Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Coat Check

Recently, I've developed an addiction to perusing the missed connection sections of Chicago's local papers and online hubs. I'm generally not into posting my own unspoken momentary infatuations, but reading them, the varying accounts of shy romanticism and optimistic desperation, instills a sense of solace. Stories of girls with secret crushes on underappreciated falafel clerks, the professional khaki clad reformed thirty-something jock who realizes his good looks and party days are rapidly receding and therefore attempts to build meaning and stability out of a Hancock Building elevator encounter, or the countless accounts of the infamous smile on the train it's all rather intriguing. Indeed, hiding within the smeared ink and the small font monitor glares theres hope for hope, sex and love, and an oddly potent, uplifting expression of the human condition. Plus, there's always the chance that someone could write something for you.

Sunday night is not an ideal time for working the door at a venue or bar. A week and a half ago I was in typical form: weary from another drawn out Saturday night, missing the Simpsons, trying to maintain my composure amongst a teeming crowd of brutishly inebriated Bears fans and high fashion bourgeoisie rockers, and most of all, wanting to be somewhere alone and quiet. After cattle corralling a sold out show and entering a yelling match turned near fight with a patron, my hands wouldnt stop shaking and my mind fixated itself on the promise of going home to a mac n cheese movie night combo.

Through the oncoming masses, her eyes caught me from twenty feet. Aesthetically, she was gorgeous, but the appeal transcended sheer looks. In all aspects, she was radiant; my chest was sputtering. Her elegance was organic. She had a smile that could stop a war. I aligned my chair-bound posture. When she spoke, sweetly toned, (albeit the conversation lasted for only ten seconds and was constrained to the formalities of ticket will calling) my hands stopped trembling. A name was crossed from a piece of paper, her hand was stamped and I wished her a good night as she magnetized me away with her. I went back to trying to read my book. Half an hour or so later she returned to my podium, asking if there was a place to hang her jacket. Once again caught in her snares, I explained that there was no coat check, but that I'd keep an eye on her jacket if shed like to hang it on the wall behind me. Obliged, she hung it over my book bag and disappeared again. I waited. Shortly after, she was back with me inquiring about bar tabs and ATM machines. Damn you bar tabs and ATM machines. There had to be some way to convey myself to her. I was sick of doing my job. I wanted to small talk it or walk her to the nearest bank. Alas, taking the modest route, I answered all work related questions with no complications.

The internalized pep talk is something I've become very accustomed to. I am an expert when it comes to self contained dialogues. When she left to get cash, I began plotting conversational tactics. Some sort of left and right lobe battle was raging. Part of me was insisting that I muster up the courage to strike up some conversation and another was rationalizing fears of likely failure with the concept that girls like that always have boyfriends. After much tug of warring, with the youll-never-know-unless theory pulling its weight, I determined that something had to be done.

I was ending my shift with a drink when she came back in from the cold. She smiled and waved as she passed - an action which caused me to choke on my beer. I spit slightly as I returned the wave. Perhaps talking wasnt the best of ideas. She hung up her jacket once again and headed back to the show.

I don't recall actively thinking about consequences when I began writing the note.. Within a minute or less the idea bubbled and boiled. I picked up the nearest piece of paper, which happened to be a pack of matches, and just started writing. If my memory serves me right, this should be an unflawed replica:

Coat Check m4w 26 This is in or around Schubas
Due to my lacking vocal vocal abilities, at the risk of coming off as intrusive or creepy, I've opted to put this note in your coat pocket. It seems as though my childish romanticism has gotten the best of me. You are absolutely stunning. I wish I had said more to you.
-Brian - coat checker, doorman, ATM informant (insert phone number here)


I folded the matchbook so the text was facing outward, waited until no one seemed to be watching me and slipped it into the side pocket of her coat. It was all rather reactionary. I clocked out and went home. Chances were slim that she'd call, and if for some reason the note really did come off as overly intrusive, I hadn't seen her before and I'd probably never see her again.

The next night, having decided to go see a friend's band at the Empty Bottle, I came home from work to pick up my bike. The weather was tolerant and in Chicago, if it's January and a bike can be ridden without undergoing a severe beating from Old Man Winter, the opportunity should be seized. Prior to heading out the door, I asked my roommate John if he cared to join me for drinks and tunage. He did, but was unfortunately bikeless. Pedal cruising was no longer an option. Oh well, there was always Spring. Against my will, he convinced me to take the Western bus. I hate buses.

What happened next, while many folks wouldnt think much of it, was one of the few experiences I've had that's driven me to question coincidence. I boarded the bus behind John, silently shunned the CTA for fair hiking once again, and headed back for a seat. Then, with a lump suddenly plummeting from my throat to my toes, I noticed the girl whos jacket Id sabotaged the night before sitting with a friend three rows back. Youve got to be fucking shitting me. I think I heard her giggle.

Timing can be a mysterious entity. The smallest of decisions, starts or stalls, can easily dictate potentially monumental events. As Hallmark as it sounds, thoughts of fate, a long with some affectionate butterflies and adrenal chemicals began churning around inside of me. Did John's involvement in pushing the bus option make him a dealer of preordained meetings? The surrealism was scalding. Not that running into this girl on the bus was necessarily monumental, but at the time, it sure felt like it - I was crippled.

