At long last, the final date (plus a bonus one) from my worst dates ever…
You might want to read the previous Worst Date Ever entries…
Invited Back to the Bookworm
A week after the date that had ended in violence, tears and my demotion to the rank of “customer”, my cell phone rang. The display read “Tequila Bookworm”.
So you’ve come crawling back, I thought. This would mean that I would have the upper hand. The trick would be to play it cool. I decided to borrow a “girl” trick: appear to be a little bit aloof at the beginning, make her “work for it” a little, and in the end, warm up and be magnanimous. To err is human, to forgive gets you booty.
I let the phone ring a couple of time before answering. The aloof do not answer on the first ring.
“Hello, Joey speaking,” I said, after picking it up.
“Joey, it’s Jacqui.”
Damn. Jacqui was another waitress whom I’d befriended at the cafe. The Waitress had not come crawling back.
“Hey, Jacqui,” I said, trying not to sound disappointed. “What’s up?”
“It’s a little more quiet than usual tonight, and I still have hours to go. I’m bored out of my mind, and I need someone to talk to. D’you wanna come on down? Diet Coke’s on me.”
“It’s okay, she’s not here tonight.”
“Like I care. She can’t refuse to let me in, as long as I’m a well-behaved customer.”
“No, but remember when she emptied a pitcher of water over [The Artiste’s] head? She’d soak both you and your laptop.”
I hadn’t thought of that possibility. Being a freelance programmer, I lived and died by my laptop.
“Anyways,” continued Jacqui, “she’s at some dance auditions all night. She’s not coming in, not even to say ‘hi’. Look, we miss you, and I’d like to see you.”
“Oh, all right. Give me half an hour.”
I threw on a sweater, hopped on my bike and made my way down to the cafe.
The Chubby Alien Conspiracy Theorist
As soon as I entered the ‘Worm, Jacqui cracked open a Diet Coke, poured it into a glass with ice and a lemon wedge and set it before my usual perch at the bar.
“Don’t feel bad,” Jacqui said. “Most of the guys who lust after her never get beyond just ogling her and pining. You got an actual date.”
“Y’know, Jacqui,” I said, “dating should not require the level of crisis management I had to do that night.”
“What do you mean?”
I told her what happened on the date: how we’d met Renton and Pen Pal, how he’d interrupted my Special Little Moment with The Waitress, Crabs’ monopolizing The Waitress and how I’d blown a gasket and slammed him against a wall.
“Wow,” she said after hearing the whole story, “I didn’t know all that had happened.”
“Well, I tried to make sure that she didn’t find out about that little episode with me and [Crabs]. I figured that nothing kills a date faster than coming off like some kind of violent psychopath.”
“She doesn’t know what she’s missing,” said Jacqui, attempting to console me. “I’d be flattered if someone beat up a scrawny gay man over me.”
“You’re the Queen of Pep Talks, you know that?”
Cynthia, one of the managers, called Jacqui to help her with some work in the basement.
“Hold that thought,” said Jacqui, holding up her index finger. She took off her apron and went downstairs.
The fat disturbed-looking guy who’d recently started hanging out at the cafe turned to face me from his perch at the opposite end of the bar.
“Chicks,” he said, as if it were a complete sentence.
“Chicks,” he repeated himself, stood up and moved over to the barstool beside me.
Fat Guy wore rumpled clothes, a greasy mullet, a patina of sweat and an expression in his eyes that said “I’m not just disturbed, I’m bus station disturbed. He had an odd reek that reminded me of some dance clubs. Later that year at Burning Man, I would learn that crystal meth made your sweat smell that way.
“I had this chick once,” said Fat Guy, carefully elucidating each word. “We went to Greece together. One day, we went to the beach. We were digging in the sand and we hit something. Something metal, and not just any ordinary metal, but metal that could not possibly have been made on Earth.”
“And what does this have to do with chicks?” I asked. Bad idea.
“You. Are. Not. Listening. I’m talking about…fucking…non-terrestrial artifacts…maaaaaaaaaan!”
