August began and we still didn't have a singer, though we had grown pretty tight as a band and as friends.
I followed a strict everyday routine in order to balance my musical interests with my academic interests, and I even managed to fit in an hour a day for exercise. I was starting to lose some of the flab I had gained over the past year, and had also started buying healthier food, to Ruben's dismay. There were no longer any Klondike bars for him to excavate from the freezer whenever we chose to jam at my place. He had the appetite of a bull elephant, but Jordan and I didn't really have a problem with that, since he was a brilliant drummer and great company too.
Everyday I'd wake up at six, hit the gym, and come back home, take a shower, and then head to class. In the afternoons, I'd walk down to the Duke Coffeehouse, and sit there for a half hour or so, sipping coffee while catching up on assignments and projects. I had taken a liking to the place ever since Jordan had taken me here to see a concert one fine Friday night. The ceilings here were really high, and all the couches were multi-coloured.
The girl who managed the counter on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I noticed, was a pretty brunette with olive skin and dark brown eyes. She had a slim figure, and every time she'd turn around to get my coffee, I'd have to force myself not to admire her curves. Her hair was a lustrous brown, and reached down to the small of her back. I figured she was a student, not more than sophomore or freshman age.
I started getting an odd twist in my gut that had nothing to do with food poisoning whenever I'd see her, and I knew I was in trouble. Soon, it became difficult for me to concentrate on my work in her presence. I felt like I was in high school all over again.
She's just some chick, I tried to tell myself. Some random, pretty girl.There's lots of them around here. However, I started thinking about her more and more. Before I knew it, I was crushing on the girl I bought my freaking coffee from. Now that is not a situation anybody should ever find themselves in. I decided I needed to do something about this whole mess. For a week, I went to the library instead of the Coffeehouse. Still, that didn't stop my mind from drifting off. I imagined myself playing hair metal power ballads on stage, with her in the front of the crowd. That was when I knew I was well and truly fucked.
Calculus, vector algebra, and organic chemistry had all been easy for me back in high school. I had even dabbled in computer science. I wasn't a bad athlete, either. There were few things I wasn't good at. Charm and seduction, however, had baffled me to no end. Rob Levine had never been the hit with chicks his older brother Michael had been.
There had once been a girl named Evelyn, but I had lost my shot with her, because I had never known what to do when you really like a girl. By the time I managed to tell her how I felt, it was too late. Unlike most of the things I did, there was no instruction manual for something like this.
So I went and asked the only person I felt slightly comfortable asking about a subject of this nature.
Dude, how d'you strike a conversation with a girl you don't know but still see on a regular basis? I asked Jordan one day, while he munched on a spring roll. We were sitting outside the panda express again. We met here at least once a week. He raised an eyebrow, swallowed, and leaned forward on the table, placing his hands together and putting them under his chin.
Ah, yes, finally. He said. I've been waiting for this. I knew you weren't gay, butI was starting to worry.
What the fuck? I said. What's that supposed to mean?
I dunno, man. He said. I've never seen you interacting with a girl around here in a non-platonic way. Plus, you don't seem to have any friends other than me and Ruben.
You know what? I said. Forget I said anything.
Jordan grinned. And may I know who this woman is?
Just some chick. I said, really wishing I hadn't asked him the question.
Very well, then, if you don't want to tell me, I won't pressure you. Look, all you have to do is say hi and ask her something. Anything relevant's okay, as long as it doesn't sound forced. He took another bite of his spring roll. And for Christ's sake, don't talk about the fucking weather. Not unless there's a blizzard going on outside. Relevant' is the keyword, bro.
I can't just talk to her like that, man. I said. What if she thinks I'm like a psycho freak or something?
He gave an exasperated sigh. Nigga, please. That attitude, he drank a sip of his coke, is the reason you're still a virgin.
I'm not a
Hmm, sure you're not. He said, reaching up and patting me on the shoulder. I smacked his hand away. You were saying? I said.
If this chick was just some random dude, you'd be able to talk to herer, him, easily, right?
Yeah, I guess...
Exactly. The same principles apply when you're trying to talk to anyone. That's what most dudes just don't understand, man. Oh, and this might sound weird to you, but don't compliment her on her looks. Or her clothes.Or her hair. Or her eyes. It'll creep the shit out of her. He said. So, are you gonna tell me who this girl is? Is she in one of your classes?
I don't have to tell you anything. I said, and took a bite of my chowmein.
Suit yourself, then. He said, as he gathered up the remains of his lunch. He got up and tossed the contents of his tray into the trashcan. See ya.
The next day, I walked up to the counter to buy my coffee. She looked up at me, and said What would you like? like she always did.
My insides twisted, but I was getting used to the feeling. Um, just a regular coffee.
She nodded, and a fringe of brown hair fell onto one of her eyes. She tucked it behind her ear, and turned away to get my coffee.
Remember what Jordan said, I thought. Think of something relevant. Quickly.
Here's your coffee. She said. That'll be 1.40.
I reached into my pocket to get out my wallet, and removed a five dollar note. She handed me the change, and I walked back to my table with the coffee cup in my hand, punching myself inside. I took out my stuff and dejectedly started working on a pending assignment that was due the next day.
The same thing happened the next two times I visited the coffeehouse, and I cursed myself for a pussy.
You know what? Jordan said, munching on another egg roll, when I told him,
You're like that Indian guy on The Big Bang Theory. I think you'll need alcohol or some shit. Look man, she's just a girl. Fuck everything else, just do it.
Yeah well it's easier said than done! I retorted. I just kinda go up there and, choke.
What, you just walk up to this chick, and walk away without saying anything?
No, I.. I sighed. Fine. She's a barista at a coffee shop I go to.
What coffee shop is this? I'd like to have a look, you know. If you're not going to score here, I might take over the reins.
