Monday, September 22, 2008
The Birthday, the Buyer, the Banging Hangover
Another Wednesday has come and gone and I haven't posted about Birthday Wednesday, my journal tidbits festering in draft mode for lo these many days. So let's talk about Birthday Wednesday.
Everyone managed to make it to the appointed restaurant roughly about the same time, with only my brother and sister-in-law running late. This particular restaurant has valet service and my mom was adamant that valet service is an outrageous expense, so after she walked across the street in 105 degrees Fahrenheit from the parking structure a block away in downtown Palm Springs, I got an earful about the multiple double-parkers in SUVs, etcetera.
Our tables were still being readied when DH and I got there, so I greeted mom with chocolate martini in hand at the solid marble bar. Mom squints at my drink with distaste, and chirps "Happy Birthday!" She pecks me on the cheek as I order a strawberry daiquiri for her. Then she glances at the cordoned-off tables where wait staff is finishing setting up our reservations, and DH says hello and mom beams as she hugs him.
My sister Angela arrives with my chocolate-strawberry cake, breathless, glances at mom, eyes rolling before mom turns around, and mouths "happy birthday" and grins as she beelines to the reserved tables. Mom sighs as Angela places the cake on the center table, taking a tight sip from her drink. I can read her mind: What a waste of strawberries, should have been strawberry and angel food cake. Mom is one of the few women on earth who detests chocolate; at least we have strawberry love in common. And mother's birthday is the oncoming Sunday, the 21st -- yes, mother-daughter Virgo tag team.
My cell phone rings; it's CC, texting me...ah, hell...I check the text: CALL ME URGNT....yeeeeah, so much for a work-free birthday ... I call her. "OH HI, HON!" CC is yelling, traffic almost drowning out her voice, "thanks for calling - need a HUUUGE favor from you, sweetie, I know this is your birtday -- HAPPY B-DAY by the way -- but can I pretty-please-with-strawberries-on-top (sharp laugh; she knows about my strawberry-and-chocolate mother dilemma). ANYHEY, pleasepleaseplease may I drop the interrogs by from yesterday with some minor-but-ABSOLUTELY-CRITICAL changes?"
I exhale hard, moving my mouth away from the cell just in time, I hope, so she won't register my exasperation. She knows I'll say yes, Friday is the last day to Fed Ex overnight them to defense counsel, and we've already been granted a two-week extension. "Yeah, CC, it's cool, I"m at --"
"Oh I KNOW where HAHAHAAAA! No worries, hon! My driver-du-jour is ALMOST there!" As I wonder WTF -- did she slip a GPS micro-chip in yesterday's coffee to track me down, I remember that I mentioned the place to the big guy and her because the buyer for one of CC's clients had business dealings with that restaurant's owner. Oops.
And as I'm putting my cell back in my purse, through the open window slats of the bar I see a midnight-blue, drop-top Mercedes pull up to valet parking. A valet opens the passenger door and CC steps out as the driver steps out and in almost one motion hands the keys to the valet and is at CC's side, CC hooking her arm to his. The "driver" walks with a dancer's grace as they enter the restaurant. His slacks and silk shirt exactly match the midnight blue Benz. He takes off his sunglasses and his eyes....wow, his eyes. His eyes were a light blue, but like crushed ice, with a striations in the irises. He smiles, a brilliant dimpled smile.
And CC. CC straightens her curly hair on very rare, very Special with a capital 'S' occasions, and this appeared to be one of them. Not only was her hair flat-ironed, but it was freshly cut, her hair ends cut to frame her face softly, and -- oh my -- she was giggling at something the buyer said, something the buyer said with that light, crisp accent ...
Just then, a tall, skinny blond waiter dashed over booming "HELLO! I will be at your service tonight, my name is Jim!" Big smile on Jim, directing his greeting to all of us but eyes fixed on the buyer. "May I see you to your table?" Again, his swooping arm motion included us all, but he directed his suggestion at the buyer, assuming the buyer was part of our dinner party.
CC locked arms with the buyer and introduces him to us. ....Did I just see my mom bat her eyelashes? This guy cannot be unaware of the effect he has on people ... on women, on our waiter.
All find their seating arrangements without any major drama or disagreements (another little miracle) as CC and the buyer sit at an free table next to us while I'm flipping through the folder o' interrogs she's passed me. DH asks me "Is that a, uh...new lawyer?"
"Oh nah, that's a prospective buyer and business partner for a client who has some issues with the -- oh nevermind, kind of boring ..." I'm wondering what happened to CC's boyfriend, the one she is engaged to and unengages from periodically, as CC's thigh edges closer to the buyer's.
The buyer seems oblivious to the attention, and when Jim brings us our drinks, we are absorbed in his story about his flight to LA and drive to Palm Springs because he loves the drive to Palm Springs even when it's a "how do you say -- pain in the ass" and the way he says "pain in the ass" is so funny and awkward, and yeah, hot. And Diehard whispers to me, "So, was this guy invited, because.." and he glances at the time on his cell phone. And as I'm saying "well..." and thinking what to say next because what to say next has now become a delicate task, CC glances at her cell and yelps "OH MY! Look at the time, we really need to be going!"
