Enough to Break the Ice
Art by Paul Rios
The weekend before Valentine’s Day 2011, I went to a local wine bar. The kind of bar you go to for casual conversation and the .05% chance you might meet someone who doesn’t want to make you want to drink a bottle of Drano to avoid talking to them.
I was one of three friends who were meeting at the bar for a few drinks. To be more accurate, I was meeting with a good friend and one of her friends from her graduate program who, upon our arrival, would take another hour to arrive. A lot can happen in an hour.
We reserved a seat for the tardy friend because the bar was crowded and decided not to let her keep us from starting the party. She would forgive us, we were sure of it. So we opened a pink bubbly wine and shared the shit out of it.
Interrupting our wine-orgy was a man watching a Kings game, who made several not-so-subtle attempts to open a dialogue with us. He groaned at a missed shot, fishing for condolences, which my saccharin friend offered all too easily.
“Are you rooting for the Kings?” she asked the 35-year-old divorcee wearing a backwards hat and studded jeans. Of course she couldn’t have known he was divorced, but she should have known that nothing good would come of talking to him.
And it didn’t. Because as soon as he sat down in the currently vacant seat at our table, he said his friends had bet him he couldn’t get her number. And without even letting her reject or concede her contact info, he said, “Well, I bet you are married. You’re married right?”
And without blinking, she said, “Yes. Yes, I am married,” and switched her grandmother’s ring from her middle to ring finger.
In doing this, she effectively led me to slaughter. After rattling off details of her fake engagement, fake wedding and fake married-life, she saved the one true statement she would make that night for the description of my relationship status. Single.
Until this point, the divorcee (whose name we then learned was Jared) had failed to even make eye contact with me. But following my friend’s inadvertent rejection, he decided to direct his attentions toward me.
Luckily, his advances were thwarted by his friend who appeared to deliver the best and worst pick-up line ever: How much does a Polar Bear weigh?
Enough to break the ice.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the joke that broke the ice, it was my attempt to guess (inaccurately) what a Polar Bear might weigh. My guess(es) landed anywhere between 3 pounds to 10 tons. But who really knows? Are we talking during or after hibernation? Do Polar Bears even hibernate? Is a Polar Bear even really a bear?
Despite this setback, he continued to chip away at the ice without ever really managing to break it. But it was his birthday they were celebrating, and I always try to be nice to people on their birthday. Even if they are hitting on me in the saddest way possible.
It being his birthday, he had a special once-a-year confidence that enables a typically shy man to ask a girl for her number. When I failed to produce a pen, or paper, or the general will to give him any means of contact– he remained persistent. I offered to add him on Facebook. No. That would not do. And having backed myself into a corner of refusal, I finally clawed my way out by writing down my number and first name sloppily on a napkin. You win. Happy Freaking Birthday.
When I went home later that night, I didn’t think about the boy I met at the bar. I thought about how cruel my friend was for throwing me under the Single Bus. But I did think about him when he called a week later asking if I’d like to hang out sometime. I admired his stick-to-itiveness, but I was not going to go out with him. It wasn’t his birthday anymore and I was no longer morally obligated to be nice.
So I went to bed not thinking about the boy I met at the bar until I got another call the following week. It was Jared. From the bar. Not brazen Birthday Boy. This was his gullible friend who tried to hit on my happily (but falsely) married friend.
But I hadn’t given Jared my number. So how did it happen that Jared was calling me two weeks after I gave his friend my number? Did Birthday Boy give up and give my information to someone who may have better luck, or who perhaps needed a napkin after an especially messy lunch.
I didn’t spend very much time trying to get to the bottom of this mystery because I wasn’t going to return either of their calls. At least not on purpose.
About a week later, on my way into my gym, I listened to a voicemail message left by a friend. I was multitasking at the time, putting my purse in my trunk and trying to find my headphones. I was distracted enough not to realize that I had pressed the “call back” function next to a voicemail message that had been left by someone else. This voicemail was from Birthday Boy. I hadn’t deleted it because I thought it was funny. I was about to regret that.
After I closed my trunk and headed into the gym, I noticed that my phone was indicating that it had been engaged on a call for the last 10 seconds with a number I didn’t recognize. Until I did. It was telephone number belonging to Birthday Boy.
I can only imagine what he thought as he saw that the person calling him was the girl from the bar. The one he had so little faith in calling him back that he gave her number to someone else. And then, one magical day, she called him.
And all she said was “Shit.”