That's why I'm not gonna tell you.
Better me than a stranger, eh? He laughed. Come on, bro, you know I'd never do that to you. Look, anything you tell me will only make it easier for me to help you.
I hesitated for a moment. She works at the Coffeehouse.
He raised an eyebrow. The Coffeehouse? He asked. Don't you realize what this means?
I gave him an inquiring look.
It means you can ask her what you need to do if you want a spot for your band there one of these Friday nights. He said. There. You've got motive and opportunity now.
I was taken aback. How had that thought not occurred to me?
Genius... I muttered. That's like killing two birds with one stone. All of a sudden, it sounded very simple. But wait, even if we get a spot, what will we do with it? We've only got like, four original songs, and they're looking sketchy at best. Our equipment isn't that great either, and in case you haven't noticed, we don't even have a singer.
The house provides most of the equipment, don't worry about that. But a singer Jordan said, and his voice took a slightly bitter edge. If only we had a damn singer.
The last five or six guys we had tried out had sucked terribly. We would usually ask them to sing something on the phone, and they'd make excuses and hang up. The ones that did show up would ask us when the dough would start rolling in, and that wasn't an attitude we appreciated. One guy seemed okay, but he had an awful taste in music.
Hey, back when I was whining about us not being able to find a drummer, you told me to be patient. I said. Guess it's my turn now.
Hmph. I suppose. It really sucks, though. We sound better together than any band I've played with before. He got up to throw away the remains of his lunch. Look man, I'm gonna be busy this weekend, so we'll have to postpone our jam session to next Sunday. I gotta run.
Having heard Jordan's advice, I still didn't feel entirely convinced that I'd be able to talk to the pretty girl at the counter about anything other than the weather or her looks, both of which were topics I was supposed to avoid like the plague.
And so, I went to the wisest, most experienced person I knew, to see what he had to say about my situation.
Rainn, I have a problem. I said, pulling up a stool for myself. The store smelled like fresh wood and fretboard polish, like it always did.
He looked up from the Heroin Diaries, by Nikki Sixx, which he had been reading before I interrupted him.
Is it a girl? His voice was casual.
How did you know? I asked, thoroughly surprised.
Cuz, I'm smart, and cuz that's the only kind of problem there is. he said, knowingly. That rapper guy said he got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one, or something like that, right? Bullshit. All 99 of those problems are bitches. He put the book away. "So go ahead now, tell me the story.
To my relief, when I was finished, he didn't laugh or crack any jokes. He just smiled and seemed lost in thought for a moment.
Then, he spoke up.
You see this chick every other day or so, right? he said. I nodded. Good, then just smile and say hey next time you see her.
And then what? I asked. I just say hi, and that's it?
Yup. You'll know what to do after that. He said. It really ain't rocket science. If you ask me, this pickup artist shit's gotta be the biggest load of fucking codswallop I've ever heard of, man. They make it look like some sort of science. When you see an interesting chick, just walk up to her, smile, and say hi. If she don't say hi back, she's probably not worth your time anyway. Off with you now, I've got work to do.
You're reading a book.
My definition of work is different from yours, son.
Rainn's advice had never failed me in the past, and so, I decided to follow it.
And so, the next day, I went to the Coffeehouse again, determined to just smile and say hi. If you can't do even this, then you should take the next flight to Tibet and become a Buddhist Monk, I thought. I took a deep breath, and, pulse more rapid than usual, walked up to the counter.
Hey. I said, and achieved an awkward, but nearly genuine smile.
Hi! She smiled right back. Let me guess, a regular coffee?
Holy shit. It's actually happening. I thought. Um, how did you know? I managed to ask, pleasantly surprised.
Don't you come here every day? she asked. It was a rhetorical question, and I was thunderstruck. I shouldn't have been surprised. I did come here everyday, and at the same time. While she prepared my coffee, I furiously thought about what to say next. Here you go, that'll be 1.40, but you already know that, right?
Yup. I picked up my coffee and handed her the money. I was about to turn around and seat myself at a table, but then I decided to do what I had originally intended to. You've come this far, might as well go the whole distance, I thought.
Hey can I ask you something? I said.
Sure. She said.
If somebody wants a stage spot for their band here, who are they supposed to talk to?
Hmmm. I don't really know much about that, but I know who does. You'd have to provide a demo cd with at least four or five songs on it. I could give you the mailing address if you like. She raised an eyebrow. Why d'you want to know, though? Are you in a band?
I hesitated. Er, yeah. I play guitar. I felt an awkward mixture of pride and embarrassment.
Cool. She said. If you have a demo, you could give it to me. I'll send it over to the guys who manage this kind of stuff.
I'll do that, once we've made a demo. I said. We don't have a singer yet, so it'll be a while.
I'm sure you'll find one. Have you asked around on campus?
"Yeah, but nobody was interested. We've been looking everywhere, we even put an ad on Craigslist, but we just can't find anybody decent.
Well, I think I know where you'd find a whole lot of singers at once. She said.
Where? I asked.
Saturday night here's karaoke night, didn't you know? Mostly it's just drunk guys, but occasionally, a really good singer shows up. Who knows, you might just find the right person for your band! Besides, it's actually kinda fun to watch. She beamed.
You know what, that's a really good idea. Will you be bartending?
Only after midnight. She said.
Well, I guess I might see you there, then. Thanks!
Don't mention it! She said, and she smiled again. Just as I was about to walk away, I remembered something.
Hang on, what's your name? I asked.
I'm Keira. She said.
I'm Rob. I said. See you later, then.
Bye. She said and smiled again. I got the same warm fuzzy feeling again.
I left the coffeehouse with a spring in my step and a smirk of satisfaction on my face, making a mental note to tell Rainn how awesome he was.