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6Feb/110

“The Cheat Sheet” — FREE STORY #3

As previously mentioned, a film class at Syracuse University is adapting stories from THE CHEAT SHEET into short films this semester.

In honor of that, I thought I'd give out another story from the collection.  The story that was far and away the story most selected for adaptation by the students.

THE AMBIGUOUS WOMAN

She had given him her business card (Molly Stone/Weber Shandwick/Acct. Mgr.) and not just scrawled her number on a cocktail napkin, which seems less formal, tackier, less personal, but which he would have much preferred. He would have thought she really liked him if she had snatched his Blackberry from his hand and manually entered her number into his phone like he'd seen other girls do before, maybe added a personalized contact entry for herself, “Molly the cute girl at Gingerman,” which would have actually filed itself under T as “The cute girl at Gingerman [comma] Molly,” like the descriptor was her full surname, but still he would have liked that a lot better. He would have definitely called her if she'd done that. But, no, she had just said, “Well, gotta go meet my friends for dinner. Here's my card, shoot me an e-mail.” Shoot her an e-mail? It was her business e-mail. Shoot? Shit.

He spent the whole weekend wondering whether he should do it. He spent far too much time wondering whether he should do it. He knew he was spending far too much time wondering whether he should do it. But he couldn't help himself. Why couldn't he just be cool and relaxed? Big deal, a girl gave you her card. That's only step 1 of 100 with step, like, 5 being you winning her over and making her like you and maybe step 10 the first time you kiss, 22 the first time you have sex, “I love you” at 50, engagement 75, marriage at 100.

Yeah, it may have been step 1 but she was gorgeous. Tall, leggy, conservatively dressed yet still sexy. Just my type he thought. He also thought, every girl is my type until she's not.

Late Sunday night he decided to start drafting an e-mail to her. He wasn't sure he'd send it, but he wanted to be ready just in case. A part of him realized he wasn't merely writing for her. Oh no. She probably gave her business card out to a half a dozen douchebags every time she went drinking and thus probably received four or five e-mails every Monday morning. Like a job applicant, he'd have to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Yet he couldn't be too over the top. If he said anything too stupid she'd surely show it to her girlfriends and they'd all have a good laugh at his expense. “Another pathetic douchebag, another pathetic e-mail,” one would say. They'd laugh. If he wrote something stupid enough, why, she'd probably even mass CC it around the office. He didn't know anyone at Weber but he had some friends in advertising and PR. At Edelman, Ogilvy, the like.

He didn't want to be a laughingstock. A viral office send-around joke up and down Madison Avenue. So he wrote a very bland, aloof, too-cool-for-school e-mail. He thought it would now stand out from the crowd of four or five other douchebag e-courtiers by how very bland it was. He made it so bland he wasn't even scared to hit SEND at 10:11 AM EST on Monday. He wanted it to fail. He totally forgot he had sent it by 10:12 AM EST. But by 1:34 PM EST he started thinking: Wait a sec...why hasn't she responded yet? I guess she truly did have no interest in me. Was just placating my awkward flirtations until she had to leave. Typical validation seeking girl. Loves to let guys shower her with flirts—make her feel good—when she has no interest in letting things advance any further. And if she has to embarrass herself by asking the Weber office supplies guy to order her new business cards every few weeks, a much faster pace to blow through business cards than your typical acct. mgr., well, small price to pay.

At 2:24 PM EST she e-mailed him back. His heart skipped a beat, but not because he had an arrhythmia or something. He set the mood perfectly to read her reply. Closed all his other windows, took the earbuds out of his ears, swigged a big gulp of coffee to sharpen his senses so he could fully digest her e-mail. He hit OPEN MESSAGE.

Her reply was brief, briefer than his initial e-mail even. No apology for her slow response time, how inconsiderate, she had no respect for him. She said it was great to meet him but she had punctuated that particular sentence with a period, not an exclamation point. He thought: How great had she truly thought it was to meet me if she couldn't even feign exclamatory delight? He had thought it was great to meet her! But now he wished he hadn't. Period. He wasn't asking for, like, three exclamations: Great to meet you!!! That would have made her seem like a used car salesman, a late night ambulance chaser, a telemarketer, a phony. No one was that great to meet. I mean, maybe Shaq or George Clooney or Jay-Z, but not him. Not most people. But was he not even great (!) to meet?

Oh well. He decided he might as well go on the date anyway. She had proposed drinks for that Thursday and his Thursday was free. She was probably saving her weekend, Friday and/or Saturday night, for the guy she truly liked. The guy she truly thought she had a future with.

