The ten Haaf Shuffle

She sat at a cocktail table. My hand shook.

I imagined the vodka-full highball bouncing off her shiny, happy forehead. A pretend red throbbing welt rose from beneath sticky strands of hair. Blood? Maybe.

I smiled. She smiled. I set the glass on the table. Sans coaster. Oh, and could she also order a classic pizza? No green peppers, add onion.

Kay. No problem. It'll be out in a second. And yeah, I'll bring an extra lime. And yeah, I'll make it a double-tall next round. Sure, I've got an extra coaster around here somewhere.

Hey Jonesy, some guy just puked in the bathroom. Oh and do you have change for a hundred?

After a few days in Israel, the stench washed away. My hair was free of cigarette smoke. My fingernails absent bar mung. My skin not gooey gross with a mixture of beer, red bull, and whiskey. I almost believed I was a jet-setting, cash-dropping, well-bred, designer-wearing, passport-touting, world-traveler.

It was my first wedding in years. But for a wedding underdog, I was now the nuptials comeback king. Champagne flowed like PBR. Hors d'oeuvres passed out like french fries. The dance floor was full. The beach was empty. The buffet was all-you-can-eat. And of the two wedding party standards--drinking like a fish and making out with complete strangers--I was destined to perform the prior.

Hey Jonesy, some guy just walked out with a beer. Oh and can I get a sandwich to go?

I actually looked like a human being. I wore a designer dress I bought on consignment. The tag said forty, I negotiated twenty. The lace ballet flats were a size too small and clearance for ten. Drop earrings? Two bucks from Wal-Mart.

I looked like a million. Okay. Maybe a quarter of a million. Okay. Maybe a hundred.

The crashing waves covered the thumping disco-rave-tech beat. I popped off my shoes, sipped my champagne, and comfortably evaluated my sister's discount for Future Ex-suitor Number Three. Suitor Number Four waited in the wings. A Hall and Oates song came to mind.

I was relieved to be alone without smiling-and-nodding to eight different languages I didn't understand spoken by fifty people I didn't know.

"Why aren't you dancing?"

I looked back to see the Dutch guy I awkwardly kissed-kissed-kissed hello at entrance. (Three in the Netherlands? Is that really necessary?) He was covered in sweat. His shirt half open, his smile ear-to-ear.

"My feet hurt," I replied

Hey Jonesy, that dude just grabbed some chick's ass. Oh and can I get another Jack on the rocks?

"But your shoes are flat," he laughed.

"Flat does not equal comfortable."

No, my Dutch friend. I am not easy prey. No, I am not lonely. And no, I don't need to be entertained while my sister performs a sexy dance with some female Mediterranean beauty for fifty drooling Hebrews. (Future Ex-Suitor Number Four was about to bite the dust, by the way. Number Two was staging a comeback.)

So, Little Dutch Boy, take your pity conversation and your wooden shoes and tulips back out on the dance floor. Please. Queue up Ex-suitor Number Six. I don't need your company. This is, in fact, the best moment of my life. And I'm happy. And the only thing making me unhappy is your thinking your speaking to me is somehow comforting.

He plopped down next to me. His hair was red. He was charming. He was an actor.

I hate actors.

Thirty minutes earlier I ripped a cigarette out of his mouth and smoked it like my plane was going down. No nicotine in five days courtesy my sister's disdain. Sixty minutes earlier? He asked what I did for a living. "I'm a cocktail waitress." Long pause. Silence. Uncomfortable ballet flat shuffle. "I want to be a writer, but..." I made the universal sign for cash. Ninety minutes? Kiss-kiss-kiss and introductions. Jochum, Alaina. Alaina, Jochum.

Hey Jonesy, some guy is passed out in puke on the back patio. Oh and can I get some darts and a Jager Bomb?

A conversation started smoothly. He liked Star Wars, Chuck Palahniuk, and the Cohen Brothers. He hated New York, but loved Amsterdam. And yes, he stared on Broadway.

"Are you famous or something?" I asked.

"In the Netherlands," he replied with a like that fucking matters disregard. His hands moved expressively. He lit my cigarette. He was smiling and humble and jovial and genuine and full of light sarcasm.

Yep. He was everything I never wanted in another person. Happy. Happy and courteous. Happy and courteous and smitten with me.

And then the discomfort flooded back in. Good-bye adjectives modifying titles of glory. I felt gauche and ugly and lonely. I could smell the cigarette smoke in my hair again. I scraped under my fingernails for dirt. He reached for my hand, but I could feel a sticky film covering it. Was that a wine stain on my dress? Was that beer running down my legs? Broken glass in my shoe?

I wanted to tell him of my complete and total failure as a writer. Five years since a publication. Five years of silence. Five years of other people's voices screaming over me. Five years of passing out red headed sluts to red headed sluts with no end in sight.

I kept my mouth shut.

Hey Jonesy, I think that guy just punched the door-guy and now his nose is bleeding all over the floor. Oh and can you change the channel to the hockey game?

He smiled sweetly. I prayed for a segue.

My sister piled into the chair across from us. Half-slurred, champagne dangling from her hand, "Djew wanna dance?"

So I danced with the Dutch acteur. Fast and slow. I shifted my hand in his but finally opted for the promdate shuffle. He looked in my eyes like there was something beautiful to be found there. But I knew better.

I looked away.

I saw my sister leaning against the host signing a familiar, extravagantly drunk language. Her lips moved in slow motion. She wanted a cab.

"I have to gather my sister," I whispered.

"She's fine." Then he looked back at the type of train wreck I man on a nightly basis.

"Okay. Go get her," he conceded.

We began the kiss-kiss-kiss goodbye ritual, but he finished by softly brushing his lips against mine. And he grabbed for my hand as I walked away. And yeah. I walked away.

Fucking actors and their fucking curtain calls. I'll give you a bow, Bucko.

Hey Jonesy, some dude just smashed his car into that lightpole across the street. Oh and can you get us another round of shots? Dealer's choice.

I walked out to her table holding a pie covered in green peppers. No onions to be found.

Yeah, I can have Dean make another pizza. Oh and I'll be right back with the vodka. Two limes this time? Sure. Double tall? Sure.

The toilet is overflowing. The ladies room needs paper towels. The band needs to set up. We're out of candles, PBR, Jack Daniels, wine glasses, bar towels, bathroom cleaner, and kitty litter. Did I remember to clock in?

Hey Jonesy, that Dutch guy wanted to take you away from all this, but he can't save you. Oh and can I buy you a shot?

Maker's Mark. Double. Thanks.

Oh and forget what I said before, Random Kind Patron.

I do belong here.