Each year, the PTA sponsors many fundraisers. First up on the academic calendar is Oktoberfest. Parents are expected to volunteer for the event. There are numerous jobs—barkers, coordinators, vendors, clean up.
I pride myself in being a skilled face painter.
Alas, that task had been taken when I arrived for my shift. I was assigned to another.
I was the hot dog man.
I stood a booth offering hot dogs for the price of two tickets, with bottled water and Capri Sun going for one ticket each. I offered a full complement of condiments, offering to fix them anyway you like, or to allow you to fix them yourself.
My ex Lucy was tending another booth near the entrance. The kids begged us for tickets and busied themselves with the attractions.
As I prepared for my shift, I restocked an ice chest with drinks. I was bent over the chest when Lucy walked by with our daughter, on their way to the restroom.
“Ugh, there’s a pleasant sight,” Lucy sniffed as she passed me.
I looked up. "Hi, Dad!" our daughter smiled and waved.
God, I thought, that woman really can’t stand the sight of me. Here was a moment where she might have said something pleasant (“Hey, Hot Dog Man!”), or neutral (“Nice day”), or nothing at all.
Instead she has to be nasty. She just can’t control it.
There was nothing unusual in her invective, and anyway, I didn’t have much time to ponder it. Hot dogs were a popular item, being cheaper than pizza (four tickets) and subs (a bargain at six tickets).
I was soon tending a steady stream of customers.
I was putting ketchup on a fourth grader’s hot dog when someone called my name.
“Jefferson? What are you doing here?”
I looked over and saw a woman I had not seen in about a year.
Not since the time we fucked.
“Oh hey,” I smiled, putting down the ketchup and wiping my hands. “What brings you here?”
“I have a booth with a friend of mine,” she said, gesturing toward an adjacent street fair. “We make puppets.”
“Well, cool. I’ve got kids in this school, so I’m serving as the hot dog man. You want one?”
“No, no, I just need two waters . . .”
“I can set you up. That will be two tickets, please.”
“Oh,” she said, looking at her palm. “I only have one . . .”
“That’s fine,” I said, winking as I took her ticket. “On the house.”
“Yes, no problem.”
Kids were clamoring for hot dogs.
“Looks like you are busy,” she said. “Come by our booth when you are done. I want to see what you think of our puppets!”
“Will do! Nice to see you!”
“Yes,” she held up the water and mouthed, “thanks.”
I smiled and returned to the hot dogs.
Gosh, I had not thought of her in a while.
We met through a personals ad she placed on Craig’s List. In the course of a very pleasant exchange, she revealed that she had formerly been a peep show girl in a Times Square grinder. Back in those days, she was a junky living with a dealer, trading ass for horse.
She had been sober for years now, she reported, but remained fascinated by that life. She was interested in compiling oral histories of sex workers who knew Times Square.
She certainly got my attention. Sex work, oral histories, local color—she was driving right to my hot spots.
I proposed meeting for drinks. She was shy about sending her photo, but said I would know her by her long curly hair and her black leather jacket.
I had to adjust my pants as I walked to our date. That night, I was sure to fuck this woman, and that expectation had me rock hard.
That plan changed somewhat when I spotted her at a table. She had told me a good deal about herself, but omitted one detail:
She was not that attractive.
My pants required no further alterations.
I introduced myself and kissed her check. I sat and smiled. We ordered margaritas and chatted.
She was certainly a talker.
I listened to her talk about her long deceased grandmother, her home improvements, her job, her cat. I nodded and interjected clucks of sympathy or chuckles of amusement as appropriate.
Some people talk a lot when they are nervous, and first dates can fray anyone’s nerves. I was willing to wait for her to relax a bit.
As she talked, I watched her face, looking for things I might find attractive.
She had nice skin.
Her teeth were nice.
She had a Hobbit quality that was sort of endearing.
It was happy hour. A second margarita followed the first.
She discussed her interest in science fiction. I gamely led her back to our subjects of common interest. She talked about those as I listened.
I drank down my margarita.
The waitress returned and asked if we’d care to stay for dinner.
She looked at me and shrugged.
“Uh, sure,” I said, smiling. “That would be nice.”
During dinner, she talked about baseball, shopping and returned again to the subject of her dead grandmother.
We split the bill.
As we left the restaurant, she asked if I was in the mood for something sweet. No really, I replied, but I rarely eat desserts.