He arrived at 8:00 and 35 seconds. She had suggested 8:00 and in those situations it's no-win. Arrive early and she thinks you anxious; late and she thinks you a jerk. At least arriving on time guaranteed he'd be there before her. Would guarantee she'd have to find him, have to initiate the greeting. He saw her enter the bar out of the corner of his eye but faked like he hadn't, stared straight ahead, imagined her pace in locating him. If she shook his hand he knew they had no future. A warm hug, perhaps they had one. He hoped she would present a cheek for him to kiss. That would really buoy his spirits.

He felt an arm on his shoulder. He turned. She smiled. No, more like a tiny perfunctory grin. “Hey!!! (!!!) Sorry I'm a little late. Would you mind watchin' this for a sec? Need to go to the ladies room.” She swung her purse onto the barstool beside him. “No problem...” he muttered as she power walked to the restroom. He thought, she's going there to no doubt text a friend: “shorter than i recall. uglier too. oh well...free drinks!!!” “lol--ill call you in an hour to give u an out,” her friend probably texted back, he figured.

Eventually she returned from the bathroom, threw her iPhone into her purse. “Whatcha' drinkin'?”

“A...uh...beer,” he stammered out. Shit. Why had he ordered a beer? He felt like a buffoon now. Wasn't that the drink of buffoons? She probably thought him some buffoonish frat boy. Some cheap buffoonish frat boy what with the “$3 Yuenglings” sign prominently displayed near the bar. How to assure her that he wasn't drinking Yuengling. His Sam Adams cost five bucks actually.

“Gin and tonic,” she ordered, “Hendricks if ya' got it.” She was so sophisticated, he thought. She didn't just order well liquor, didn't just say, “G & T, whatever ya' got, whatever shit's cheap.” She actually knew a brand of gin. Nice gin, he bet. He wanted to try that gin, see what nice gin actually tasted like. But he didn't want to look like a copycat, some supplicating copycat if he ordered it his next round. Well, better the supplicating copycat than the cheap frat boy buffoon, he figured.

And, you know how things go from there. He'd ask her a question, she'd answer. She'd ask him a question, he'd answer. Like ping pong. A ping pong match he was clearly losing. He could never think of anything interesting to say, anything smart or funny or unique, so he just answered as best he could. “As best he could.” Exactly what teachers told you to do on essay tests in college in those little blue books. “If you don't know the answer completely, just answer as best you can.” He always got bad scores on those kinds of tests.

He was certain he was boring her. Why else would she keep ordering drinks, fidgeting, keep changing the subject to sports and movies and restaurants? She seemed to like many of the same things and ones he did, which made him like her all the more. Too bad she didn't like him. Too bad he was boring her, forcing her to do anything to make the date more interesting.

She suggested they play pool. He liked pool. She probably liked that he would be bent over a table for several seconds every minute, thus unable to talk to her, to bore her some more. There were already some quarters on the table signifying that someone had “next.” She found “next,” some guy who had placed the quarters, some Wall Street dude much more handsome and confident than him, and suggested they play some two-on-two.

“Only if I can be your partner,” the Wall Street dude flirted back. So cool. She looked back to him. “No. Not this time.” This time. “This time he's my partner,” she said as she pointed to him.

She was so sweet and nice. But she also probably thought she simply had a better chance of winning with him as her partner. She must have realized he was a bit of a yuppie hustler on the walk from bar to felt as he nervously tried to relate a story about being “pretty good” in college. He didn't want to sound too braggy, but she feigned being impressed. She was so sweet. He should have never mentioned he was in a frat. At least he also mentioned that he thought five dollars was a very reasonable price for the Sam Adams he was drinking.

He'd felt like such a drip, such a worthless, unaccomplished drip for the majority of the date, but he thought this was his chance to redeem himself. Were women impressed by men who were good at pool? Women were impressed by men that were good at anything, right? But pool? Might she just think him a drunk who spent every night in bars? Yeah, probably. Thus, he decided to play at about 68% the best of his abilities. Not surprisingly, they still won.

After he sunk the eight ball, she jumped into his arms and gave him a big hug. It lasted a second longer than he expected, probably because he had grasped her too hard, not because she wanted to linger that second longer. She was so happy they had won. She was probably just drunk on that fancy gin. He asked her if she'd like to pay their tab and take a walk. He thought the brisk air might sober her up a bit. He didn't want her mad at him for getting her drunk. That would guarantee he'd never get a second date, though he was sure that was already inevitable.

So they walked and talked. She grabbed his hand. He was momentarily excited until she mentioned she was cold and started dramatically shivering. She was such a skinny thing. He was so fat. He put his arm around her to try and warm her up. It felt clinical to him but maybe if he was, like, a super-gentleman, then he could finally win her over. He would make his warming-up hug clinical so she thought him a super-gentleman and not some schmo just trying to cop a feel of her smooth back, her taut stomach.