I rubbed my right temple again. I started to stand up and move to some seat far away from this freak, but then changed my mind. Any distraction would be welcome.
“Tell me more about this, um, artifact,” I said.
Forty-five minutes later, after incoherently telling me the story of his life, a patchwork quilt fiction made of up equal parts of Erich “Chariots of the Gods” von Daniken pseudoscience, rap star sexual braggadocio, globetrotting and horseshit, he got up and left.
Jacqui, who’d emerged from the basement and caught most of the conversation looked at me with shock.
“Oh. My. God. Nobody ever says more than two or three words to Jabba the Nut if they can help it. You talked to him for nearly an hour!”
I’d never want to repeat that experience, but for a while there, I’d managed to forget The Waitress.
The following weekend was a busy one.
Karl had organized an improv electonic band comprised of some of his friends: himself, me and Steve Skratt on synthseizers, and Chantal, Rachel Smith and Krista “Lederhosen Lucil” Muir on vocals.
The launch party took place at the Edward Day Gallery in Kingston, and that day was a mad whirl of gathering people into a rented van, driving, setting up, performing, tearing down and then going for dinner and drinks at Chez Piggy, the traditional restaurant that you make your parents take to you during their visits if you’re a student at Crazy Go Nuts University.
I drove back to Toronto Saturday afternoon in order to get ready for an even more important event: the first meeting between my parents and the parents of Richard, my future brother-in-law to be. The family had pulled out all the stops for this one: a catered formal dinner at my folks’ house and everyone on their best Emily Post behaviour.
I even had a solo piano number rehearsed — a little jazzy number that I haven’t bothered naming, so I refer to it as Wanking in Major Sevenths. Trust me, it sounds much nicer than its unfornate name implies.
The dinner was a success. Dinner — dill salmon en croute — was absolutely delicious, the conversation flowed well, the parents seemed to be getting along, and when Dad asked me to “play a little something jazzy” on the piano, I played a note-perfect Wanking in Major Sevenths.
“Joe,” said Richard’s father, in heavily-Korean accented English. “That was nice song. You wrote it? It has a name?”
“Yes, Mr. Choi. I wrote it, and it’s called Major Seventh…um…Etude.”
With the meet-the-inlaws ceremony concluded, my sister and I went back downtown. I’d barely set foot in the apartment when my cellphone rang.
The display read “Tequila Bookworm,” so I answered it immediately.
I winced. Aloof! I thought, You’re supposed to be aloof!
“Hello, Joey speaking.”
It’s probably just Jacqui, I thought.
“Hello,” said an English-accented woman’s voice. “I’ve changed my mind and have decided it would be nice to see you tonight. Can you come by?”
On my way out, Eileen asked “You’re still wearing your suit. Don’t you want to change first?”
I hadn’t even thought of that.
Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I replied “You know what? I think that this outfit is going to be just perfect for the occasion.”
A Date is Arranged
The Waitress was suitably (hah!) impressed when I walked into the cafe, dressed as I was. She greeted me with a hug and a peck on the cheek.
I ordered a bowl of hot chocolate, and we settled into a nice conversation.
“I would like it if you would take me to a movie,” she declared.
I tried to keep my reaction down to just a sly grin. Aloof, man, we’re being aloof.
“I think that could be arranged. Any particular film in mind?”
Please let it be a tolerable chick flick, I thought.
I must’ve cocked an eyebrow, because she looked concerned and asked “Don’t you like Cronenberg? You struck me as the type who did.”
“I do,” I replied, “You didn’t strike me as the type who liked Cronenberg.”
“I’m full of surprises.”
Of that, there was no doubt.
Our Second Date
I met her at the Uptown Theatre with a couple of surprises.
“What’s in the bag?” she asked, pointing to the black satchel.
“Secret,” I replied. “You’ll find out later.”
“And what’s in your knapsack?” she followed up, pointing to the straps on my shoulders.
“It’s not a knapsack,” I said, turning around to reveal the accordion.
The previous Saturday, I’d taken the accordion out on the street for the first time ever. It would be a few months before people would automatically associate me with the accordion.
