two ships passing in the night
“You’ve seriously never been on a blind date?” he asks me. Isaac is bothered by my lack of affinity for strangers. Last week, he managed to make three friends just on the two-block stroll between the subway stop and his apartment. I stood awkwardly by his side as he chatted them up and I pretended to respond to a very important message on my phone. Frankly, most of the time I am just not interested, but I’m also relatively shy, and meeting people always makes me vaguely uncomfortable. But this is a summer for trying things, and Isaac has a point: I haven’t been on a real date since my last relationship and it would probably be good for me. Besides, he tells me, it will be one of his friends, a man hand-picked to make up for my awkward silences and more.
Long story short, I end up meeting Adrian the next Saturday at The Plaza. Before the encounter, I suppose I had imagined hotel bars were the kind of place where you sauntered up to the bar in a sweeping black gown, Audrey Hepburn–style, and ordered an antiquated whiskey drink that no Brown student knows how to make before a tuxedoed gentleman swept you off your feet. But in reality I am not even old enough to drink and I’m wearing the same business-casual outfit I had shuffled around in at work that morning, while Adrian looks less like a dashing cavalier and more like a Bill de Blasio sticker machine threw up on him. It turns out, one essentially did—he is interning for the mayoral campaign part-time and auditioning for acting jobs during the rest of it. He seems to have an awkward relationship with his father and really hates limes.
That’s all I have gathered about him by the time we step outside and head for the subway. We’re going to Brooklyn, he tells me, where a student from an improv class he took last semester is hosting a comedy show. Since I have never lived in New York before and couldn’t even point out Brooklyn on a map—sorry, city girls, I’m working on it—I have no idea what’s in store, but Jack had lectured me about being “adventurous,” so, reluctantly, I’m trying it, though for me adventure is more likely to be a day spent reading Don Quixote than going on a trip to the windmills.
Unfortunately, Adrian’s windpipes are quixotic enough for both of us. By the time we’ve reached our stop, 45 minutes later, he has used four cheesy pick-up lines. I have also learned that he is a self-described “attention whore,” talks way too much with his hands, is really pretentious about the Paleo diet he started two weeks ago, actually uses the word “fortnight,” and owns two fedoras, which, in my opinion, is definitely two too many.
When we get there I’m almost as relieved to be in a house as I am to have other people to talk to. After just a few weeks of my tiny midtown apartment and constant claustrophobia, the fact that there is a backyard to this place seems downright magical. The comedy show is apparently having its own pregame, and men and women with rainbow hair and stacks of thrift-store layers are wandering through the narrow corridors like ghosts out of a novel being written somewhere in a coffee shop that only serves it black. One woman is leaning against the refrigerator, smoking a cigar and refusing to talk to any other party participants. “Do you like cats?” another girl asks me, and when I reply in the negative, she walks away angrily and without another word, carrying the meowing, scratching ball away with her.
Adrian and I soon end up the yard, talking to a paint-splattered couple (both drinking something greenish out of mason jars) about the fire that just wrecked the building next door to their loft. Adrian apologizes enthusiastically, putting his arm tenderly around the woman’s shoulder, though they had also just met. I offer an anecdote about being on the fated fiery Keeney hallway my freshman year to break the silence, and the couple laughs so much I don’t really know what to do with myself. Fortunately, one of them grabs my arm and enthusiastically brings me to a new group of strangers and my second conversation about food trucks for the night.
By the time I have been offered four cigarettes, I hear Adrian’s annoyed shrieking from the other side of the yard and then, surprisingly, my own. Two guys have just dashed out the door and, in battle stance, are spraying all the visitors with cans from each hand while making what I can only assume are supposed to be the noises of angered cows. I debate dropping to the ground; I don’t. It turns out to be mosquito spray, anyway—apparently the grass is a breeding ground for the nasty things, and after explaining that, but before they go, our apparent hosts warn us that the show is starting and we ought to come inside. So much for the necessity of bug protection.
I manage to find Adrian again before we’re ushered down the stairs to a windowless basement. A tiny part of me realizes that this could be the beginning of a horror movie, but I remember that the night is supposed to be a comedy—though this fact is not all that reassuring given the circumstances. Beach chairs, folding chairs, kitchen chairs, and boxes pretending to be chairs are lined up two-by-two in the unlit hallway, and there is a whiteboard on the side opposite the chairs, on which is written, in giant block letters: WELCOME TO THE AIRPLANE AISLE.
The show is actually pretty good, though for the first 30 minutes, Adrian is holding my hand and half of my energy is spent figuring out how to remove it without offending him. There are a handful of comedians, one of whom is actually Michael Che, which makes the trip somewhat worthwhile. And all of the performers are pretty hilarious. Adrian isn’t, however, because by now he’s too plastered to even pay attention. So when the show ends, I decide it’s probably a good idea to usher him out, since he seems unsure about whether to stand up from his seat or sink into it forever. Pretty soon, we say our goodbyes and slip out into the Brooklyn night.
It is a long, silent train ride back.
*All names have been changed. Adrian was indeed working on a political campaign, though I cannot remember whom it was for. The candidate was lucky to have him.