With anxiety prescribing my every move, I took a seat and leaned back casually. I was hiding my face, attempting to make it appear as though this secondary meeting was no big deal. I know it's a generalization, but from my experience I tend to agree with the idea that in times of courtship, most women like things played fairly nonchalant; being overbearing, overly enthused, or writing excessively confessional narratives such as this one usually doesn't impress. As the bus carried on its diesel-trudge way, I spoke to John as if all was normal, making sure not to cast glances in the matchbook girls direction. It being around 9pm on a Monday evening, southbound on Western Ave., chances were that she and her company were also headed to the Bottle. I beat the two of them to the stop ringer cord, but they were on our heels.

Inside the nicotine shrouded room, bobbing through bodies and conversation, I b-lined it to the bar. With my nerves five-alarming, a cool beverage was in order. After sharing my tale with John in the bars back area, despite his insisting that I should at least say hello, I determined that she probably did find the note, was entirely disgusted with it, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with yours truly. At least I had tried. Checking my peripherals all the while, I watched the band finish their set, caught up with some acquaintances, grabbed another beer and made plans to meet up with other friends elsewhere.

We've all made sultry eyes before. It needs to seem subtle, never obvious. If you're lucky, the glance is returned. As John made one last attempt to build my confidence, with me incessantly shaking my head and slugging away on hops, she ordered a drink down the bar. Then, she turned towards me and smiled. Things got stranger when she walked over, started talking, and told me the note made her day. We laughed about the bus encounter and talked about the weather. The energy spinning off her was cyclonic. She spoke fast. We moved into discussing the splendors of the South, design and writing. Things were going well. It turned out we even had an employer in common. I kept filling out my diction with "like". I hate doing it. California wording seems to sneak off my lips when I'm nervous. She introduced me to her friend. We talked coffee. Early mornings are such a bust without it. After about fifteen minutes I had to leave. I had plans. Better to leave this short and sweet. It would make the next time out all the better. And hey, everyone knows fate shouldn't be tempted. I told her I'd like to grab dinner or a drink down the near-line. She told me she'd "definitely call".

Over the course of the next few days I drifted into a crush induced dream state. I went about my usual routines: typing away at work, staying out late with friends, hopping trains around town, banging away on my guitar, seeming typical on the surface, but submersed in fathoms of hypothetical romance. I imagined where we'd go our first time out together. The nickel arcade or the Garfield Park Conservatory made strong arguments. I imagined what it'd feel like to have someone crack the code - to draw me from my shell. I imagined what it'd feel like to do that for someone else again. I imagined her hometown - willow trees and hospitality. I thought of mine - pine trees and hospitality. I imagined sleeping in and afternoon breakfast - eggs and biscuits with vegi-gravy. Every time my phone rang my heart rate increased. If I didn't recognize the number it was ten times worse. I waited. The days crumbled into night and back again. This wasn't good.

If you hope big, you fall hard. I'm leading a polar life of extremes. It just didn't make sense; events and correspondences that seemed to minimally warrant a chance working themselves into nothingness. I was being my usual over analytical, obsessive self. I'm thinking I should start to adhere to every piece of laughable, beat-dead old timer advice in existence. If it's too good to be true, it usually is. Karma was pummeling me. I'd been snubbed by my own sentimental bullshit.

On what, according to the universal rules of the game, was the last day that she could possibly call, I found myself with the sun fading into the grey-scaled skyline, waiting for the Damen bus. After ten minutes of cigarettes and coffee in the cold, when the people mover came, I was pondering the likelihood of another path crossing. My eyes scoured the plastic seats and brace bars for signs of life. Maybe things just happen, without any sort of purpose or destiny in mind. I paid my hiked fair and took a seat in the front next to an obese middle aged woman in sweat pants. She was laughing and chatting up the bus driver, who for an employee of the public transit system, was unusually sociable. There was talk of the upcoming weekend's happenings. He mentioned a family visit. Asserting herself with the type of pitch that's unmistakably attached to hard earned pride, she exclaimed, "I got myself a date." Maybe, just maybe, like a quick cross-room look from a wishful set of bedroom eyes, fate maneuvers subtly and often goes unnoticed. The bus driver chuckled and paused for a moment. Glancing over to the smiling woman through the swarm of rush hour traffic, he replied warmly, "Good for you. Hustlin'. Gettin' it. Making things happen." I was glad to hear that someone was.

8 Comments:

Blogger I diverge said...

For starters I hate when I have read something and I know that I am going to want to comment on it and then I have to keep reading. Im afraid ill forget something. So I have tried very hard to remember everything I want to say, write, about. So I cant believe you saw her on the bus! I cant believe that you were going the same place! I cant believe... she didnt call. If someone had put a note in my jacket and said what you did I would have thought that I was suddenly in my own place where the night was never better. I could be so optimistic for at least a couple months about whimsical romance and first attractions.I could help all my friends find dates and guys that dont have arrogance written on there forhead,crap like that.and not worry about my self because I had a note put in my coat that afterwards I would open and close and read over and over just to keep the feeling alive and be content with that. Im sure shes doing that now but the usual complications always occur.

3:46 PM  
Blogger nat the brat said...

person i don't really know:

i love missed connections. i've read them for years -- first in the reader, then on craigslist sf, then craigslist here, where they really pale in comparison to the sf ones.

oddly, the reader ones, which used to be so bizarrely good have turned to the creepy. i think it happened when people started posting pictures with their MC's.

anyway, the moral of your story is that she wasn't as awesome as you thought anyway. if she was, she would've called.

8:53 AM  
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If you wrote a book, I'd buy it, too. Well, maybe only one or two copies, but I'd definitely buy.

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