I never really cared much for being single. I scarcely dated in college, never capitalizing on opportune moments, while I watched beautiful coeds flock to my friends as if they were summoned by the pied piper.
There was no rhyme or reason to it - one by one, they got married and I grew more and more cynical. I once joked that I was a home run away from hitting for the cycle: usher, groomsman, best man, but never the groom.
Perhaps that’s why I was so smitten with Anna Kate Stephens; although, to be fair, it was my friend Mason that first noticed her. He tapped my shoulder and tipped his head slightly to the right , alerting me to her presence.
“Hey, Slugger,” Mason said. My friends called me Slugger because of how often I struck out. “The waitress is smokin’ hot. I think it’s time for you to get off the bench and give it another try.”
“No way. That girl is way out of my league. Just look at her.”
She was a vision. Long streaming brown hair, breasts that could serve as buoys and hips that made me miss my childhood. My eyes shadowed her as she danced through her rounds laughing loudly and often along the way.
“Come on,” Tyler said. He offered his two cents, being sure to spin his wedding band on the table to drive his point home. “That’s why you’re still single, Slugger. You've never accepted that you don’t have to hit a thousand when three-hundred will get you into the Hall of Fame.”
“Yeah, go get her, stud.” Mason ordered. “Or I'll be forced to embarrass you. And you know what I mean.”
“She’s working,” I argued. “She doesn’t want to be bothered.”
“They all want to be bothered,” Mason said. “It’s why they dress so damn provocatively. God, sometimes I wish I was in your shoes. All these beautiful girls in short skirts and ‘do me’ pumps and you won’t even get on deck. You aren’t batting for the other team, are you?”
That's what did it. The final straw.
“Fine, I’ll do it,” I said angrily. “But only to get you guys to shut the hell up.”
As I walked across the room, time slowed as if to heighten my anxiety. I watched her lean across the bar waiting for the bartender to fill her tray. Meanwhile, my mind scrolled through a million lines, none of them good enough. In my defense, it was hard not to be distracted the way her boobs squished into the bar.
Before I could unleash the inner-beast, she pivoted toward me revealing her glorious cleavage. Glory, glory. Hallelujah. “I’ll be right over to get your order.” She apologized politely. “We’re a little short-handed tonight.”
“Actually,” I blurted out awkwardly. “I don’t want a drink. I want your number.”
“You’re very direct,” she said before flashing a slightly crooked, yet absolutely endearing smile. “I'd love to give you my number,” she continued, bursting into laughter.
“But?” I asked. I was more than slightly annoyed at her outburst. It's one thing to turn a guy down. It's far worse to laugh at said guy while doing so.
“But I don’t have one. A phone, I mean.”
“Oh," I said. My eyes flew to her feet as if I was I was a shoe salesman trying to guess her shoe size. I tried in vain to muster enough courage to bow out of the situation. "Well, I guess I'll just... "
“I have a pager,” she said enthusiastically.
“You have a pager?” I repeated slowly.
“Yeah," she said as she scribbled her number onto a cocktail napkin. "But when you call be sure to add *911 at the end so I know it’s important.” She laughed again. “It’s how I screen my calls.”
“You screen your calls?”
“Bill collectors. Ex-boyfriends. Televangelists.”
“Right,” I said. I grabbed the napkin and returned to my table slowly, a dead man walking. The anticipation of the firing squad was almost too much to bear.
“Did you get her number?” Mason asked.
“She doesn’t have a phone.” I replied. If only I had a beer to bury my face into, maybe I could have avoided their unscrupulous commentary. At the very least, I wouldn't have had to answer them. But I walked away from the waitress with a phone number, not a beer.
“So what’d she write on the napkin? Your horoscope?” Tyler asked.
“Her pager number."
“A pager? Who in this day and age has a pager?” Tyler mocked. “Does she know the '80's are over?”
“She’s obviously blowing me off. I’m not gonna call her.”
“You have to call her,” Tyler said. “Take her to 8.0’s. She’ll be right in her element.”
“Only drug dealers still use pagers,” Mason interjected, a gleam in his eyes. “The only Element you should step into tonight is my Honda. You need to get laid - and all chicks are crazy in one way or another - but I wouldn’t wish that kind of crazy on anyone, Slugger. Especially not you. Although, the sex would probably be phenomenal”
“You know, on second thought,” Tyler quipped. “Don’t call her. Her pimp might get upset.”
“Shut up guys,” I said, the horror rising steadily in my voice as I saw her approach. “She’s coming over to take our order.”
“Order Coke,” Mason said with a wink. "It's a secret code." He raised his eyebrow. "Trust me."