My boldest pickup move was also my most ridiculous.
A couple of times a year, I summon enough courage for a brazen pick-up move. The other days are spent crying about how I will never leave the house, because rejection is out there lurking. The two minutes of your life spent hitting on someone are inversely related to the month spent licking your wounds after the dirty deed is done.
It was on one of my more confident days that I saw the cute guy at the diner in Union Square. As my friend and I followed the hostess past the Christmas lights and salvaged signage to a table in the back room, we walked right past him. He was eating by himself and scribbling on a napkin, which made him look reflective and studious. Plus he had one of those shaggy Stone Roses bowl cuts. I'm always physically attracted to men who never left 1990.
I had a hard time concentrating on my friend's stories that day, my eyes wandering up to the table where the cute guy sat. I have superior psychic powers that can foresee promising relationships on looks alone. I had to do something.
Genius struck. I would send him over a slice of chocolate cake. Right now, at the diner.
Calling over the waitress before I lost my nerve, I gestured at my Stone Rose. "I would like to send a slice of cake over to that guy over there," I said. He was still emphatically scribbling. What could he be writing? Poetry? Grocery list? The waitress looked taken aback, then amused. It was on.
I could see her pointing in our direction when she brought the cake over to him. His eyes followed, then landed on me. I waved. He waved back. There was waving.
I have never seen someone consume cake so slowly. I could have gotten five molars drilled by the time he casually sauntered over. Up close, though, he was even more attractive. He thanked me and introduced himself — his name was Josh, and he had been writing down song lyrics for his band. He was on his way to a rock show uptown. Before leaving, he asked for my number.
I couldn't believe it. I felt like I was no longer in my life, but in a strange one where things worked out. There comes a time in every person's life when she thinks, "Have I won? Have I really won?"
Across the table, my friend's eyes welled up with pride. "Wow, Corina," she gushed. "You are my hero." She wasn't there to judge, but to lift me up to my rightful pedestal. My Corina Tower, as it were, where I may look upon the pussy minions below, too afraid to send out cakes of their own.
I was feeling humble. "I am my own hero," I replied. Really, how many times has one person successfully picked up another at a diner with a slice of cake? This was straight out of a movie. This move was at least Meg Ryan Level 8, man. I was a god.
…a god, albeit, with one minor concern. I remembered another guy named Josh I had met, a few years ago. This Josh also had a very Stone Roses-like haircut. But I remembered his hair being lighter.
My friend dismissed it. "You would have recognized him," she reassured. "I wouldn't sweat it."
"You're right, you're right." After all, this other Josh and I had actually made out, and I wasn't that drunk. Plus, his hair was lighter.
A few days later, New Josh called. He told me he had gone to school at NYU and had studied French literature. His favorite French writer was Colette.
I couldn't take it anymore. "This going to sound totally weird," I interjected. "But I met this other guy named Josh a few years ago, who went to NYU, who also studied French literature."
"Who is that guy?" he laughed. "I'm gonna kill him!"
There was a pause. And then, from the other end of the phone:
"I can't believe you don't remember me, Corina."
"Oh my God. It's you." I wanted to scream into the phone.
"Did you know the entire time? And you didn't tell me? "
"Yes. I can't believe you don't remember me."
"It was very dark in that club," I responded weakly.
"But I remembered you," he exclaimed.
"Well, I'm very distinctive looking," I replied.
How could this have all rolled on by me? I wish I could say I was one of those studs with so many rock-hard lovers that they can't remember them all. "You are all like indistinguishable Cheerios to me," I would say into the phone, filing a hangnail. This would work if I was one of those people. I am not one of those people. I swear to God his hair was lighter. I was thinking "blond" when I thought of First Josh. First Josh was definitely blond. Second Josh didn't even have highlights.
I thought back to first Josh, now second Josh, now same Josh. We met a few years back at a club. He was dancing with a big group of friends, waving his long arms and bouncing around in a fashion that made him look like a drunk Muppet. It was charming — so charming that my sister, my sister's friend, and I started circling around him. When he inched over to me while dancing, I knew I had won.
But to paraphrase the words of a friend of mine: "You won, but you kinda lost." Personality-wise, Josh was less fetching. While we were making out at a dark booth by the entrance, he mentioned a gnarly sexual act he was dreaming of that involved me and a nearby Heineken bottle. It was the kind of thing you wait to share on date number… never.
We parted ways at the club, and I never heard from him again. Until now. Men should never be allowed to write alone at a table.
There was only one thing to do. Go out again. I could not waste that cake.
He showed up at my door with a promotional CD by his band, a courting move I have never been enamored of. We went dancing at a soul club. Things seemed painless, but I couldn't put of my mind that I was out on a date with the same sketchwad from before. After a little while, I got tired and wanted to leave. Then things took that surprising-but-now-expected turn. We walked out of the club and he kissed me, biting my tongue in the process. "Ow!" I yelled, pulling back. He cackled. Sadist or jerk? I wondered, just as I had a few years ago.
I wanted him to magically turn back into the guy I fantasized about when I first walked into that diner. In my fantasies, we would walk down the street years later and happen upon the diner where I first sent him the cake. "Ho ho! There it is," I would say, grabbing his hand. "Ho ho!" he would respond an hour later, as we sat in a gigantic tub of chocolate cake.
I was clutching at the crumbs of a dream. "You can come over," I told real-life Josh as we hailed a cab at the end of the night, "but you can't, like, expect anything." I don't know why I said this. It was not my most excellent of lines.
"Then I guess I'm not coming over." Josh smiled and closed my cab door shut.
I have never been good at remembering faces. Picking Josh up again was an accident. But to go out with him hoping he'd magically turned into someone I could date? That was my cognizant choice. A few years had passed, it's true, but I'm not sure if atrociously bad romantics get any wiser with age. Idealized notions of people and experiences make me return to the same spot I was in years ago. I had to go out with him… because I couldn't waste a slice of $5 cake? The truth is probably more that I was still invested in the fantasy — and couldn't accept that bold gestures can die in vain.