Did You Pay 20 Dollars For My Phone Number?
A couple weeks ago, while waiting for a train at 3 a.m., three presumably drunk girls sat down next to me on the bench. For a while, they shouted incoherently among themselves while I pretended to be a regular nonthreatening man who doesn’t eyebang people on the train platform because he’s reasonable and clearly ruminating on important matters of state, not three attractive girls who just sat down. One of them asked me where I was heading. I said, “To my house,” which, for some reason, made her and the others laugh uproariously. A second girl leaned over to me and said, “Sorry about my friend.” I said, “I don’t know why she would be sorry,” and she smiled knowingly at me. This interaction, in my mind, seemed to be going shockingly well. I don’t feel like I’m one of these males to whom girls — albeit, very drunk girls — have an immediate starry-eyed reaction, so these sexy situations are precious treasures to be stashed away in the mind palace for inflated self-image purposes.
When we got on the train, the three girls sat across from me and started discussing what famous actor I resemble. ‘This is a wonderful day,’ I thought. ‘My ego is a fat hungry polar bear, and these girls are tossing it penguins by the dozen.’ The actors they listed do not look like me — Aaron Paul, Ben Foster, Macaulay Culkin — but still, I appreciated the effort. My impulse at this point was to say, “I love all of you,” kiss their feet, and cry like an abused child when CPS arrives, although this would extinguish whatever aura of masculinity I was somehow exuding. I felt like Cinderella at the ball.
The most attractive of the three girls grew quiet for most of the ride. I thought, ‘Well, I guess Cute Girl didn’t board the Brad Love Train with her friends.’ Then, as we neared their stop, she nervously handed me her phone and asked me to dial my number, which I obliged because I love when girls ask for my number (I’m not a proactive male). The other two girls, however, had not been consulted on this matter beforehand and glared as if she’d just puked on their shoes. This was all delightful. All aspects of this chain of events — profoundly gratifying. When my self-esteem is eviscerated by commenters, friends, and crowds of vicious monster people, I will return to this scenario like an obese old man easing into a hot tub.
Then a very strange thing happened. As the girls got off the train, Cute Girl rushed up and stuffed 20 dollars into my hand, wearing an expression of grave profundity as she did so, as if to say, ‘This gesture conveys my passionate romantic feelings for your face.’ I examined the 20. I deduced that it was definitely a 20 and not a phone number written on a piece of paper. As the train doors swished shut, I shouted, “Why did you give me a 20?” but she was already disappearing into the distance.
This transaction befuddled the crap out of me for weeks. The next day, I texted her, “Why did you give me 20 dollars?” Then, “What does this mean?” Then, “This is Brad from the train.” Then, “You gave me your number on the train.” Then, “Did you think you needed to pay me 20 dollars for my phone number?” Then, “I want to return your 20 dollars.” Then, “Is your phone off or are you not responding on purpose?” Then, “Almost bought a burrito with your 20 dollars.” Then, “But I didn’t because I want to return it to you, not buy a burrito.” Then, and this was a few days later, “Still wondering why you gave me 20 dollars.”
The mystery of the 20 dollars haunted me: did she mean to buy my phone number? Did she think I was a poverty stricken child, begging for 20s from passengers? Was it payment for dealing with her drunk friends? Did she think I was a prostitute? Was this like when companies mail you one dollar so you’ll fill out their surveys? And then when she didn’t respond to my flurry of not at all creepy texts, I also had to wonder if perhaps she was embarrassed by the exchange of money and phone number. Perhaps she feared she’d already blown it with the unspeakably attractive train man or her sober mind had assembled the mish mash puzzle pieces of memory and concluded, “Ew gross, no, gross, that’s gross.”
Finally, she texted me back, though it’d been so long I don’t know why she bothered: “Hey! Ya, I dont no what I was thinking! I was shhhhhwasted! Spend it on something nice!”
So I’ll never know why this girl gave me 20 dollars. I did, however, end up buying three burritos for lunch for three days, and really, the truth is: it doesn’t matter why or how you obtain the burritos; only that you get them. For eating.
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Try something today. Count how many times someone brings up some sort of mental illness in normal conversation. Add that number up and tell me it doesn’t strike you as kind of weird how many normal people walk around with the belief that there is something wrong with them.
She assumed it was jewelry. Every year he gets her a charm for her gold chain or a pair of dangly earrings.
Fall if you will, but rise you must.
You may lose what would have been the joy of the experience had you not been so focused on some fabricated idea or unrealistic expectation you had of how it was going to turn out.