My goal was to be the gracious host, the guy who oozed charisma. The delay of guests shook my confidence. What if no one comes? What if Dave doesn’t come? I’d relied heavily on my credit cards to stock up on food, drink and that party essential—new plates!—to ensure I’d have the perfect party, one that everyone would be talking about for the rest of the summer. This would be the party to put me on the Vancouver map and to put me smack in the center of Dave’s mind. Mutual obsession is so much more satisfying than a one-way crush.
The problem with two or three or four glasses of pre-party wine relaxant is that you don’t really know how affected you are until you hear that distinct slur in your words. Being as I am not one to talk aloud to myself, I did not detect that slur until the first guests finally arrived. Ashiro hugged me and found my compromised state to be amusing. He poured a “Cougar Town”-sized glass of wine for himself and, being as his waifish frame could not have weighed more than a hundred pounds, I knew we’d be on equal terms in a mere five minutes.
I showed off my plates and Ashiro dutifully oohed and aahed. How could Dave be anything but impressed? If he liked my chinaware, he’d have no choice but to like me. I put a plate in the cupboard—saved for my special guest.
Each time there was a knock at the door, my heart jumped. Dave?!
Still, with guests arriving, I had much more to do than swigging my wine. And the International Food Court was finally open for business. I served up drinks, offered appies and munched along with my guests. The good thing about my wine intake is that it made me chattier and I wasn’t the hopelessly shy cold fish I usually am. I touched guests on the shoulder or on the forearm, gestures of warmth. Goodbye shell! I was on a roll.
Graham arrived with his friend Roland who brought along his new boy toy, Niles, who was still enrolled in some sort of community college program. Beer for Graham, rum and Coke for Roland. And for Niles?
“I’ll have milk.”
All my planning, all my purchasing and I’d never contemplated that someone would request a glass of milk at the party. Despite my overcompensating, I’d come up short.
I’ll blame the frontloading of wine for my hostile host response. “Milk?! Who the hell asks for milk? How old are you—eight?” He mumbled something, but I wasn’t listening. He was interrupting my diatribe.
“Get out! I mean it.” And my newly found physically demonstrative nature took a darker turn as I ushered poor Niles out the door with Roland following along.
As I turned around to face my open-mouthed guests, I saw Dave staring at me—no trace of that sexy smile. Yes, I’d finally caught his attention. Sadly, it had nothing to do with my plates or any of my fall-back enticements: charm, good looks, moisturized elbows.
Ashiro said something amusing to take the focus off me and people went on mingling. Mass exodus averted. But I retreated to the bedroom, completely shaken by my social flub and by the look of disgust from the man who would never feel an inkling of longing for me.
Pre-party, I’d still believed I had a chance. After months of built-up hope, the crush crashed and burned on impact, the result of a wholesome request from a complete stranger.
I stayed clear of booze the rest of the night and my friends helped me recover and even find humor in the latest example of my social ineptitude. Dave managed to steer clear of me before politely making an early exit with a very cute guy I didn’t know. Guys like Dave didn’t need to give second glances at guys like me.
I continued to see Dave and his beautiful smile at Saturday morning step classes, at Delany’s and occasionally in passing on the street. Sometimes the feeling nervous giddiness returned, a damning reminder of misplaced infatuation and a time when I foolishly thought I could make an impact with the right set of plates. It was never about dishes or even a glass of milk. Duckie didn’t get Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink”. People cover girl Julia Roberts didn’t even get the guy in “My Best Friend’s Wedding”. That fluttery feeling can be flawed from the outset. It was never going to end well. I merely fast-tracked that feeling of despair.
As an aside, Roland and his boy toy, Niles, are still together eighteen years later. For some, milk really does a body good. Not surprisingly, we’ve lost touch.
I haven’t seen Dave in at least a dozen years. I don’t think he’d remember The Curious Incident of the Guest Who Wanted Milk. Heck, I don’t even think he’d remember my name. I still have a few chipped plates on the top shelf of my cupboard. On occasion, they still stir up memories, not so much of the horrors of hosting, but of the feelings that preceded that night—the sense of hope, the belief that a kind, handsome man may notice me in a more flattering moment, the notion that I might eventually get it right. Sometimes you never fully shake a crush. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.