Oct 092012

Guest post by ThoughtTrain

So Saturday turned out to be an interesting day in my life.

It started simply. I drove downtown to get pizza with Shakedown before the hike we were going to go on with three female friends of ours. Apparently Shakedown likes to fold his pizza in half and then eats it, like a crazy person.

One girl I is someone I’ve been working with for the past year, another was a Dane Shakedown had met in his gym adventures, and the last was an old classmate of Shakedown’s. Soon after Shakedown and I finished our pizza, we all met up and proceeded to walk to my car. The walk turned out to be a bit of a trek because I choose a parking space very poorly that morning, as in 15-minute-walk poorly. Whoops. The walk and the car ride contained a lot of the getting-to-know-you small talk that inevitably comes with every new encounter. Most people just answer candidly and honestly during those sorts of conversations, and I’ve always felt that it’s a good time to build rapport and mutual trust. Shakedown doesn’t do that though. He never gives a direct answer and more often than not gives a bald-faced lie. For a while he claimed that his profession was male-prostitution, for instance. His former classmate seemed to be having none of it though, and they seemed to engage in that verbal fencing, which was difficult for me to follow as this classmate also talks likes her blood is 80% pure caffeine. This got really nuts when I was driving around a detour we didn’t plan for with Shakedown and her turning helping me navigate into a sparring match. I mostly concentrated on not getting everyone killed, chiming in with a joke here or there when the opportunity presented itself. My coworker passed around the snacks that she had brought. I was happy. Shakedown was flirting, which I think makes him happy.

Then on that sunny honey-crisp afternoon we arrived, my friends and I. The sun was warm, the air had some bite but no teeth, the trees were just getting into their autumn attire, and the hiking trail stretched out before us. We took the bridge. The Danish girl picked flowers. The classmate worried about not tripping. Shakedown spent a great deal of time making fun of the two and telling them they were crazy, but also just cracking jokes. He was in his element, or at least believed it so strongly as to allow it to touch upon truth. I don’t know. I was busy hoping from rock to rock, trying not to get wet on the streams that flowed along the trail. I really, really, like jumping around and climbing on stuff in the woods. It’s what I used to do when I was much younger because my social anxiety isn’t set off by trees or rocks, so it’s nicer than a bar or a crowded room in that way. The Danish girl seemed to have the taste of an explorer too, as we often got separated often from the rest of the group as we were both busy climbing stuff. I guess I could have flirted with her, but I was having too much fun to worry about trying to impress girls. It was a good feeling. There’s nothing like jumping up the tallest nearby rock and looking out at the scenery around you, chatting to the people around you about the view, their past, shoes and ships and ceiling wax, carpenter’s and kings. Get out there and do it if you can.

The sun started going down. The sun goes down too early in autumn. I drove everyone back, down road much more scenic since we didn’t get waylaid by a detour. We stopped for awhile in a tea shop downtown. Shakedown pulled out some material he used when I first met him, standard personality quizzes and such to be more entertaining. He can put on quite a show when he wants to, and I think he entertained what he must have thought of as his audience. I simply enjoyed, joining in on the conversation when it felt right. I was sitting with three perfectly lovely ladies, a cup of tea, and Shakedown. Sometimes life can be quite pleasant, quite pleasant indeed. If I can give one piece of advice, it’s learn to enjoy moments like that with worrying about where your life is going. My anxiety was there in the background, but I wasn’t paying attention to it.

The moment passed. We went our separate ways. Shakedown and I hung out for a time before going out . At one point Shakedown wandered in to a private event being held at a local bar all to see a bartender he knew. It was then in that moment that I began to feel a bit like Dr. Watson, a down to earth guy going around with a mad man like Sherlock. The feeling got more intense a bar or two later when he struck up a conversation with a staggeringly drunk woman of an advanced age. Her words were as incoherent as her clothes, but she had strongly felt opinions about everything, even if she had trouble properly articulating those feelings. She eventually got into a heated argument with a guy at the bar and Shakedown suggested we get out of there so we went to the upper level of the bar. The older woman disappeared, while I passed the time getting involved in a political discussion with some strangers. It was fun. It was intellectually stimulating, but I was itching for some more adventure. We went to another bar in search of some friends who were supposedly in the area. We didn’t find them, but we did find something very different.

You see, as we stood there, Shakedown drinking water because of his figure, me drinking water because I had to drive home that night, Shakedown got this mad look in his eyes and asked, “Are you ready?”

I didn’t know what he meant, but I knew the answer. One of the lessons I’ve learned recently is to believe you can handle whatever comes, or at least you can make a damned fine attempt at handing whatever comes. I was still trying to be the man who walks calmly into situations of sheer madness and excitement. It was what Dr. Watson always did, and like him I wasn’t trying to be the hero of the piece, I was just trying to not be so boring.

I thought these thoughts and Shakedown turned around to the three girls behind us that I hadn’t even noticed and began to ask them one of his stock questions, one of those questions he had utter a dozen times to a dozen different groups of people in the relatively short time we had been friends. Then he was off to the races. I played along, a little nervous because I had finished my water so I was the only person in the group without a glass. I felt self-conscious, especially since the bar was getting a bit more crowded. Then I just noticed that one of the girls in our circle was running her hand through her hair with honest eyes pointed at me. I just started talking. No gimmicks,  no routines, no quizzes, no real teasing. I just talked a little bit about myself and a lot about her. When she finished her drink I asked her to go get another with me. It worked. Three months ago I blew my chance with another girl because in exactly this type of situation I didn’t ask for her number. This time, I asked for her number. I just asked for it before my brain could really process what I was doing, but my brain gave me an earful of adrenaline and anxiety afterwards that I did my best to conceal beneath a layer of fake calm and throwaway jokes. It worked.

I kept talking as long as I could, but I was running out of steam. Shakedown saved the moment by keeping up the chatter long in to the night. Maybe that’s the advantage of not drinking. Then we all went our separate ways. Shakedown has a line that he always uses in a text when he gets a number, and he told me not to use it because he got the number of a different girl in the group while I surviving my own adrenaline rush. I wasn’t going to anyway, because as you may have noticed, I’ve been doing this thing where I just say whatever comes to me. I felt like I had a fun time and hoped she had a nice time. I just said that with a variant of a joke I had made earlier. It worked.

It was an interesting day, and even better, I had an interesting role to play in it. Maybe that’s why Dr. Watson kept volunteering to get into all these mad situations. It’s terribly fun.


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