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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Drifter's Escape

The following is a completely true account of how I spent the evening of March 5, 2005.

I finished work at the internet cafe at around eight o'clock, and having received the text message that "were just on our way now, see you soon," from KB, a girl that I've been hanging out with recently, I made my way over to the pub I work at, expecting to see them shortly. We were celebrating KB's twenty-fourth birthday, and the birthday of one of KB's close friends, FH.

KB and I have been out on a few occasions, and it has come to my attention that she is a Christian. Not just a Christian, but a Christian. This means that she is twenty-four years old, and is a virgin, and plans on staying that way until she is married. This means that she feels very uncomfortable when people say "God damn." This means that she attends church at least three times per week. This means that she has never had a boyfriend for longer than six weeks, and I have intuited her mentions of her previous sexual experience to mean that she has never done anything more than kiss a member of the opposite sex. We recently discussed the whole religion thing, I told her I wasn't a Christian, and she seemed OK with it. "It's not like we're getting married; I just enjoy spending time with you," she said. We have not kissed, held hands, or touched in any sexual or romantic way at this point, but the possibility had been hinted at.

How did I get into this situation, especially when I'm writing and thinking things like this? It has a lot to do with self-denial, and reading too much into things. Anyway, it's not important right now.

So KB and a reasonably large group of her friends showed up at the pub I work at, along with her father, who showed up long enough before the rest of the group to make me feel appropriately awkward. Her father is a pastor at the church she attends, and has consumed an alcoholic beverage approximately once in his entire lifetime (last Christmas he tasted a Heinekin, KB said, and he thought it was disgusting). We were at a pub, so imagine my surprise when I heard him say "Do you have handles?1" The bartender said yes. He resumed his question with "Can I have a handle of raspberry Coke?" I made small-talk with him, and he said that he wanted to start a tab for the group. Then he clarified: "I'm not going to pay for all their drinks. I mean, I could if I wanted to, but I won't. I'm not going to pay for them to just drink all night."

Thankfully, the group arrived shortly. I ordered a beer and some snacks for myself, since I hadn't eaten all day. KB was behaving a bit strange and distant towards me, but I didn't really think about it too much. I handed her her birthday gift/card, which was a thirty-minute massage at a nearby spa. She smiled somewhat nervously.

"Thank you," she said.

I spent the rest of the time at this pub talking with a male friend of theirs that seemed pretty interesting. We chatted about New Zealand culture, the half-assed environmental concerns held by many Kiwis, and made stupid jokes with each other. The girls surrounding us (including KB and several of her church friends) made comments like "It's getting a bit serious over here," and more sarcastic jabs like "Well isn't that interesting? Oh really? How interesting!" It was hard to ignore, but I really didn't know how to respond to it. When my fellow conversationalist brought up his experience watching a terrible adventure movie about sharks, and mentioned a particularly awkward sex-scene, KB covered her ears.

"Stop talking about it," she said. "I don't want to hear about things like that."

I am of the belief that everyone should have two things on their birthday:

1. A slice of birthday cake, with a candle.
2. The birthday song sung to them.

I arranged for both of these things to happen, and the girls both seemed embarrassed.

Shortly after the song, we left the pub, and walked down the street to a dance club that the girls requested. On the way there, KB and I walked together.

"I wanted to talk to you," she said.

"In general, or about something in particular?" I asked.

"About something in particular."

"Oh, OK," I smiled.

"You know how the other night we were talking about being honest, and bringing an issue up if there was a problem?"

"Yeah, right, of course."

Awkward pause as tension grows exponentially and she stops walking.

"I don't want you to kiss me," she blurted. "And I don't want to kiss you."

A wave of familiarity hit me that contained every rejection I've ever received in its power.

She clarified. "I mean, I want to kiss you, but I don't think we should. It wouldn't be a good idea."

"Oh. OK," I frowned.

"I really like hanging out with you, Chris, but I know you're leaving, and that makes it really hard. The next guy that I'm with, I want him to be the one. Do you understand?"

"Um, wow. I wasn't expecting this," I murmured.

I went on to say that I respected her decision, and affirmed that no, I didn't hate her. She wanted to make sure that I didn't hate her, and wanted to make sure that I was OK. I tried to make it clear that I was surprised, but was hanging in there. These are, in fact, my honest feelings. When she told me that if we kissed, it "wouldn't be just a kiss," I retroactively felt relieved of the kind of pressure that kissing her apparently would have necessitated.

From there, we went to the dance club, and the real horror began.

We walked in and danced to a barely-bearable Kylie Minogue song. The DJ announced that he was taking requests. KB ran up to the DJ booth, and I saw her suggest some songs. The song she requested was, in fact a song called "Shackles (Praise You)", by Mary Mary, a gospel/R&B/dance group that I had never heard of. The expression on my face must have been a sight to behold. It was as if she'd discovered the only religious R&B/dance song in the club's repertoire and asked for it. "Let's bring a little bit of holiness up in here! Let's make this God's house!" That kind of thing.

I was in awe2 when the song came on, but my awe turned to abject horror when the following song turned out to be "Respect" by Aretha Franklin. She'd chosen the only other song lamer than the one that preceeded it. Seems like a pretty fair judgment, doesn't it? Well, it turns out I was wrong. The third song in the trio of doom was none other than one of my most-hated songs in all of recording history.

The artist was Gloria Gaynor. The song was "I Will Survive". I sat down. KB and friends got up to add a little sisterhood to the holiness that they had already brought up in there. They weren't that chained-up little person still in love with me, I can tell you that much. A couple of songs later, we were treated to the not-requested-but-enjoyed-by-all former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell version of "It's Raining Men". I am not making this up; this song does exist.

That's when I noticed that the very chubby girl with the denim tennis skirt and aviator sunglasses was giving me the eye. Shudder. FH suggested that we go across the street to a nearby Irish bar that also had a dance floor. I hurriedly agreed. There, we danced to several songs that were, in comparison to the previous playlist, must-hear classics (including some atrocious new Gwen Stefani song that includes a slightly-altered chorus to the song "If I Were A Rich Man" from the popular musical The Fiddler on the Roof). After a dance or two, I bought the birthday girls one last drink and told them that I was going home. What I didn't say was that the awkwardness was becoming unbearable, and despite your friendly and well-meaning demeanor, KB, I'd just like to say that this is almost certainly for the best, even though I was willing to see it through until the end, which means that I am not a bad person. Oh, and happy birthday to the both of you.

As I walked back to the car, I saw a disheveled hippy-bum poorly playing the clarinet, of all instruments, in an alcove off the street. A large group passed him on his side of the street in the time that I watched him from my side. No one dropped him any change.

1A handle is a large glass that beer is usually served in.
2And not awe as in "We felt awe when contemplating the works of Bach." Awe as in "The observers were in awe of the destructive power of the new weapon."