For ‘Sessions in the Balcony’

At Downtown New York City Lounge in my early 30’s: The girl with the “Come hither” look

She smiled and curled her finger as if to motion, “Come here.”
Leaning with my back against the wall and trying to look cool, I mouthed the word, “No.”
she appeared shocked. Then she sipped from the red straw in her drink, shrugged her shoulders and turned around to face the bar.

I was able to see her reflection in the mirror, but she seemed unaffected.
She placed her drink on the counter and then pulled a cigarette from a blue and white pack of Parliaments.
I watched her reflection in the mirror…
She did not turn back around or look to see if I was looking.
She made her move, and I, trying my best to be cool, acted the way I thought I was supposed to.

“Who cares,” I thought to myself. “Besides, she smokes.”

My friends were scattered throughout the lounge. Most of them were talking to girls, and undoubtedly, they were all trying to get laid.
As for me, I was the odd man out. I was leaning against a wall and looking at a mirror.

The bartender knew me by face. He knew what I ordered and he knew there was never any alcohol in my drink. This was important to me. Though it only happened once, I accidentally drank from the wrong drink. As soon as I tasted the liquor, I spit out the drink and rinsed my mouth with water.

I approached the bar, and as a strategy, I stood two bodies away from the girl with the “Come hither,” look.
Pointing at me, the bartender asked, “Coke with no ice?”
He rarely charged me. When he did, the bartender would always charge me less and say, “You’re a friend of Anthony’s, right?”
I would answer, “Yes,” then I would laugh because I had no idea who Anthony was.

He placed the glass in front of me and said, “Don’t worry about it,” as I went to pay.
“Thanks,” I told him.
“Hey……any friend of Anthony’s is a friend of mine,” he responded.

Then I heard a voice from someone approximately two bodies away. “Coke with no ice, huh? Aren’t we the risk taker?”
It was the girl with the “Come hither look.”
I said, “I like to live life on the edge.”
“I can see that,” she teased.

The sarcasm in her voice was playful but not too obnoxious. She was dressed well in a black pants suit. Her high heels brought her close to my height and the opened collar to her silky, midnight-blue shirt, allowed a nice view of her cleavage.
The girl was not thin; she was voluptuous. She was not overweight; she was healthy. Her smile was white and her hair was fashionably red with streaks of blonde and it was cut slightly longer than shoulder length.

My outfit was predictable. I wore black slacks, with a black jacket, black shoes and a black button down shirt. I often wore this outfit or at least a version that was close to it because I felt uncomfortable in anything else.
In my struggle with awkwardness,   I assumed everyone saw me as I saw myself. So rather than try something new, I repeated the outfits I had success with.
I associated what I wore with good times, or better, I associated them with memorable nights, which resulted in some form of sexual advance.

“You like to play games, don’t you,” asked the girl.
“Then why didn’t you come over before?”
“You mean, when you curled your finger at me?”
“Why, was there another time you were staring?”

She raised the drink to her face and sipped from her straw. As she sipped, I watched the mixture of vodka and cranberry disappear from the ice at the bottom of her glass.

“I don’t stare,” I told her.
“You were staring before.”
“I don’t remember that.”

This is the banter of single life. This was the back and forth volley of opening lines, which result in either one of three things:  A phone number, a hook up or nothing.
I saw this as a necessary evil or formality—but in the end; I hated this part.

Her face was pretty and her tanned skin appeared to be soft. I could smell the vodka on her breath as she teased, “You need to learn how to loosen up.”
“Oh, I’m loose I said.”
The girl spat back, “I can tell,” and then she turned to the bar for another drink.

Lifting the glass, she requested, “Vodka and cranberry, please.”
“Is she with you?” asked the bartender.
The girl looked at me and asked, “Am I?”
“Then it’s on the house,” said the bartender.

She thanked him and turned to me, “You know, it’s not polite to let a girl drink alone.”
The bartender commented, “You’re wasting your time, princess. He doesn’t drink.”
“Do you guys know each other, or something?”
The bartender responded, “I know him well enough to know he doesn’t drink.”

That’s when I figured out who Anthony was….
Anthony was a friend of mine from a 12 step program.

Nothing ever happened with that girl. As for Anthony (as far as I knew) he was never able to grasp the idea of sobriety; at least not for more than a few months.
But on a night when I struggled with my awkwardness —

I was recognized for something good.
And that’s not a bad thing…

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