“Strange boy, strange movie,” she quipped. “Very fitting. You will play that for me later, won’t you?”
“Try and stop me.”
We both liked eXistenZ, and after the movie, we wandered through nearby Yorkville and ended up at the quiet little park where Avenue Road meets Dupont.
I’d gone to high school nearby, so I knew the neighbourhood well, and the maneuvering to the park was part of my plan. Nobody went there at night. I was not going to be interrupted by some idiot busybody this time.
We picked a nice grassy spot to sit, at which point I produced a bottle of Dubonnet and a couple of plastic wine glasses from the satchel.
After a couple of glasses, she asked “So what are you going to play for me?”
“I figured this song out just last week,” I said, and played Fatboy Slim’s Praise You. It was in pretty heavy rotation on the radio at the time.
She laughed as I played it.
“I never thought I’d ever hear anything like that on accordion!”
“I could turn this into some kind of schtick,” I remarked. “Who knows where this crap could lead.”
We finished off the bottle and then lay in the grass with my arm around her, staring at the stars. It’s good to be the King, I thought.
A little while later, she pulled her face away from mine and said “I’m hungry. How about you?”
“I’m housesitting at my parents’ place. It’s close by. Let me feed you.”
Her parents lived in a large house in Forest Hill, a posh neighbourhood full of Tudor houses with tree-lined streets expensive cars in the driveways. We were deep in WASP territory. I was reminded of the joke that went “What’s the definition of a WASP? Someone who steps out of the shower to pee.”
We entered the house through the front door, which into a large dark-tiled foyer, where we were greeted by The Waitress’ youngest sister, a younger, darker-haired version of The Waitress herself.
An evil thought entered my head — Hey, let’s date both of them! — but (a) she was too young, and (b) in younger, more callow days I’d dated sisters before (keeping each one ignorant of my dalliance with the other) and I can assure you that it is not a good idea.
“My mother works with the salmon board,” she said as we walked into the house’s Martha Stewart-ish kitchen. She opened the fridge, which was laden with smoked salmon. I’d never seen that much lox outside a fishmonger’s.
She opened the freezer, which had an entire shelf full of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. She took out some bagels and a tub of cream cheese.
I stared at all the food.
“I’ve never wanted you more than I do right now,” I joked.
She grabbed a long pack of Pacific smoked salmon and smacked me with it.
After our snack, we sat in a large chair in the family room. She was sitting in my lap, showing me photos from their family albums.
The family consisted of one particularly English-looking father, a pretty, hourglass-figured mother, and three daughters, all of whom had inherited their mother’s curves. No force on earth would be able to remove the smile from my face.
“This one,” she said, pointing out a yellowed kodachrome photo of a young man and a somewhat familiar-looking woman, “is of my parents when they were dating. Mother –”
“Mother”? I thought. Not “Mom”?
“Oh, you don’t really call her ‘Mother’, do you? I imagine you call her ‘Mummy’,” I said, saying “Mother” and “Mummy” with my best fake English accent. “Or maybe…Mater!”
“Very funny. Anyways, Mother said that Father married her just because she was a Catholic and had big tits.”
“Don’t knock it…those are on my checklist.” I can’t resist a smart-ass remark.
“It’s time for you to go, my dear,” she said. The clock on the wall read 2:30. It was a “school night”, and we both had work the next day.
“I’d let you stay, but the parents return tomorrow morning, and I think it would be a rather awkward way to do introductions.”
“Ah, yes. I see your point.”
“Look, if you’re not busy this weekend, let me take you out to dinner. Maybe some Indian…?”
“Okay,” she said.
We kissed goodbye, ending our only date that didn’t turn into a disaster.
She had to work all day and all night on Saturday, so Date Number Three took place on Sunday. It went wonderfully. Dinner, dancing, yadda yadda yadda.
It was now Monday.
While she was getting dressed, I phoned Adam, my business partner. We were going to do some work together that day.
“Hey, Adam? I was wondering if we could move our thing to tomorrow.”
