Guess I should start with Friday. I knew it was going to be a great night. I didn't have any big expectations, I just felt that slight tingle under my skin, that electric anticipation that there was fun on the horizon.
Before meeting Willow for one of our regular Bar K outings, I stopped into a deli for a quick bite. Sitting at the next table was a man in his thirties, dressed in black, eating a sandwich. Another man came in who turned out to be his friend; the man in black said he was about to go to work and the friend mentioned he just moved to my neighborhood. I was in a talking-to-strangers kind of mood, so I mentioned to the friend how much I loved the neighborhood, how great it was, etc. We talked for a minute and the friend left. The man in black stayed to finish his meal.
"Excuse me," my gut told me to go ahead and ask him. "Are you a bartender?"
Here we go. "I have a question. Is it common for bartenders to date customers?"
He nodded. "It happens a lot."
"Because there's this bartender I'm interested in and I'm wondering how can a bar patron go from being that to...something more?"
"Good question." He thought about it. "Well, you want to show your face regularly, get to know each other...have you tried staying until the bar closes?"
"I did that once, because I was talking to people, but I didn't want to linger. That could look bad."
"Good thinking. Do you think this bartender knows you're interested?"
"I think he has a pretty good idea."
"Well, then...I don't know what to tell you. It does happen a lot, though. Keep going, keep talking to him. Good luck."
Something about that interaction felt like a good omen.
At Bar K, Willow and I talked to some of the regulars one of which, Ad Sales Andy, remembered that I wrote about dating online and had a knack for helping men be more successful with women. He and his friend asked for some of my basic thoughts and ideas. I said the two most important things I learned in the last year was to have a full, interesting life and go out with a view to having a great time, not to specifically meeting someone, and also that interactions with people in general (in a romantic context and otherwise) should ideally be about what you have to offer and raising the other person's social value, instead of taking or needing something from them.
Ad Sales Andy was hanging on my every word, but I think it was also because he fancied me.
During a cigarette break a little later, his friend offered me a drag off a joint, which I accepted. Then Andy kissed me. I was tipsy and wanted kisses, so I went along with it, even though I wasn't really interested in him (damn me and my alcohol-related kiss cravings!).
Back inside Bar K, I realized I was missing Cozy Bar and wanted to stop by there. Willow was tired and decided to give it a miss, so I went by myself, figuring I was bound to run into people I knew, or talk to new folks.
Once I arrived, I saw plenty of familiar faces, including Edward Furlong-y and my favorite regular of them all, Magazine Mitch. He introduced me to the two women he was with and said,
"We tried to see Ben's play tonight, but it was sold out. We did see him afterwards, though."
"You should have gotten advanced tickets, silly," I answered.
Before long, Mitch and I were in the bathroom, smoking and smooching.
"I'm really fucked off that I didn't get to see the play," he said.
"Well, tomorrow's the last show and it's probably sold out."
"No, the box office said there are twenty tickets left."
I felt a spark of hope in my chest. "Let's go order tickets. Right now."
For all the coercing Mitch had tried to do in the past to get me to come over, I was the one who insisted we go to his place then and there.
The two women he was with had left at that point (not sure if they saw us disappear to the bathroom together or what) and I told him we'd be quick and return to the bar shortly.
Mitch lives around the corner from Cozy Bar, in a third floor walk-up. It's quite possibly the nicest boy apartment I have ever seen. Beautifully decorated in deep reds and sage greens, overstuffed couches, velvet curtains, embroidered bedspread, cherry wood dining table, and tasteful accents throughout.
"It's not too metrosexual?" he asked.
"No! It's tidy and pretty, but still has a masculine and comfortable feel to it. You have a really lovely place."
He gave me the full tour, from his private office to the kitchen cabinets, one of which held nothing but various pill bottles, filled with holistic and illicit substances.
Mitch put on a David Bowie concert DVD and prepared a bowl. Normally, smoking pot after drinking makes me nauseous, but I had a few hits and felt perfectly mellow. I sank back into the marshmallow-like sofa cushions and watched Bowie do his thing.
"I am so fucked up," Mitch said.
"Yeah. Let's get those tickets."
We went into his office, I got the site up, Mitch read out his credit card info, and I printed the confirmation.
"We're really going aren't we?" I asked, not fully believing it.
"Thank you so much," I gave him a big hug.
Funny enough, Mitch didn't try anything when he had me in his apartment, and was a perfect gentleman. It couldn't have been the alcohol/drugs, because I'm pretty sure we made out more later that night. Actually the rest of the night is pretty much a blur, so I'll fast forward to the play.
