– Rickie C
Rickie C. invited me for drinks. Actually, I invited him. But he had made it known that he expected an invitation. He wants to help me find a mate.
“There are real reasons why I’m single,” I warn him.
“Which are -”
Rickie C. has a way of catching me in my well-turned phrases and turning them back on me. I bet Dorothy Parker never had this problem. Though, as far as I know, she sat at the head of a round table and drank much more than me.
I dig for a witty reply, but my shovel hits air and empty space on the sidewalk outside the Bettie Bar. We’re caught in a wandering cloud of tourists and drunks on an easy autumn evening. He pushes me towards a crooked flight of stairs.
Past the post-theater diners, rolled up Playbills lolling besides their mashed potatoes, past the second floor, packed with chorus boys and their envious admirers singing a rousing rendition of Mame, and onto the empty floor, where people too late to rub elbows with the lively crowd sit.
“Martini. Rocks. Dirty, please,” I say. I’m not much into drinking these days. I figure the ice will slow me down.
“Same. Up. Ketel One for both. Many olives.”
“Yes. Many. I haven’t eaten since noon.”
“We’re watching our weight,” Rickie C. quips. “We’re in theater, don’t you know.”
“I make a terrible adult,” I say. “One reason why I’m single.”
I bought a fixer-upper and discovered five minutes into peeling seventy years of lead based paint and hand-drawn wallpaper, that fixing-up isn’t as much fun as they make it look on T.V.. The one and only time I called my mother crying was when I bought a refrigerator that didn’t fit in my stamp-sized kitchen, despite my careful measurements.
“You don’t have to be a good adult. We live in New York. You can hire someone to do it for you.”
Why is he so smart? So practical. So… savvy.
“Listen,” he says, “about your profile. You need to throw one up.”
“I have one. It’s in Nashville right now.”
“Have you ever considered looking for someone who lives in one of the thousands of zip-codes in Manhattan? It’s an easier commute.”
“But, the blog -”
“You can do both.”
“I need to get different pictures. People are on to me.”
“It should read: ‘bangin’ bod. Good in bed. I never brush my hair.'”
The bartender wipes down the bar as the crowd below breaks into a moving rendition of a medley from Wicked.
“Why is it, despite our deep cultural attachment to gender inequality, men always want to sing songs written for female musical protagonists?”
“Because it’s more fun being a girl. You need to tell them that you do brush your teeth.”
I chew on an olive. Rickie C. does the same.
Once upon a time, I had a fish named Fish. He was an actor in my film Wilderness and survived the rigors of an irresponsible art director, an evil associate producer, and a neophyte director, me.
After the shoot, Fish floated in one spot in his bowl for about a week, staring out. Perhaps was exhausted, or worried about his career. More likely, he was shell-shocked. Fish had traveled farther and wider than most goldfish dare to dream.
I felt I owed it to Fish to retire him in style, so I bought an eight gallon bi-orb, a hideously ugly, spherical, self-cleaning tank with a terra-cotta floor that supported plant life. I bought Fish art, too. Sculpture. And he was happy for a while.
One neighbor over-fed Fish and another euthanized him when I was traveling. I came home to an empty, running tank, and though my trip had been beautiful, challenging, life changing, I crumpled before that empty tank and cried.
“Every time I break up, it’s like another goldfish dying,” I confess.
“Mourn and move on.”
“After you finish dating in all 50 states, you should have sex in each state.”
“I’ll be seventy by the time I finish this experiment. No one’s going to read about the sex life of a seventy year old.”
“Other seventy year olds.”
We’re three olives down on our five olive martinis, the only couple on the third floor. My ice has melted. The check has been dropped. The music’s still playing, but it’s last call.
Sip drink. Eat olive.
“You should buy t-shirts from each state you date,” he leans back, a curious grin tight on his face.
“I’d have to go back to the states I already dated.”
“I don’t want to go back to Iowa.”
“Start with Nashville. I’m almost certain they have t-shirts there.”
I’m confused. Which is my natural state.
“I’m thinking about writing a book on interstate dating.”
“Those who can’t do, teach?”
“I’ve a 95% success rate in being asked for a second date.”
“But, do you go on second dates?”
“I’ve usually left town.”
“This single thing, it’s starting to make sense.”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, Rickie C., but I’m not a catch. I have three dead green tea plants in my living room I’m trying to revive. I have fantasies about restarting my pheromone business, but can only find wholesale fruit-fly pheromones on the internet. And then there’s the matter of how I got my oven.”
“So, you’re just going to sit home with your dog and your dead plants and watch your potential love life pass you by?”
“Hell no. I’m going to Nashville.”
Rickie C. writes on the napkin.”Bangin’ bod. Good in bed. Never brush my hair…”
“What if my perfect person doesn’t like me?”
“… but I do brush my teeth. I love my dog and miss my fish… Lost in the wilds of my imagination. Inept at buying household appliances.”
“Stuck in the spin cycle?
“Won’t you help me find my washer-dryer…”
“Mention sock puppets somewhere in there. Everyone loves a sock puppet.”
“You’re right. You might be hopeless. But I do love a challenge.”
The bartender turns up the lights. Glaring fluorescents. I pull on my sweater, Rickie C. tightens his scarf, and we amble down the stairs. Past the tired chorus boys, singing one last ballad, past the abandoned tables on the first floor, and onto the sidewalk.
“How did you get your oven,” Rickie C. asks.
“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you another time.”
“Alright,” he says. And we split off. He walks one way, I walk the other.
It’s good to have friends.