I noticed right away her standing in the corner of the restaurant bar. She was with a cadre of admirers, mostly local surfers and cool consultant MBA types from Pepperdine who were working for hip (and over-hyped) Internet companies. Her ex-boyfriend (whom I suspected of actually being her current beau) was playing pool in the next room with a sniper's view of what she was doing. She said she would expect me, but only half-believed that I would show up. I don't know why I did. I didn't know why I was doing a lot of things that year.
Malibu and the South Bay have a lot of nouveau riche restaurants that are as expensive as their names are pretentious. Then there are the sushi, wine bars, Tex-Mex (those Texicans make good eats) and Thai numbers that are really quite good and reasonably priced. I was broke (even the local hobos had a net-worth greater than mine) and I was bummed: the perfect alchemy for a nasty case of depression. No money and nothing to distract you from your misery. What could make that killer combo worse? How about going for the trifecta and dating someone that works for you and is 14 years your junior. Gawd, was I feeling old. Just a few klicks on the south side of 40, and now with this "dick move" that I was about to make, I was truly on my way to becoming a cliche in his late-thirties.
If you're depressed, out of work, in relationship hell, do not pig pile onto your misery by having strong drink. You are writing yourself a prescription to make bad decisions. What's our baseline here for measuring bad decisions? How about this for our evening's barometer: Drinking and driving? (we're clearly at dumb.) Getting into a bar fight? (moving onto bad now.) Inviting a beautiful family friend to a nice sushi dinner when you know you might end up "running into" and then making-out with a 24 yr-old consultant, who works with your division, in the bathroom? (Ding-ding-ding. we've arrived at TDM -- total dick move.) Throw the entire hodge podge into the works and you have my night from bad decision hell.
But -- and here's the nasty, ugly, and profound truth of it all -- when your life is suckey, and fate is pissing bucket fulls of ouch and woe's me onto your head, you sometimes feel that you're owed and entitled to a good time, darn it. That little man in your pants (or your purse, or your hat-box, or wherever it is you keep your id) who sits on your shoulder from time to time in his little red devil costume with the bifurcated tail, shouts into your ear, "You need to buy another $150 round of drinks for all these people -- the ones you don't know and will never see again." Or he tugs on your elongated lobe on the other side and whispers, "The "W" is the coolest hotel in L.A., and you're supposed to flirt and jest and wear the nearest lamp shade as soon as is humanly possible. You're a recent divorcee; act like it, J.G.!"
Your intoxicated syllogism slots itself into your dome thusly: If I'm miserable I am owed this good time, and the little man with the pitch fork is encouraging me, and if the beautiful babies are laughing at my jokes, and if my car goes 100 mph at 2am with the windows down, then yes I will have one for the road and drop off my oldest and dearest friend at her hotel and then drive back to the newest and vapid 24 year-old's condo at 3am because she tucked her address into my pocket and her tongue into my ear whilst we were waiting in the bathroom line at the sushi house overlooking the Pacific. There, you now have your second profound truth (I'm feedin' ya pearls here, Franky! Pearls!) or at least well-worn maxim for this piece: Misery loves company. I wanted her company, and I found out that she was miserable and alone and wanted mine (that is to say, my company), as shocking as that sounds.
This went on for about three months, the misery and the wanting and the intoxicated logic and logistics. We ate out and drank Starbucks every morning on the way to work like an old married couple, and went clubbing vis-a-vis my quickly depleting funds like two college kids thrice nights weekly. She watched me play the court jester and I watched her smoke like a European model and we hung out with those with much trendier wardrobes than mine. We went to Laker games in VIP style. She was hit-on/insulted by Ozzy Osbourne at The Ivy, "Ooh, Sharon, look at that lil' strumpet!" I was sleeping less than 4 hours per night, and frankly because I had a bit more training at this frenetic pace than she, I held my own for about a month or two. And then like every marathoner knows (I am somewhat familiar with this because I've seen the Olympics on television), you hit the mother of all walls that only the most skilled can work through the pain and the nagging little voice that says, "What the hell have you been doing with your life, you stupid miserable bunghole, poor excuse for a man!?!" Yes, the wall talks to you and hurls insults at your drunken visage resplendent in 20-something hottie vigor, because the better part of your senses has been squandered like a biblical bowl of porridge sold off to a hairy, red-headed twin.
By the end of our supposed romance, I had given her: 17 of my favorite dvd's that I doubt she appreciated; a yellow Waterman fountain pen that she would lose and I would steal back; one lame arse trip to a lingerie shop; and one piercing on her left nostril by an "artist" named Rimshot (I kid you not). I regret a lot of this time in my life, but, not the learning (I'm all about the acquisition of wisdom, dear reader). Sure, I was embarrassed by hanging out with someone so young, but not half as embarrassed as she must have been being seen with one so mediocre and, gulp, fast approaching middle-age. Yet, no one even knew we dated; it was all on the "DL" as the kids say these days. For a bit I thought, "So this is how Bruce Willis must feel?" ... or at least Seth Rogen. And, now I just sort of cringe at how I behaved. Our time together floats in my memory like an illicit penumbra for one summer's sunset and then faded off into the surf like an old man looking for his dog Lucky that died 10 years earlier.