The buyer rises and helps CC out of her chair; CC blushes. I suppress an eyeroll. The buyer then comes up to me and takes my hand with his left (ringless, I note) hand and kisses it. "A very happy birthday to a very beautiful lady," he says, glancing up from my hand with Those Eyes. I suppress a squeeeeeee!.
CC is suddenly at my side, all "thank-you-SOOO-much-Letty" with just the slightest edge in her voice. Jim our server is now behind the buyer, right behind him, big brown eyes gazing up at him: "Is the gentlemen leaving us so soon?" Jim sounds like the thought of the buyer leaving is breaking his heart. "Oh yes, yes, I'm so -- " and then the proprietor of the fine dining establishment bounds over and gives the buyer a big bear hug and is rattling off names of friends who've been wondering where the buyer's been. As the buyer chats hurriedly with the owner, Sade's "Smooth Operator" plays on the sound system. Smooth operator indeed.
The buyer is now bidding farewells again but suddenly turns back to me and opens his arms, no words needed; he's hug-ready, smiling that little boy smile, and...those eyes, lit from within. I rise and am sort-of just drawn into that hug, my cheek sort-of this-close to touching his...mmmmm he smell GOOD. The buyer's married right hand lightly slides over my waist as he steps away. Yes, his married, Orthodox right hand, the ring on which I didn't notice until mom pointed it out as soon as he was out the door. Mom looked disappointed, and I thought shit and then why do I give a care exactly?
CC locks her arm to his again and leads him out of the restaurant with a quickness. When Jim comes around to inquire if I want more of the same alcoholic beverage because I've gulped down my margarita so fast -- my throat so dry all this time -- I say "a white Russian sounds good" and feel like a total idiot as I say it. I glance quickly at DH feeling like a schmuck and a slut rolled into one -- a schmut.
I catch DH and my brother Manny, who arrived with my sister-in-law about the middle of all this, as they both stare at their beers, then look up and strike the same hand-to-chin pose, eyes aimed at the flat screen TV over the bar at the opposite side of the restaurant, as if riveted by the muted Bloomberg channel. God, I wanted to slide under my table and stay there. My sis-in-law then tells Manny, "You should try out something like that next time at the mall, I mean just to see if it looks that good -- um, just if it looks good on you I mean," meaning the buyer's ensemble, then shuts up mid-sentence and takes a big gulp of her margarita as my brother sort of slams his elbow forward to lean in for a better view of the Bloomberg report.
The dinner rolls on well; I'm starving by the time my duck curry (yum!) is set before me. And the servers who sang Happy Birthday to me must be a barbershop quartet on their off time because that's just how they brought it down, outstanding! But best of all -- or maybe not -- when the bill came and I was insisting on paying for two, maybe three -- OK four -- drinks, Jim said "Oh no worries, the gentlemen (insert whistle Jim eye gleam there) took care of it."
And as Jim leaves with our plates, DH says "He tells us now. Super Fly didn't want us to know before we ordered, myabe we'd order the whole menu -- make him shit gold bricks." Manny fist-bumps him in solidarity and they both laugh laugh laugh.
Later we met up with my sister Josie who worked late that day, and her partner at a drag show a friend of theirs was in; he was Cher. It's kind of a blur. I'm what's known as a light-weight, you see. Running, yoga, and occasional drinking spell disaster when you overindulge on the odd special days, with a high metabolic rate and over-drinking to stamp out social stress and nervous energy and -- oh nevermind, short story: I.was.smashed.
I remember leaning on DH as we walked across the club parking lot and yammering away about how CC must be finally going midlife-crisis on us and blahblahdrunkasshellbladdyblah, and feeling like the world was spinning as he helped my wobbly butt into the Rover. Don't recall the drive back to his house, remember stumbling through the door after deciding it wouldn't be such a bright idea to cross the extra street to my apartment building seeing that there was a police unit parked next to it and a cop listening to the cat lady of my building rant about my next-door neighbor's music.
Next I recall gingerly laying myself down next to DH on his bed in the living room, grateful for the soft faux-candle light from the front window because I think the glare of full-on lighting would have seized up my throbbing head, and I felt like if I turn my head too fast I'd puke. DH's bedroom and the rest of the house is a construction zone right now, because the renovation from hell is still going on, and so it's like camping indoors, and back to OH MY HEEEAD and the vertigo. But somehow I'm still yammering away and I'm telling DH how it was a great party and thanks for putting up with the drama ha-ha-ha...
And I fall asleep for about an hour, and wake up as the last shred of a vivid dream is fading: Even in sleep I'm trying to keep really still, keep my head steady, and the soft whirring from the air conditioning vents becomes the soft purr of a high-performance Mercedes convertible, as I sloooowly turn my head to my left, and the buyer turns to me from the drivers seat, married hand on the steering wheel, and he smiles that smile and those eyes just glow, as he tells me how he loves to drive back through the desert to LA late at night, with Los Angeles rising before him glittering like a dirty jewel.
And I'm awake again, and sloooowly turn my head to DH, and he opens his eyes and leans over, smiles his Die Hard smile, and kisses me on the tip of my nose, ahhh... and GOD I'm a sucky girlfriend, I almost say, as I black out till the alarm shrieks an hour later at 5 a.m.