“I think that can be done. Any reason why?”
“Uh…I have a girl thing…”
“Oh. The waitress. Very well then; carry on.”
“Thanks, man. I owe you.”
“No problem. And Joey…?”
“PHWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAR!” he yelled.
Our Third and Final Date
We went to the boardwalk and walked along the beach. She entertained me with true stories from her all-girl boarding school in London. The most entertaining was one in which she saw a classmate help another trim her bikini line with an Epilady. One held the hair-removing device while the other sat on the bed, her hands tightly gripping the headboard, her eyes tightly closed, a teddy bear held in her mouth between clenched teeth. The image still makes me laugh.
We went for dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, where she recited some of her poetry to me over pizza and red wine. It was an lengthy sonnet which she delivered from memory in perfect beat-poet style with a clever refrain.
“I have an idea,” I said. “It’s Monday night, which means Chicks Dig It is on tonight.”
Chicks Dig It is a night that features women DJs, a rarity in the clubbing scene, even in these enlightened days. At the time, it was held at the We’ave club, across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario, only a couple of blocks from where I live today. We’ave has since closed its doors; it is now the DECONISM gallery, where University of Toronto Electrical Enginnering professor and cyborg Steve Mann lives and has events (such as the philosphical hot tub which coincided with the great blackout). Chicks Dig It has since moved to a number of other venues, but in a sort of full-circle, it currently takes place at the IV Lounge, a mere two doors down from We’ave.
“That’s perfect!” she said. “I know some people who’ll be there tonight. Let’s go!”
It was a busy night. Now that we were a couple of weeks into May, the weather was getting warmer and more people were clubbing even on “school nights”.
We met up with a group of her friends and had some conversation and beer with them. I ran into a couple of my friends.
While I chatted with them, she excused herself with a kiss to run outside and join her friends.
“New girl?” asked one of my friends.
“Working on it.”
Outside, her friends gathered in an alcove and stood in a circle. I made nothing of it at the time.
We’d been dancing for about half an hour when things went downhill.
“Don’t you see it?”
“Look!” she said, pointing at the floor.
There was nothing unusual about it. Nobody had spilled anything…
“I don’t see anything.”
“The big gaping hole that’s growing!”
“It’s! Right! There!” she screamed, pointing fiercely at the floor. “Why can’t you see it?”
She screamed and ran off the dance floor, through a maze of tables and chairs and straight into the women’s washroom.
What the hell was going on?
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see one of her friends hyperventilating in an out-of-the-way lounge chair.
It clicked. Drugs.
They were doing drugs and they shared some with her.
I walked up to the friend and asked her if she was okay. She looked a little strung out.
“I’m…okay. It’s…just…really strong. Whoa…buzz… I still have…couple bumps…want one?”
Bumps? I thought. Then it really clicked. Oh, shit. Special K. Ketamine.
“You kids and your fucking horse tranquilizers,” I said, and made a beeline for the women’s washroom.
A bouncer stopped me right at the door.
“Can’t go in there, my brutha,” he said.
“Look, I’m just trying to help a friend who might be having a bad trip.”
“Sorry, that’s the rules.”
I looked around for a girl I knew. There!
“Alex!” I called out.
Alex was a colourist at House of Lords, the rock and roll haircutting place where I’ve been going since 1983. She was a skinny short-haired blonde who perpetually wore tight skater-girl tops and baggy skater-boy pants.
“Hey, Joe,” she said in monotone.
“Look, I have a friend in the bathroom who I think did some really strong K. She’s freaking out in the bathroom right now. I don’t think she should be there alone. D’you think you could go in there, make sure she’s okay, and get her to come out here, where I can take care of her?”
She was about to walk into the bathroom when I stopped her for a moment.
“Uh, Alex? Just tell her you’re a Scorpio.”
“She’ll listen to you if you say that.”
Ten incredibly long minutes later, Alex emerged with a shivering waitress. I took The Waitress in my arm and started walking her outside.
“Let’s get some air,” I told her.
I turned to Alex.