They walked for a half-hour at least, in a seemingly random, chaotic pattern through streets and avenues until...

“Ha, look at that. We're on my street.”

He then realized that pattern hadn't been random and chaotic at all. It had been engineered by her. She must have just wanted a man, any man would have done, to walk her back home safely. It was late at night and she did live on Avenue B. Whatever, he didn't mind being used a little bit, he was a gentleman at heart and he would have just felt terrible if she had had to walk home alone.

At her front door he said, “Well...” pronouncing the ellipses.

She said, “Well...” pronouncing her ellipses, too, then laughing. Surely laughing at the thought of how she would get rid of him now.

He laughed so she wouldn't think him a creep.

“Want to come upstairs for a nightcap?”

A “nightcap?” That's what his grandma called the one tiny glass of brandy she had before bedtime. She might as well have asked him if he wanted to come upstairs for a “lil' sleeping medicine”—also what his grandma called her brandy. It was now clear to him that she just wanted to be his platonic friend. His buddy. Oh well. That was fine. He'd allow it. Nothing wrong with having another pretty girl as your friend. Maybe she would even set him up with one of her friends that would actually like him in a romantic way. That would be nice.

Since it was now evident to him that she just wanted to be friends, he told his new pal what he'd have told any old pal. “Sure, I need to pee anyways.”

In her bathroom he stared at himself in the mirror, trying to figure out what went wrong. Did he use too much hair gel? Should he have used none at all? That Wall Street hunk she had liked so much had floppy, tussled, un-gelled hair. Oh well, fuck her, she was clearly superficial. He'd just go back out, quickly suck down that so-called nightcap, leave, hail a cab, go home, masturbate to internet porn.

He exited the bathroom to find her standing there in shorts and a shear t-shirt (Kappa Beta Rush '00.) Boy, she's already dressed for bed, he thought. OK, I get it, she wants me to leave. I'm sticking around too long. She could have just asked, she didn't need to be passive aggressive, didn't need to embarrass him, he thought.

She leaned in and kissed him.

“Does that feel good?” he was soon saying. “Do you like that?” he was soon asking. The kissing had led to nudity which had led to bed which had led to sex. She was probably just drunk and horny, he figured. Any dick woulda done.

She was moaning—a bit—but she wasn't even looking him in the eyes, wasn't even kissing him, was probably thinking about the Wall Street dude, bemoaning the fact she never got his e-mail address. Maybe she did when he wasn't looking? He tried to impress her with his sexual prowess, tried to make her come, tried to make her finally like him, but he failed. He came within three minutes, his pathetic penis wilting slowly into the condom she was surely glad was protecting her from him, vile him.

What a disaster of a date. He felt sick.

*

After two days the elation began to fade away and after four days she began to get concerned and after a week she had given up. She'd had such an amazing first date with Ken. She'd thought she'd had such an amazing first date with Ken. Yet he never called her.

Why were men so hard to understand?

© 2010 Goldfarb

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If you enjoyed that, please feel free to link to it, Tweet it, post it on Facebook, and e-mail it to your friends.

I think you'll love the rest of the collection too, all stories about the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York, which features these ten other tales:

"The References" -- The final few lines of one's resume are usually devoted to references that can tell a would-be employer you're the right person for the job. One's life references are a little different, but even more important.

"The Boyfriend Trials" -- A fed-up thirty-year-old woman has a most interesting methodology in searching for the perfect partner.

"Health" -- Arthur Lampkin is the sex-ed teacher at a Staten Island high school whose life is a living hell of comical sex-ed tools, oversexed teenagers, and an undersexed home life.

"The Feminist" -- Kelly Meyers is the only male professor at an all-girls college.

"Comedic Romance" -- Love in real life never happens like it does in Hollywood rom-coms.

"He Proposed" -- The day a woman gets proposed to is the most exciting day of her life. And, she can't wait to tell you all about it.

"Born. Again" -- What happens when a sexually promiscuous New York atheist spends a weekend with a chaste Midwestern Christian?

"Gross Humans" -- If you knew what most couples did behind closed doors, you'd be repulsed.

"Ain't Nothing Like a New York Romance" -- There can't possibly be a better place to fall in love than New York City. Can there?

"The Cheat Sheet" - [plot redacted]

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You can purchase THE CHEAT SHEET on Amazon Kindle for a paltry $2.99 here:

Or, if you'd rather read a beautifully-designed PDF edition, Paypal $5 to aarongoldfarb@gmail.com and you will receive a copy.  All majors credit/debit cards (except Diner's Club) accepted as well here:


SPECIAL OFFER: First three people to buy THE CHEAT SHEET and e-mail me proof (aaron@aarongoldfarb.com) I'll send a free Kindle edition of HOW TO FAIL!

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