Oh, she said, disappointed.
But, I offered, I will be glad to join you, if you want one.
She said that would be great. She knew a super place near her office.
We began to walk north. Midtown was largely abandoned by this hour. I’ve always enjoyed that sense of having the city to myself.
Or, in this moment, to share the city with my new friend, the monologist.
We walked about ten blocks to discover that the place she had in mind was not open. She suggested we try another place. I agreed.
We walked five more blocks to a deli. After some searching, she found a muffin she liked.
“I wonder if I should eat it here,” she said, “or on the train home.”
I detected an exit. “We’re near the station. I’m happy to walk you over.”
“Oh thanks, that’s nice.”
We walked four blocks to Grand Central.
When we reached the door, I stopped and turned to her. I listened as she concluded a story about her boss.
“That is a pretty funny place to put a copier,” I agreed. “Well, I guess I should say goodnight.”
“Yes, here we are. I had a very nice time.”
“Me too,” I lied. I kissed her cheek.
She continued to talk for twenty more minutes. It was a chilly evening. I swayed to and fro for warmth.
Finally, she said she really did have to go. I leaned over and kissed her cheek again. This time, as I pulled back, I turned and walked away.
“Nice to meet you,” I waved. “Keep in touch!”
“I will, thanks!” she waved.
I walked around the corner to another entrance.
I checked to see the coast was clear. It was, so I entered the station and hopped the subway home.
Now, I was still pretty new to dating then, but I knew enough to know that when you aren’t interested in someone, it’s really just best to say so. No hard feelings, one should say, but I think I would prefer to leave things as they are. Best of luck. See you in the funny pages.
It’s really not that hard.
But yes, it can be hard.
So instead off being direct, I found myself being too nice, keeping up an email exchange with her, albeit a correspondence of considerably less ardor.
One day, she wrote and asked me, point blank, to fuck her.
She told me I was the only decent fellow she had met lately, and she was just insanely horny. It had been over a year since she had been laid. Could I please do her this favor?
Well, what could I say?
I invited her over.
She arrived after work, and quickly changed into an oversized open necked t-shirt. “I always sleep in one of these,” she said.
It was just after five in the evening. Surely she wasn’t planning to sleep over? I needed to develop an exit strategy.
“Let me show you what I sleep in,” I said, undressing. “Because we only have a while before I need to leave.”
“Oh, you have to go somewhere?”
“Yes, but we have plenty of time.” I stepped out of my pants. “And by the way, I sleep in the nude."
The sex was fine, but did nothing to dissuade me of my original assessment. She was easy to orgasm, which was fun, but it took stamina to fuck past my general disinterest.
We lay back afterwards, allowing our bodies to cool.
“Hey, want to watch TV?” she asked.
“Um, sure,” I agreed, handing her the remote. “What’s on?”
“They do a great lineup on Sci Fi,” she said, clicking on the set.
We watched a made-for-television movie about a homely man who managed to steal the physical appearance of his handsome friend.
Another feature began. The room grew dark as evening settled.
“Well,” I stretched, “thanks for coming over. This was nice.”
“Sure, I liked it too,” she said, her eyes on the movie.
I stood and began to dress. “I guess I should get going,” I said.
“Oh,” she sat up. “Then I guess I should get going, too.”
Good—I was well served by the Obi Wan Kenobi powers of persuasion.
“Want to walk with me to the subway?” she asked.
“No, thanks, I need to make a call before heading out.”
“Okay, well thanks again.”
“Oh, thank you.” I kissed her, and then opened the door.
“See you,” she said.
“Later!” I smiled. I closed the door and locked it.
I went back to my room and ditched my street clothes.
I settled in to write for the rest of the evening.
We continued to trade emails. Gradually, she got the idea that I wasn’t all that interested, and we let it go.
Then she showed up at my hot dog stand.
Oktoberfest was blessed by perfect weather at the end of eight straight days of rain. The clouds rolled back in as the event drew to a close.
Everyone scurried off to beat the storm. I shut down my stand and put away the condiments, buns, unsold drinks and folding table.
I gathered my kids and hurried toward the bus stop.
My eyes made a cursory scan of the street fair, but I saw no sign of her. Most of the vendors were hurriedly dismantling their booths.
Saved by the storm, I thought. At least I was spared the awkwardness of introducing my kids to her.
That would have been embarrassing.
For the life of me, I couldn’t recall her name.