Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bad-tini, Part Three: B is for...

I left the restroom and came back to my seat near the rude girl and her friends. Even in the bar's bad lighting, I could tell their clothes were black, as though they had heard somewhere that this was the sophisticated city girl's uniform. Many of the girls at the table admitted that they didn't like their martinis; they were too sweet. I agreed aloud. "I don't know whether I should get a second martini and give them another chance, or just save the bus money!"

When the waitress came back to our table, nearly everyone ordered a second martini. I decided to stay, to give the bar and the night a shot at redemption. I requested the cherry chipotle bourbon drink, thinking the chipotle would make up for any level of saccharine.
"I'm sorry. We stopped making that drink. Is there anything else you'd like?"
"Yes, but...I really don't like sweet drinks." Smiling, I asked, "Can you recommend anything to me that's not sweet?"
"Um...a lot of our customers like the HMB. It's refreshing." She pointed to its place on the menu.
I saw the words "lemon" and "cucumber." I said, "Okay! I'll have that!"

It was then I saw that the menu also described this drink as "high-maintenance." I realized what "HMB" stood for and felt mildly offended! Perhaps I wouldn't have ordered it if I'd known what the "B" stood for! Speaking of "B"'s....

After the waitress took my order, the rude girl seated next to me did something different. She who had spent all moments prior to this trying to turn away from me now turned to face me. Her gaze was glacial. Her voice was steely, its temperature equal to that of her stare. It was like a fork kept in a freezer all night, the cold, sharp tines aimed to deflate my bubble of affability. She growled the words, "Now you won't have bus money."

It's tempting to write me in this story as heroic and this story's bully as merely jealous. It's tempting to juxtapose the onset of her negative attentions toward me with the utterance of something brilliant and witty on my part, at which the rest of the women in attendance laughed with adoration. It's tempting to describe her as attractive, but not pretty; well put-together to make up for being naturally homely. Then, I would write that her hair was striped with sickly highlights. I would contrast that volumeless hair with the waves of soft ebony that cascade from my brow; and that brow, unlike a complexion revealing a hard-lived twenty-something years, with a spray tan emphasizing early wrinkles and liquid foundation pooling in those deep crevices....that face's owner couldn't help but be jealous of a heroine's smooth, flawless skin the color of the milk of virgin cows who have fed on nothing but lilies, white violets, and snowdrops.* It's tempting to write such a cliche, but it's not the truth. This story's bully was pretty. She actually looked remarkably like a pretty version of my Arch Nemesis from High School, whose look was just shy of beautiful by nature of being a bit pinched.

It's tempting to make myself out to be the heroine of this story, standing up to the bully, defending the shy or quirky girls at the table—nay, defending the shy and quirky girls of the world! with a clever comeback, small smile, and flip of my hair. (Those cascading waves can be so heavy!) In reality, I was not heroic. I said nothing; I was—appropriately—frozen.

How was the HMB? Sweet. Not cloyingly sweet and not bad. But it was too sweet for a martini that's supposed to be "not sweet." Though for a drink with "B" in the title, I guess I should expect it to be that type of drink.

I stayed to finish my HMB. My friendliness toward all seven women at the table resumed and did not waver. My smile returned and stayed until the end of the evening. It stayed as I asked the waitress to correct the price of the HMB on my tab, knowing it was supposed to be half off and knowing that I was outing myself as poor. The smile stayed on my face as I exchanged numbers with four of the friendly girls I'd just had dinner with. I stood up to leave and said, smiling, "I'm going to catch my bus."

I arrived at the corner opposite my stop just in time to see the bus pull away. It would not return for another 45 minutes. I took a different bus east and a second bus south. I got home 90 minutes later. I'd missed my TV show and I was too tired to tackle my To Do list. I watched the end of The Bachelor finale, cuddling my laptop on the couch. There, I looked up reviews of the bar, to see if I hadn't just come on a bad night. Most reviewers, as I would have, gave the bar 3 stars. The best part about it was the cucumber water and our polite waitress.

I'd give the night itself three stars. I accomplished something, crossing one restaurant off of my To Try in Portland list. My trip home was long, but a magazine kept me entertained. I'd exchanged contact information with more than half of the other guests at the meetup and even made plans with some. The best part about it was, despite all else, making new friends.

Part One / Part Two / Home

* Immaculate lactation!?


ellen said...

loved all 4 parts of this story, especially this sentence: "with a spray tan emphasizing early wrinkles and liquid foundation pooling in those deep crevices".

also, to make this kind of a "i've been reading for a while and intending to comment but have been too lazy to do so," thanks for all the good reading recently.

Anonymous said...

Yea, I like the narrative here and how perfectly described so much of it is. And whoever thought taking the bus held such a stigma to it? Come visit SF; the late-night bus is something to experience.

Sarah said...

Thanks for both your comments!
CC, I will definitely visit soon. Some friends and I are talking about making a road trip down to SF. A long weekend or something. Anyway, I thought the same thing; that girl was one of a handful that night who complained about how far away they parked. That's where the stigma should be; I think driving downtown, a place the bus system serves very well (unlike the East side), when you're planning to drink, is just idiotic.

I'm glad you guys liked my story!!!

Christa said...

Such a fabulous account of Bartini...reminds me of why we moved out of the neighborhood! Isn't the mirror wall strange?