Havana, part 3

11 Apr

“Can I get you a drink?”

Simon was an aging queer of the gym-going variety—the sort who wore polo shirts painted on over muscles that, while still natural, nevertheless made you think of steroids. Or maybe Mickey Rourke. He lived in a fashionable walk-up in the Victorian Village with a woman who seemed to be his girlfriend. Or maybe not. It seemed rude to directly inquire after the nuances of my host’s sexuality, and given that I’d apparently snapped off the antenna to my interpersonal radar and crammed it squarely up my own ass, I opted for discretion. We’d driven there after leaving Havana, Beth et al. in one car, Simon and I alone together in the other. In the meantime, Beth and her entourage lounged on the porch, casually smoking, leaning on stationary objects or each other.

“Sure. Um, gin and tonic.” Gin and tonic? Clearly I’d panicked. Some hours earlier, my mind had gone to a warm place in self-defense and I was still thinking about Christmas trees.

Before we’d left Havana, karaoke happened as promised, although that promise had taken on threatening characteristics in hindsight. My idea of karaoke consisted of a booze-soaked barfly singing into a booze-soaked microphone, an idea that I’d reinforced with regular attendance at Punk Rock Karaoke in one of the Short North’s scummier dives. Punk Rock Karaoke solidly maintained its reputation as a good time, despite my conspicuous lack of punk or rock.

Drinking is essential for karaoke. If I’ve become drunk only slightly, maybe I’ll take the mic for an atonal but very sincere “Satisfaction.” Five beers down might get you “Rock the Casbah.” Blind drunkenness sometimes leads to that “500 Miles” song from the end of Benny and Joon, and if no one sings back at the “da dadada da” part I get super pissed. Earlier, Beth and her friends crammed together on the karaoke stage in a giggling and high-friction mass in order to let the rest of the bar know that, in fact, “It’s Raining Men.”

There isn’t enough beer in the world.

Simon sat down on his tasteful and well-appointed leather couch. It was the sort of thing I imagined people buying from Ikea. I’d never been to Ikea, but something about the couch seemed vaguely Swedish. “So, how do you know Beth?”

“We met a few nights ago at Skully’s.” Technically, this was true. Another rule of internet dating is this: If you are not actually on the internet at the time, revealing that you’ve met someone on the internet sounds fucking stupid. As pleasant as Simon was, I wanted him to know nothing about me. “How long have you known Beth?”

He sipped his drink and launched into a fractured and rambling reminiscence that had only slightly to do with Beth and mostly to do with his perception of himself as still late-twentysomething and not late-thirtysomething. I zoned out, observing his apartment’s wood paneling and stained bookshelves with tired and indifferent envy. He came back to the topic. “I think one of the reasons that Beth and I have been able to stay friends for so long is that I don’t hit on her.”

Do tell.

He turned to look at me. “Do you want to go out on the porch with the others?”

I peeked out the front blinds. Most of her friends still stood or sat on the porch, smoking and talking, but Beth and Bed Head had disappeared. “What happened to Beth?”

“Oh, she went off somewhere with Adam. I think there’s a love connection happening.”

“No, thank you. I’ll just call a cab. I have to work in the morning.” This was not true, technically or otherwise. It was, however, plausible and necessary. The clock claimed it was past three. I believed it. I thanked Simon for the drink and left, saying nothing to the people on the porch. After a few wrong turns I found Neil Avenue. I walked north with my hands jammed deep in my pockets.


Leave a Reply