“Thanks, Alex, I owe you a big one.”
I led The Waitress out into the cool night air.
“Feel better?” I asked.
“Why are you speaking prose?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Why are you speaking prose?”
“It’s what I normally speak.”
“Please stop speaking prose, it’s freaking me out.”
“Speak in verse!”
(I’m actually paraphrasing The Waitress here. For this part of the conversation, she was speaking in verse — quite well, considering she was extemporizing — but I don’t remember her exact words.)
“I can’t speak in verse. I can’t make it up on the spot.”
“You can’t see the big gaping hole, you can’t speak in verse, and you’ve seen me naked!”
“What? That doesn’t make any sense!”
“YOU’RE NOT SPEAKING IN VERSE! WHY WON’T YOU SPEAK IN VERSE?! AND WE’VE CROSSED THE LINE!”
She ran across the street screaming, making a beeline for the Art Gallery.
“Aw, shit,” I cursed, and gave chase.
She ran to the entrace of the Gallery, where she stopped, lay down on her side and curled into the fetal position, arms tightly clasped around her folded legs. A few paces away, a tour bus had just pulled over and was unloading passengers.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE I SLEPT WITH YOU! YOU’RE ONE OF MY CUSTOMERS!”
Naturally, an exclamation that provocative got the attention of a couple of the tourists. They looked at us with intense curiosity, and why not? They saw a young woman curled up in a ball screaming rather personal details while a guy with an accordion on his back tried to regain control of the situation. I’d be watching the soap opera unfold too.
“It’s not as if it’s a doctor-patient relationship, you know,” I said, trying to keep my voice as calm as possible. No point freaking out on the freaking out; it usually just makes matters worse.
“SPEAK IN VERSE! WHY WON’T YOU SPEAK TO ME IN VERSE?”
I tried going iambic quatrameter.
“Will you PLEASE get UP off OF the GROUND.”
“DON’T MAKE JOKES ABOUT METER! WHY DON’T ANY OF YOU CUSTOMERS CARE ABOUT POETRY?!
“Honey,” said one of the tourists to the woman beside him. “I think this is some kind of performance art. It’s an art gallery here, right?”
I gave the man a look of sheer incredulity that not even Elijah Wood, in full Frodo-ness, would be able to duplicate.
Where the hell is the ghost of T.S. Eliot when you really need him?
I managed to get her to uncurl from her fetal ball by talking to her partly in prose, partly in ad-libbed verse and partly using snippets from half-remembered Shakespeare and Auden.
I took her in one arm, still ranting about my “refusal” to speak in verse and how we’d borken some kind of waitress/customer taboo while putting on my best “move along, nothing to see here” face for the tourists. I managed to get her to the street, where I hailed a cab.
The cabbie, a Jamaican guy with a red, yellow and green knit cap, looked at us with concern. He saw a guy trying to restrain a petite woman who was in a panicked state.
“POETRY!” she screamed, “THERE MUST BE MORE POETRY!”
“Look, mon,” said the cabbie, who leaned over from the driver’s seat, motioning at The Waitress with his eyes. “I’m not sure I want to be givin’ you a ride…”
Think fast, deVilla.
“Uh, you know…” I said, pointing my index finger at my head and making circles, the universal sign for “crazy, totally batshit”, “…the way white chicks are sometimes…”
He smiled. “Yeah, don’t I know it. Get in.”
We got in, and the cabbie regaled us with stories about his dating, while The Waitress sobbed into my shoulder. “I ‘ad me this white chick once…”
When he dropped us off at my place, he leaned out the window and said “Don’ worry none about dis girl. She be crazy ’cause she can’t handle a fine coloured mon like you. Peace.”
I think I set back gender and race relations 20 years that night, but I managed to get us home.
All the freaking out had tired her, and I tucked her into bed, where she slept soundly. I spent the rest of the night sitting on the floor at the foot of my bed, leaning against the wall with my head in my hands.
“Dating,” I said to a teddy bear that was lying on the floor and staring up at me, ‘should not require this level of crisis management.”