I drove to Boulder for the pleasure of people watching. I walked the length of the mall a few times, looking for the ideal spot. I found it on some brick steps in front of the Boulder Bookstore, which gave me a view of both sides of the outdoor mall.
As I sat and watched I saw affectionate lovers, former affectionate lovers, a girl whose head involuntarily moved back and forth in a “no” motion, a blind couple with a guide dog, and of course the homeless hippie street performers who smelled weedy and had tangled hair that even Moses couldn’t part.
A stunning woman in a black dress walked by. She was around 26, had long brunette hair, and wore a tight fitting dress that showed off her thin body. She was accompanied by an older woman who I assumed to be her mother. I checked, as I always do, for a wedding ring. There was a ring, but it was a black stone on her middle finger.
So she was basically inviting me to follow and talk to her.
They walked into the Boulder Bookstore, so I got up and followed.
All single men are stalkers. In order to be a successful single person you’ve got to walk along the creeper line. You try not to cross it, but you’re always there, hugging it awkwardly like a creepy Uncle. You watch and you follow and finally decide the right time to make your move. An ancient predator instinct kicks in as you watch and wait for your prey.
And make no mistake about it, there is only one chance. You’ll probably never cross paths with this person again. There is only this single opportunity to make an impression and get their information before they’re gone forever.
As I walked in, I found her looking at the recommended books. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, so I picked up the grumpy cat book. I admire how the owners figured out how to exploit their cat for fame and profit. “Grumpy Cat,” whose real name is Tardar Sauce, has feline dwarfism which makes her face look grumpy. This cat has 1.2 million likes on Facebook and has also been featured on the front of The New York Times. When people look grumpy, we’re assholes. But when cats look grumpy, they become famous.
Anyway, I flipped through the book, wondering what poor ghostwriter had to compile all this, while I listened to Black Dress Girl and her mother talk about all the various books they’ve read.
So she’s a reader. And a pretty voracious one… maybe even rivaling me. The nerve! It sort of turned me on.
That’s when I realized a grumpy cat book might not project the best image, so I put it back and picked up Thinking Fast and Slow. A book by a Nobel Prize winner in Economics is probably more likely to impress her.
As I glanced between her and the book, I noticed she wore a spiked gold bracelet. That was odd, because she hadn’t struck me as the goth type. Then I noticed her black fingernails.
Well, perhaps the bracelet and nail color were remnants of a complicated past… or maybe she was just a little odd. No matter, she reads books and wears tight little black dresses.
Eventually she drifted a couple shelves away from her mother so I went around the other side and met her in the middle.
“Do you ever hurt yourself with your bracelet?” I asked.
It wasn’t the world’s greatest pickup line, but at least it was unique.
She looked surprised then gave a sheepish smile. “Well… sometimes,” she said. She showed me her right arm, which was covered with little red marks from the spikes.
I don’t have a problem with someone who enjoys pain. Those tendencies could come in handy when things start to get stale. While we’re making love upon a pile of classics, she’d grab a copy of Jane Eyre and scream, “Choke me with Charlotte! Now!” Hmm….
I realized I was staring at her arm for too long, so I said, “It could also double as a weapon if you were in trouble,” I said.
She let out a little laugh. “I suppose you’re right.”
Then she walked away.
So she wants to play hard to get. Well that’s fine, because I am a lion and she is a zebra and she is all alone in a bookstore, which just happens to be my native habitat. Well, sort of alone. The details aren’t important. The point is I will mount her as a lion mounts a zebra… or do lions just kill zebras? The metaphor isn’t important, anyway.
I kept browsing, pulling out random books to flip through and — voila! — magically appeared next to her.
“Have you read this?” I asked, holding up a book and smiling like an idiot.
She was starting to look concerned.
“No,” she said.
“It’s pretty funny,” I continued. “It started out as a blog and then she got published. Isn’t it crazy how people just start writing crap on the internet and they become published authors?”
“Uh huh,” she said. “You know, I think I did read some of her blog.”
“Are you a writer?” I asked.
“No, at least not really, no…”
Then she walked off again. How rude! We were totally just starting to start a conversation. This must be one of those annoying seduction techniques. Thankfully, I have the gift of persistence.
After a few minutes we end up again at the same shelf. Imagine that. ‘Tis fate!
“Do you want to go upstairs now?” she said.
