By AMY PANG
We sat at a bar which was a couple of blocks from the party because we
were early and didn't want to be in the first wave of people who
showed up. He eyed a lone girl who propped up her neatly tousled head
on a slender white arm. She wore a sleeveless silky dress with strappy
platform sandals, and her nails were painted some dark shade. It was
difficult to tell in the bleak light. She sighed a couple of times,
glancing toward the door whenever it opened. She was one of those
faceless pretty girls who populated the area, and for all her lack of
uniqueness, he fixated on her.
"She's not your usual kind," I said.
"No," he said thoughtfully. "But she has a wanting look, don't you
think? She looks unhappy. I think she would like another drink."
"Maybe she's going to the party."
He studied her. "No, I don't think so. I've never seen her before at
anything we've attended. Also, her style. It doesn't have any...
flavor. She's not like you and me. But you've given me a fantastic
He slid over several stools to reach her. She became aware of his
presence and turned to him with a face as clean and blank as a marble
statue's. "I just wanted to know, are you by any chance going to Bob's
party up the street?"
"No," she said in a frosty voice. "I'm waiting for a friend."
"Oh, I see. Boyfriend?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be nosy. The only reason I was asking is
because I'd like to buy you a drink, and if he's the jealous type it
probably wouldn't be such a good idea. For you as well as me."
"No thanks. I don't think you should buy me a drink."
His back was turned to me, but I knew he was putting on his soulful
look from the way his head tilted. "No strings attached. Really."
"Then why give me something for nothing? Are you acting out of
"I thought you'd like to tell people tomorrow that you were here at
this cheesy bar and some guy brought you a drink. You'll have a story
to tell for other people's amusement. To brighten up their day. Maybe
no one else went out tonight. Maybe they want to know what they're
missing. And then you tell them about me buying you a drink, and they
look at you in awe because you have the voice of authority because
you're a pretty girl, and they think, `maybe if I go out tonight, I'll
meet a nice guy or girl and buy them a drink, and maybe they'll be my
soulmate, the one kindred spirit I've been searching for all this
time.' See, even if nothing ever happens between us, if we never see
each other again in this life, you may help implement change in
someone else's life."
She gazed at him with the stupefaction of a deer in the path of a
speeding car driven by a drunken teenager. "You're full of shit."
"I am sincere in every way. I have no intention of picking you up.
Your martini glass is nearly empty, you seem impatient that your
friend is not here yet, and another drink seemed to be the logical
"I can buy my own drinks," she said, annoyed. "I don't need someone to
buy them for me."
"All right. I understand. Now tell me, why are you being so unfriendly
to me? You can be truthful. I'd really like to know."
She sneered and gave me a contemptuous look. I didn't look away, and
eventually she blinked and refocused her attention on him. "You don't
get it, huh? I don't want to talk to you or anybody. Most people would
leave me alone after I said I was waiting for a friend. You are just a
freak. Besides, you're with her. You're probably looking for some
weird sexual thing."
"Well. Thank you. Even though I said there were no strings attached to
this drink I would buy for you, you refused."
"You're a liar, that's why."
"You don't even know me, and you think I'm a liar?"
"Why else would you want to buy me a drink?"
He gave up then. I saw the tiny exhale of breath that caused his
shoulders to slump ever so slightly. He turned to me and said, "No
luck tonight, my friend. Shall we move on to the real party?"
I nodded my assent and smiled at the girl. She seemed almost sorry
that we were leaving. "Sorry," she said to him, turning her head to
watch the door. "I'm not that kind of girl you can buy."
He shrugged and sighed.
"That's quite a girl," I said as we were walking through the door.
He said in wonder:
"That's the kind of girl."
She intrigued him. That was his declaration. It's terrible grammar. It
leaves you with the question, "the kind of girl that...what? What were
you going to say? What do you mean, that's what you meant?" It was a
statement of, if not approval, scientific interest.
It was a pastime of his to begin conversations with strangers to test
them and see how far they would travel with him. She was lacking in
logic, this girl. Her thoughts were disordered and her conversation
repeats of tv show snippets. She had no intellectual life, and this
was what interested him most.
"So what are you thinking?"
"She's just one of many women I will encounter all throughout my life.
I will offer to buy them a drink, or prop open a door if they're
carrying bags of groceries, or offer my seat on the bus. They will
look at me in contempt and not understand it's imperative for me to be
civil. They will think I'm after them for prurient reasons. She didn't
have the mechanisms to break away from her notions of the relationship
between men and women. I offer to buy her a drink, she refuses because
she thinks she is required to trade sexual activity for a five-dollar
drink. I hope she thinks more of herself than that."
"She was being self-protective."
"Someone with her delicate look, you know, what the magazines call
`gamine', and she's hard. The meanness of her character will manifest
itself when she's older. Everything will be a slash on her face. Hard
wrinkles. Thin and ungenerous lips. Eyes that are so slitted that they
block out the rest of reality she won't deal with."
I tried not to smile. "Don't you think that's a little harsh? I'm not
sure what I would've thought if you approached me like that."
He threw his arms open. "But you, my dear, wouldn't have said I was
full of shit! You have intellectual curiosity and the ability to see
the good in people. You would've accepted a drink but politely refuse
anything else. You would've acted the way people are supposed to act."
"See, you're biased because we're friends."
"I can't win any arguments tonight, can't I?" he said belligerently.
I laughed then. I don't always approve of his judgements, but he was
good for a laugh or two.
Gradually we could hear the music and voices of the party wafting
through the warm night air. He quickened his step and grinned at me.
"Not for us, her life. We can see the possibilities in living. We take
"I hope this party won't be a crashing bore like the one last night,"
"That's what I mean, we take risks! How are we to know if this party's
going to be wonderful or deadly? This is how everyone should live."
"Enough," I said. "I need a drink."