My friend insisted on taking me out on my first night in Oakland. Even though I don’t really go out, and it wasn’t even my first night in Oakland, I relented because spending another night hoping that the Internet starts working properly and flipping through local news channels with a plastic tray full of microwaveable organic macaroni and cheese seemed dismal in comparison. And I don’t even know how much of a friend he really is. I knew that my arrival in town counted merely as, “here’s someone new I can drag out to bars while I try to fuck girls” to him. I’d done that with him before, and despite the fact that this particular activity always slightly repulsed me, it seemed like an okay thing to witness tonight.
He seems to be fairly good at it, and despite the fact that we all think he looks slightly gnomeish with his round head and beady eyes and hair line leaning slightly high back on his forehead, he does get women to have sex with him.
Maybe there’s something to be said for personality. I mean, I’m not particularly attractive, but I think that at the very least I’m better looking than he is. Although, maybe it has nothing to do with personality, because one day in a hangover haze after kicking out some bleach blond, spray tanned teenager, he let me in on the big secret.
“Just get them drunk,” he slurred between puffs of cigarette smoke and bites of questionable looking pizza that he had pulled from the refrigerator.
We had pushed and nudged our way through a few bars that I had never been to before, and that I will probably never return to. It was Friday night, so of course the bars were busy.
“There are so many beautiful single people out here, and we are a part of them!” he crooned at me over a vodka soda at some bar on Broadway. I had to nod my head and slowly sip on my drink while he threw his back and ordered another.
“Loosen up, man, have fun!” seemed to be his mantra for me that evening. Okay. I mean, I’m not really sure how getting black out drunk, slobbing around the dance floor and getting kicked out bars for grabbing girls’ asses equated to having fun, but that was generally what he did when he had fun. Maybe I’m being a party pooper.
After we left that bar, we headed further down Broadway, where he slammed open the double doors as we entered, only to find a starkly unpopulated yet beautifully bar room waiting before us. The few customers cozied up in couples at the bar didn’t look at us as he paraded himself in, and I trailed behind. There was no one dancing, and therefore not many butts to grab, but the girl idling on the other side of the bar did present a captive audience.
“What can I get you?”
He threw his drink order at her, and as soon as she set them down he asked, “What’s your name?”
Maybe he had asked her too soon. She looked annoyed as she said, “Pilar.”
My friend held out his hand, and as he held her hand with both of his for a bit too long, she asked,
“And your name?”
He replied with a longwinded, over the top, slightly uninformative mini monologue that finally got around to his name.
“Well, nice to meet you,” she responded curtly. And then she turned to me and asked me my name. I wasn’t expecting that, as I pushed my name out from between my lips and shook her hand quickly without looking at her.
“He’s new to town, so I’m dragging him out and taking him to bars,” my friend chimed in, eager to wrest her attention from me.
“Oh, well, welcome to Oakland. What brings you here?”
“He’s here on a new job. From Austin.”
“Cool. What part of Oakland are you living in?”
“He’s over by the lake. I’m closer to Berkeley, but I thought I’d meet up and take him around.”
“Where else have you been hanging out tonight?”
“A bunch of bars, but we made our way down here. I love this bar. It’s so beautiful in here. And these drinks – you make excellent drinks!”
I tried not to scoff as I leaned into my “excellent” but, honestly, standard vodka soda. Maybe this was the point of delusional where he was turning mundane small talk into some overinflated sexual interaction in his head. I could tell by the saliva that was barely staying in his mouth that he thought he had a chance, but, looking around the bar, it was obvious that brief conversation with us was a temporary remedy to whatever menial chore she was doing before we got there.
I can’t really blame him though. Despite the fact that I was already drinking way more than I’m usually inclined to, I still didn’t have the courage to pipe in on the conversation. I guess I’ve never been brave, so I allowed myself to sit silently, peeping up from my drink on occasion to look at her. I don’t think she noticed, although I’m not quite sure, and as she moved on to another group of customers, she said in my direction, “Have a good time in Oakland! Be sure to come back.”
Sure, there’s some part of me that knew that all this was just petty small talk, but for some reason my heart skipped a beat in my chest. It was an instantaneous flush of red in my face and a few drops of sweat, because even though some rational part of my brain was screaming, “She says that everyone, moron!” My heart was fluttering with a constant stream of, “Omigod, she wants me to come back, she’s so hot, maybe she’s into me, when should I come back? When is too soon? She’s so amazing, she’s so sweet, she’s paying attention to me, I just want to talk to her, and to hold her, and to take her out on dates and-” You get the gyst.
It was at that point that my friend turned to me and said, “I’m gonna fuck the shit out of her. It might take a couple tries. But just you wait.”
My conflicting internal monologue took a screeching halt as I stammered, “Really, you think so?”
“She’s so into me! Obviously! Where have you been for the last twenty minutes?”
I know we were both drooling as we watched her do her thing.
“Just…watch and learn. Watch the master, my friend,” he crooned at me sideways.
I slightly watched him watching her. He was overcome with this giddiness that seemed to make him more repulsive, in my mind, as though the chemical reactions that his sex organs had sparked across his body were sending out this sickly pheromone of desperation and glee. The next time she walked past our perch, he barked out her name, “Pilar!”
She barely lifted her eyes up as she put out a finger, as though to say, “Wait your turn, you asshole,” as she continued with her job. I slightly laughed with a sense of victory as his face fell considerably.
Gliding back over to us moments later, “Can I get you more to drink?”
“No, no, Pilar, we were wondering what else there is to do in this neighborhood, actually. Good bars, good dives.”
She rattled off a few places, giving us apt directions to each.
“Oh, okay, Pilar, thank you so much. I’m sure we’ll be back here. If not tonight, then later.”
“Thank you so much for the drinks!”
“You’re welcome. Have fun. Bye, guys!”
I haven’t been back yet, although I think about it, and I wonder what nights she’s working. Later that night, we wound our way through several different bars, and several different scenarios, all with equally unattainable women whose rejections varied in severity throughout the night. We both went home alone, and when we parted ways, each going in a different cab in different directions at two in the morning. As I stood in the shower slightly drunk and still alone, that bartender made a brief appearance in my ritualistic masturbation fantasy. It was a good cameo, and I don’t know if she’ll become a recurring character, but I guess only time can tell.
I haven’t been back to that bar yet, and I don’t know if I will.