I almost said, “Why yes I would” but she was talking to her Mom. But they didn’t move.
To appear less creepy (and yet, paradoxically, becoming more so), I decided to head upstairs to make it seem like they were actually following me. This is one of those pseudo-genius ideas that come every now and then to a single guy. I walked up the stairs and started with the “A’s” in fiction.
(Speaking of A’s, organizing alphabetically is so unfair. Maybe I’ll change my last name to “Aaab” to give my kids a fighting chance in this unfairly alphabetized world.)
I picked up a book, Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire,” which wasn’t technically fiction but was the first book on the shelf. Abbey was blessed with a love for the West, tremendous curmudgeonliness and a name that started with Ab. My new name would beat him. I started skimming it while I awaited my future bride.
A few minutes later I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and I saw her black dress in the glass reflection. (Much like James Bond, an experienced single man knows how to use reflections to his advantage.) I turned towards the bookshelf and looked seriously interested in my book. They also started in the “A” section — was that a good guess or what? — and we started a 20 minute dance taking turns looking at each shelf.
Sometimes I lead, sometimes they lead. It was all very artistic and beautiful… and well-choreographed. During the dance, they continued to talk about books which overloaded my tiny reptilian brain. I wanted to ask her out, but I couldn’t. I was hoping for an opening away from her mother, but no such opening came.
I don’t mind being rejected by a girl — or at the very least, I’m used to it — but I didn’t particularly want to be rejected in front of a girl’s mother. That’s just putting yourself through cruel and unusual punishment.
Towards the end of our dance, the girl said to her mom, “What’s the name of that book… oh gosh my brain is just not working today… written in the 50’s… it’s about a teenager… he was really moody… New York City?”
I was staring blankly at an open book in front of me. Involuntarily, a sound came out of my lips that sounded a lot like, “Catcher in the Rye.”
She eyed me suspiciously as she said, “Oh… um… thank you,” she said, “Yes, that’s right, Catcher in the Rye…” She’s on to me; I’m going to have to seal the deal soon.
Her mother was happy to talk to me, though. She could tell I was a quality stalker and that her daughter would be lucky to be with a stalker so handsome and educated.
As we got to the Steinbeck section (also known as the “S” section), the mother sighed and admitted she hadn’t read Grapes of Wrath. “It’s pretty good,” I said, “seems to be sort of a like or hate book from my experience. I never hear anyone going on about how they love it — it’s good but not as good as some of his others.”
“What’s your favorite Steinbeck book?” she asked.
“East of Eden, of course,” and they both nodded their heads in agreement.
So they both love my favorite book? Maybe if the daughter wasn’t interested, the mom would be.
They walked to the other end of the room and I was left alone to overcome my fear of rejection. “She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s a reader, she likes Steinbeck, and she’s sensitive to artistic sensibilities,” I thought. “She does have a gold spiked bracelet, and that’s somewhat worrisome for our future. She’s not gonna dress my little girls in spiked bracelets… But I don’t meet a girl like this every day. Go get her, tiger. Lion. Whatever.”
Even after that little pep talk it took me about 5 years to move. When I did finally approach them, though, all the words fell out of my head and I was left with nothing.
“Hi, uh, I’m leaving,” I said.
They stared at me.
“Okay… bye?” Black Dress Girl said.
“No, no, that’s not what I meant,” I said. “Listen, you seem really cool. You’re obviously beautiful and you’re smart and we could talk about books for hours… so I was wondering if you wanted to grab a drink or coffee sometime?”
She laughed. Not a nervous laughter, but like I said something really funny. She pointed at her mother, still laughing, and said, “This is my mother-in-law.”
It took a second to sink in.
“So… it’s a no then?” We all laughed. Awkward, terrible, I-am-so-embarrassed-for-you laughter.
“Thanks for the book help,” the mother-in-law said.
Then I blacked out. The next 30 seconds are a complete mystery to me. The 2 flights of stairs, the rows of books, passing by people… all of this is empty. My memory returns as I sit on a brick step outside the building.
Shortly after, they exit the bookstore, laughing. The mother-in-law snaps a picture of the bookstore, no doubt to have a visual reminder of the hilarious event where her daughter-in-law was asked out right in front of her.
As I watch them walk away, Black Dress Girl turns her head and our eyes meet one last time.
I smile back as she disappears forever.