“Looks like you’re in love,” she said in my ear — that was all it took to ignite the conversation once. Her attempt; her reach out to me. Why she chose to initiate, I’ll never know. Maybe it was because my back was turned; maybe my gaze was no longer passively trying to find hers. I didn’t care and it didn’t matter. Whatever the reason, a gear had shifted and we struck up chatter.
“Just sizing up the competition,” I said, affecting something like bravado. Her eyebrows raised in a way that conveyed both delight and doubt.
“You…are not the singing type. Let alone karaoke, buddy,” she said.
I couldn’t let on as if I was serious. Until this night, I had loathed karaoke. Even in witnessing this pseudo revival, that act of getting up and actually doing was a different story altogether. I was up to this point doing my best not to scare her off. Warbling like a buffoon was, by my guess, low on the totem pole of impressing her.
Then I saw her get progressively into each person as they went up to give their all. Her attention kept darting back and forth between our conversation.
“How much you bet me to go up there? Especially since we both know I would totally bomb,” I said, shocked by the words falling out of my head.
It was the kind of dumb shit that someone would say in a clichéd 80’s movie. Her face wrinkled in the smile-sneer again.
“Oh buddy, what are you trying to do? Impress me? Like I wanna see you go down in flames.” There was a sweetness in the way she said it. I think. She walked away to field another drink order, but as she said, tossed me one last line, “Besides, that’s the kind of shit you see in a bad 80’s flick…”
Slightly deflated, I turned in my seat again to watch the crowd. They seemed tepid as a young girl managed her way through “Thriller” not really delivering the “whole package”. Even for as new as I was to this method of karaoke, I felt I knew the ropes better than her and began to imagine what I would do differently. For one thing I would have stuttered my joint movements more. It would have really played up the zombie dance vibe. Another thing was that she had these dreaded pieces of hair that WOULD have looked cool had she whipped her head to the beat.
My sound critique kept coming inside my brain as a hand slapped across my chest. I spun, justifiable startled, to see it was Zil connected to gesture. In her hand was a white karaoke slip. I met her eyes and bit lip, already trembling with laughter.
“Lucky for you, in those cheesy movies the girl never sacrifices the guy. That would be too cute,” she said.
“So then what the hell’s—” I began, turning to see Gage from across the room, flipping me off and laughing, hard.
Zil finally broke up laughing. It was bright and rich. The kind of laugh anyone looking to get one could want. I spun the slip over. It read “Queen – Fat Bottom Girls”.
“Ridiculous. That’s what you were — ridiculous,” she said not exactly meaning it. “You had the room when you cracked your ass, but dropping trou? That my friend teetered on genius…” Something about actually being there, in the space she called home, I felt the sense of safety she likely felt. It was strange how much it translated. My performance, having pleased the demigods of a celluloid yesteryear, had actually convinced her to ask for company on her walk home.
She lived about ten blocks from the bar in a neighborhood that just started to flirt with questionable territory.
After passing the christmas light strewn halls, we sat down on her couch. “Hand me down; not trash picked” she declared, proudly. Here, within the record lined walls, this was where the guard came down. I remember her talking a bit sweeter, offering me some water. And as she gave me the glass, having just sipped it herself, I drank as well. The gesture was so simple and somehow intimate. Right thereafter she set it aside the end table and straddled me. The kiss was cool and luscious, containing all I ever could have fantasized. It just happened. No plans or intention. I was excited at the prospect of walking her home and actually terrified when she invited me up. Until she leaned in, I was flying by the seat of my pants, trying not to think too much about anything I said or did. My only plan was “don’t ruin the moment” — which worked, oddly enough. She had kissed ME, as opposed to the creepy alternative.
And it was here that her brazen front seemed to morph into another form. Each time she kissed, the move was slow and deliberate. Her body seemed to rise and sink into me as she did, making the sensation near explosive. Never before did I fear sensory overload from making out, nor would I since that night. Since her.
After several incredible, yet agonizing minutes, she grabbed my jaw not so unlike a grandma would to admire. “Trouble. You have to go,” she said, the last of her lipstick still tinting her smirk. Her eyes were at half mast and her hair had tumbled out of control. She was the glorious version of the stupefied mess I suspected I must look. I mouthed the words “ok” but lacked the sound. Walking in a way that suggesting a drunken drift to her door, we embraced once more. Her push on my chest with a slight laugh was my goodbye. The door shut and did what I could not to fall down the flight of stairs.
For as bad as I wanted her to come down moments later, my movie cliché credits were spent on the karaoke miracle. Her lights were out by the time I crossed the street. It was a great night, one I had not expected. I would hate myself for it later.
Leaving well enough alone should have been my plan. After all, I knew the reality of the situation. Zil would leave for Portugal three days later. She knew that and had talked about it on her Facebook wall as well as Gage’s. I didn’t know she existed until I had seen the post. She was unaware I knew and it never came up during our entire night of conversation. Maybe she thought I was being cool when I didn’t press her for a phone number. The real reason was obvious.
The following week when I visited Gage at the bar, I told him about that night. He didn’t seem surprised and actually went as far to apologize for not making our acquaintances sooner. I told him it was ok; that I had a small mantra cribbed from the last lingering moment Zil and I had; something I would tell myself more than a few times.
When escorted to her door, as we kissed a third goodbye, Zil looked aside and said “, this isn’t real.” When I asked why, she simply said “, because we never met.”