"We probably won't get to talk to him much afterwards," Mitch warned. "He's Mr. Movie Star and I could barely get to him the other night, he had so many people surrounding him."
"Oh, that's fine. I figure it's going to be even more insane with it being the last performance. I just want to say hello and tell him he did a good job." I also wanted him seeing me look smokin' hot, and generally bask in Ben's dreaminess, but I left that part out.
The play was still entertaining the second time around, and even though Mitch knew to expect nudity, he was somewhat thrown by it.
"I can't believe I saw Ben's cock," he said in the bar afterwards, while we waited for the cast. "That's just too much," he shook his head. "Did you see how big his cock was?"
"Do we have to talk about this?" I looked around nervously, not wanting Ben to show up as we were discussing his anatomy.
"He's got a bigger cock than I do," Mitch continued.
We finally changed the subject. I kept looking around in a subtle way, but Mitch spotted him first.
"There's your guy."
As expected, he had plenty of well-wishers surrounding him, so we stayed where we were, figuring he'd make his way over to us. Eventually, he was a few feet away, the people in front of us cleared out, and we called him over.
"Did you get in this time?" Ben asked Mitch, who nodded.
"Hey, gorgeous," He started to give me a hug, then pulled away, doing a double take. I kept my hand on his back. He looked me up and down in a very surprised and appreciative way. "You look good." Ben gave me hug, then murmured in my ear, "You smell good, too."
Mitch and I told him he did a good job on the play.
Ben turned to me, "I know it's not as good as your stuff, and I'd rather do a drama with you, but it's still good for me to do these kinds of things." Mind you, the playwright in question is a published writer and respected in the theater world. As he talked, he continued to look me up and down.
"Doesn't she look good?" Ben asked Mitch, then looked at me again, not waiting for an answer, "Your hair, your..." He looked like he was ready to eat me up with a spoon.
Ben continued his rounds; after he left, I took a big sip of my drink to steady myself, unable to speak for a few seconds.
"I just need a moment," I said to Mitch, feeling all kinds of shaky and incoherent.
Mitch and I had a few more drinks, and kept talking and talking. He is actually great company and we had a lot of fun at the bar together. I did keep an eye on Ben, though (it looks like he spent a big portion of the night talking to some guy at the bar). At one point, he standing talking to a group of people and we were perfectly in each other's line of vision. I smiled at him and he mouthed something back to me, though I couldn't make out what it was.
A couple of hours later, Ben looked ready to leave. I stood, wanting to catch him on his way out. He came by again and held my hand as he talked to us.
"So are you going to go home and get laid?" Mitch asked.
"No, man, I'm gonna go home and jerk off," Ben replied.
The two of them talked about I don't know what, because I was too focused on Ben's hand in mine. Then it was time for him to go.
"When are you back?" I asked.
"Tuesday. I'll see you on Tuesday." He leaned in and gave me a peck on the lips.
After he left, I turned to Mitch. "Did you see that? He kissed me on the lips."
"Yeah, he kissed me on the lips, too. I think he's bisexual."
"Don't ruin my moment, Mitch."
"Let's get out of here and go to Cozy Bar."
We took a taxi over there. To my surprise, I found myself opening up to Mitch. I told him about my depression last year and other personal details. Mitch may be a bit messed up, but is very smart and easy to talk to.
"We have fun, don't we?" he asked.
As the taxi was nearing the bar, we kissed, but this time it felt different. It was more of an "I like you" kind of kiss. Maybe it felt more emotional for me, because I had just shared some very private things with Mitch, or because we were starting to connect as people instead of tipsy bar patrons. Then again, we were hardly sober in the taxi, either.
Cozy Bar was fun as always, and despite feeling like crap on a cracker yesterday and today, it was worth the good times.
Much as I don't like to admit it, I think I'm starting to like Mitch a bit. It's a very bad idea for several reasons (beginning and ending with the fact that our hookups have all been alcohol-fueled). I don't think our personality types would work together, I think we both have lots of issues to work through, but there's something seemingly minor that bothers me above all else. He never makes sure I am safely in a taxi before walking home after the bar closes, he just leaves me outside in the middle of the night. It's small, but the kind of thing that makes me know deep down I couldn't be with him.
Also, I still can't get my mind off Ben. Tomorrow night, I'll get to mark his return to Cozy Bar. I don't have unrealistically high hopes, I have decided it will be enough if I just get to kiss Ben, just once (a real kiss, not a peck). At this point, thinking back to the way he looked at me on Saturday, the way he has looked at me before, too, I think maybe it's not such an impossible thing to hope for.