Friday, May 09, 2008

That Story

Okay, so this is a contender for that story. I don't think anyone has actually told that story yet, but somehow I feel like the whole thing has escalated to point where no tall tale will ever, in our minds, fit the bill. So just a suggestion, not a proud, flourishing entry.

Exhibit A: Johnny (AKA, Jonathan, Johnny T., JT Santos)

Johnny T is one of those friends who is not just your friend, but a fixture in your life. JT and I go back, oh, nigh upon eleven years or so. A good third of our lives have been spent as cohorts. A good number of bartenders in the city of Chicago still give me free drinks when I walk in because I'm Johnny's sister. (Or at least that is what we spent many years claiming.)

Johnny is a Character. He and I mesh at a cosmic level -- in the places where we are broken, the places where we are both utterly normal and absolutely outcast.

JT will perhaps not be pleased to see the following in print, but he won't deny it: boy is a ladies' man, gains pleasure from stoking the fires of sexual desire, has always been one to compulsively ensure that everyone in the room wants to sleep with him. This is also where we mesh well: I have no desire to sleep with him. Our friendship has benefited from this, much like how my relationship with my dad benefitted from financial independence -- we have to find other common ground and build our relationship from there.

There's plenty of ground. Fandom of various bands, sick sense of humor, and, in our early late twenties, we had similar self-destructive interests.

Right. But which story is this?

We've got plenty of "that time we" stories -- we enjoy telling them to each other over beers, boring our friends and family while we indulge one another. This one I like because it involves The Media.

Or rather, Paper! The printed kind. Old school. (My "story" stories seem to have this in common.) The Chicago Reader. Johnny was a roamer, a train-taker, a walker; one of those guys on the train at noon in tight jeans, a tattered blazer with a popped collar, a satchel with a notebook and a book of Raymond Carver stories, and giant headphones clamped to his head. He regularly consumed the Reader in coffee shops.

The first part he always read, before the 5,000 word articles on local politics or the indepth guide to local shows, before Savage Love or the ironic indy cartoons -- he always read Missed Connections first.

Because he was pretty sure that, inevitably, one of these days, all this roaming and looking deep in the presence of all these hipster slips of girls with their thrift store dresses and funky haircuts would pay off. He just knew, at some point, he would find himself in there.

He would mentally catalog, in fact, the moments: That girl in the green cardigan and the headband on the Blue Line may have caught his eye as she looked up from her copy of Atlas Shrugged. Was that girl in the ironic tshirt and painted on jeans at the bar tipping her glass to him?

Enter Antagonism

So, right, closest friends do share these things -- confide in the quiet drunk hours of a late late night. As he did me, explain this compulsion and faith that He Would Be Noticed.

I suppose, in retrospect, we were Jock Friends at this time, because my plan was pretty much hatched immediately.

It was 2002, I think, and the Indiana University Hoosier basketball team was In The Playoffs -- which is, pretty much, the only time we would have cared -- but we wanted to take in a game among shouting fans in a beer-soaked sports bar. Cheering! Fandom!

We picked a bar that would be jock-ish, but not so crowded that we would have to stake out a table early in the day in order to sit. We just weren't that dedicated.

Jonathan immediately began to flirt with the waitress, a curly-headed blonde with a no-bullshit attitude who pretty much blew him off completely, aside from the obligatory delivery of the tall boy and mini pizza.

Indiana lost. We went home drunk.

Which is kinda neither here nor there, just a setup for what happened next.

Because it was almost

April Fool's Day

So, March madness leads to the day I realized you can place a Missed Connections ad for free. On the Internets. (Before it was even called the Internets -- oh, the olden days.)

And so I filled out the form:

You were at Sluggers for the Indiana game. I served you an Old Style and a pizza with sausage and onions. Was that girl your girlfriend? Maybe you'd like to share a pizza with me sometime.

And promptly forgot all about it.

Two weeks later, the ad runs in the paper.

Have I mentioned I forgot all about it?

Until I get a phone call.

"Rebecca! I'm in the missed connections!"

I thought about telling him. At that very moment -- I even felt bad, until he said, "I always knew this would happen."

Eh, maybe we'll see where this goes.

There was a party that week. I don't remember what we were celebrating, but I had a lot of parties in that apartment. I suppose that's a reminiscence for another day.

I was in the kitchen, probably administering an alcoholic beverage, when Sarah ran in to tell me -- "Johnny was in the missed connections! Did you hear this?"

Maybe, too, I was a bad friend when I said, "Actually. . . "

By the end of the evening, Johnny was the only one who missed that particular connection.

This went on.

For a couple of weeks. The ad ran in the paper again, and Jonathan ruminated on it. He savored his moment and imagined every possible outcome. He talked idly about it often.

I started to get concerned -- why had I been so specific? I mean, a random girl on the train can stay a random girl on the train. A waitress will still be serving beers in the same place this week and next week. That's her job. She can't escape into the anonymity of the crowd.

There was a massive heat wave that April. Suddenly, inexplicably, we had 90 degree weather. I had no air conditioning, unfortunately.

One sticky, hungover Saturday afternoon, we pulled out the futon and were lying side-by-side, not touching, rather lying there maximizing sweaty surface area and trying to cool off.

I was nodding off when Johnny said, "The thing is, she said, 'let's share a pizza sometime.' I'm just not sure I'd like to date a girl who would say 'let's share a pizza sometime.'"

Well, this was that moment.

I said, "Well, have you thought that maybe. . . it wasn't well. . . what if it wasn't real?"


There was a moment where he stared at the ceiling and then he turned to me.

I gave that half-apologetic smile.


Johnny is my brother for a reason.

The reason is this:

He laughed. He cackled and hollered and he said, "I can't believe it. You got me. You pulled the perfect hoax. I can't believe you told me. I would have definitely worked this for longer."

I just couldn't let him go back and confront the poor curly haired blonde.


arlopop said...

That's what I'm talking about!!
Pleasing, real, with more details than just the plot.
Go girl!

Baywatch said...

oh shit. the hourglass has tumbled.

lovely. one of your best.

quite a contender.