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.
"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.