Dateline: "If I'm going to hang out with a guy with zero chance of a real relationship, he may as well be a famous professional athlete…"
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9:32 p.m. – "Whatever happened with Jamal?" my friend Megan asks. We're catching up over drinks after work, and the Miami Heat game is on. She's referring to the football player who was pursuing me a little aggressively the last time we were out together, at the very same bar.
9:33 – "I'm not sure," I say. "Should I text him?"
9:33 – A quick text, "Hey, what's up," no question mark, gives me an immediate reply. "Why, where are you? Do you want to hang out?"
9:34 – I reason that if I'm going to hang out with a guy with zero chance of a real relationship, he may as well be a famous professional athlete.
9:44 – Still, I play hard to get. "Yeah, maybe," I reply.
9:44 – "Where should I pick you up?" I like football players. They don't play the games that regular guys, or I, play.
9:47 – I give him the cross streets of a corner near the bar, saying I'll meet him there.
10:03 – He rolls up in a huge black Infiniti SUV with tinted windows and shiny silver rims. I'm surprised at this show of non-conformity — I was expecting an Escalade.
10:04 – He rolls down the passenger window to say hello. He is wearing a ton of diamond-covered bling, and the whole car smells like expensive cologne.
10:05 – Megan and I step into the car, asking if he can drop her off at her apartment first — a mere five-minute detour. He promptly refuses, saying that he's not a car service — even though his car looks like a livery vehicle.
10:07 – I do the most noble thing possible, allowing my friend to step out of the car, then proceed to argue with him for the next twenty minutes over why what he did was incredibly rude.
10:21 – Things settle down between us and he puts on some Dr. Dre. His stereo is pimped out. He drives us to a spot in Chelsea that apparently he partially owns. He parks in front and walks in with me behind him, holding hands.
10:41 – He's given a star's welcome. Men he doesn't even know greet him and ask to shake his hand. I feel like a Kardashian being by his side, but am too caught up with how awesome the attention is to care.
11:22 – The bartender gives us drinks on the house. We stay and talk for a little while, then he asks if I want to head somewhere else.
11:32 – We get back to the car and drive around. He takes us through a car wash near the West Side Highway, explaining that he "likes to be clean." We can see the suds and men scrubbing outside the car through the tinted windows, but they can't see us. He points this out as he watches them. It is a generally bizarre experience.
11:43 – He pulls up outside of 230 Fifth, a trashy bar that I hate. Without realizing, I am clinging to the sides of my seat like a frightened cat, with a facial expression to match, as if I'm being asked to go for a swim in the East River and also ingest gallons of the water. He senses my hesitation, and asks if there's another place that I'd prefer.
11:44 – I think for a moment, when genius strikes. I suggest Dorrian's on the Upper East Side, my neighborhood bar.
11:45 – He refuses at first, citing "home turf" advantage. But he agrees, probably figuring that it's near my apartment.
12:02 a.m. – He rolls up outside Dorrian's, parking in front of a fire hydrant. I ask if he's worried his car will get towed.
12:03 – "You need a flatbed to carry this car away," he says. "The police only have four in the whole city, and I know the cops." In this moment, he seems more like a mob overlord than a professional athlete, and I am getting Don Corleone vibes. I consider my question answered.
12:04 – We walk into the bar, and someone near the door smiles and slaps him five.
12:05 – As we enter, people notice us but are too polite to stare or say anything. They just look up discreetly, then go back to their conversations.
12:07 – We head to the back bar to order drinks, and I realize two of my closest friends are there.
12:09 – I introduce Jamal to Emily and Cate. The expressions on their faces are ones that you might expect them to have after my being out of touch for several hours, only to show up unexpectedly at our neighborhood bar with a six-foot-five, 350-pound athlete.
12:14 – Emily and Cate are both pretty, blonde, and from Connecticut. In spite of the fact that he weighs as much as all three of us combined, we are making him visibly uncomfortable. I can see him sweating from his brow. I place my hand on his back to quell his nervousness.
3:02 – Dorrian's is a black hole of time and dignity. We stay for a while and then he drives me home. I allow him to come over for a little while but won't let anything serious happen. I need to get sleep.
3:47 – He heads out, suggesting dinner at Jean-Georges on Friday. I know there is a 3000% chance this will never, ever happen, although I probably will see him again.
4:11 – I go to bed, and will need to be up again in about three hours. I ponder at the night's events and how, through my own, real-life choices, I graduated from college to this.