of people and more brightly lit than usual (I'm not one to talk, but what kind of lushes go drinking the day after New Year's??) . I was terribly nervous, but had to go through with it.

Ben was in the middle of arguing with a female customer at a back table, who being bitchy over something stupid (don't give the dashing barman attitude, woman!). He went back behind the bar, obviously annoyed, obviously busy. Oh dear.

I was just standing there. Now or never.

"Happy new year," I smiled, shocked at how calm my voice sounded.

"I'm actually not staying, I just wanted to give you this," I handed him a Manila envelope.

"Thank you," he took it and put it beween some bottles behind him.

"It's a short story. I was here the other week taking notes for it."

"Should I be worried?"

I grinned, "No! Not at all. Though you might find one of the characters somewhat familiar."

"Well, thank you."

He seemed genuinely grateful, like I had given him a gift, which was enough for me. I was about to turn away, but he continued.

"I'll read it and let you know... is there any way for me to...?"

"My contact info in on there."

I left the bar, not feeling the ground, dazed on the subway, elated on the walk home.

The thing is, I don't expect him to call, even though it looks like there's a chance he will (I only put my name, address, and number on the story; email is less personal). And if he does call, I don't expect him to ask me out (though on Planet Dolly, we are already mad about each other and trying to make it work despite my 9-5 and his 6-2 hours).

Honestly? This was enough. Giving him the story was my way of curing my infatuation. I'm keeping the ringer on my phone switched off for the next few days so that I can keep calm, and after that I'll put him completely (well, mostly) out of my mind. Since I miraculously managed to play it cool, I'll even be able to return to the bar sometime.

Most importantly, Barman Ben gets to read a lovely story of which he is the imperfect-but-endearing hero. Everybody wins.