December 16, 2004

Strange Attractors, Vol. II

I've mentioned before that I have a sign on my forehead, invisible to everyone compos mentis, but, apparently, a glowing indicia to people who are seriously disturbed. Now, I can't see it to read it, but I've an idea it says something like, "I'm too nice and well-bred to tell you to fuck off!", because - and let me be brutally honest, here - crazy people love me. Seriously, if yours truly and one nut-job are in the same square mile, you can bet your sweet ass that said fruitcake is a) trying to panhandle me, b) trying to date me, c) a distant relative, or d) stuck up my colo-rectal in some other, less conventional fashion. You can depend on that shit, like death, and taxes.

My stint in L.A. was not my only stop on the West Coast; I also lived in San Francisco for close to a year. Now, San Francisco is a fantastic, beautiful city, full of gloriously varied and endlessly interesting architecture, restaurants to die for, shopping from heaven, and the best damn mary jane in the contiguous lower forty-eight, a veritable river Alph of it, running down into caverns measureless to man, and stuff. I loved it, for all it was, loved it even as I despised it for not being home, if that makes any sense at all.

For some reason, I had a terrible time making friends in San Francisco, and an even worse time trying to date. There was a chic nonchalance regarding personal ties that was la mode at that time, out there; I could never really master the art of faking enough "fuck you man, I don't need this bullshit, man" attitude to be a total social success. Still, I tried. I eked out a small circle of friends that I worked with, and did my best to become close to my roommates. A girl, especially a gregarious Southern loudmouth like me, has to have people, or die on the vine.

As for dating, well, it was a disaster. Every single white, black, hispanic, or asian male that I met that rose to any sort of dating criteria was gay. Or married already, or Committed to someone with emphasis on that capital C. I think I met about four straight, single, employed, literate, ambulatory, non-addicted males over the age of consent the whole time I lived in the Bay City, and all four of those were pricks, total and complete shitheads...because they were convinced they could have any woman they wanted - back hair, ass-zits, combover and all. And hey, they were right. It was a buyer's market.

So, as percentages would dictate, a good eighty-five percent of my San Francisco friends were gay folk and straight women. Now, know this about Queenie, if you do not already: I got no problem with the Family. I'm as hetero as God made 'em, but I love me some lesbigans and some gay menz. Straight but never narrow is my motto, and so I was happy, very happy, when a group from my office asked me to go out with them to the gay bar one Saturday night.

We met outside the Cafe San Marcos at ten; my friend Christie and I had shared a cab from the Haight-Cole Valley area down to the Castro District where the club was located. It was me and Christie, Rob and his roommate Kimo, both gay Hawaiian guys, cute as buttons, our friend Susanah, hottest lipstick lesbian on the planet and the only woman I'll ever love, and our friend Hannah, the dour and mousy yet conversationally brilliant and scintillating computer specialist. The place was jammed; crystalline acid trance pumped from the massive speakers around the dance floor, hot lights swarmed the ceiling, and people were getting down. We had a ball, all of us; Christie and I dancing madly with Susanah and Robert, Hannah and Kimo up on a speaker, all of us making frequent trips to the bar for a wide variety of brightly-colored, murky-looking alcoholic refreshment.

I understood that, at the time, the Cafe was mostly a lesbian place, but that all flavors were welcome and expected. As the night wore on - and the drinks wore even murkier - I noticed that I was receiving glances and nods from a not-ugly-looking white guy down the bar. When I moved, with my friends, to a table to cool down after dancing, he sent us a round, then moved over to chat. His name was Don, and he was up from the computer farms in Palo Alto for the evening. Yeah, he was good and lit, but he seemed very personable, chatting up my table, making jokes, making a decent impression.

When we finally split up for our cabs, Don asked me for my number. I was not surprised, and was even a little flattered, so I gave up the digits. Christie and I got in the cab and waved goodbye. As soon as we sped away from the curb, Christie pounced me:

"No way you actually gave your number to that guy!! Did you? Did I just see you give your real phone number to that guy?!"

I looked at her, perplexed. "Yeah? Is there something wrong with him that I don't know about?"

"QUEENIE!", she hollered at me, laughing. "That guy was naaasty! Did you see his teeth?"

I had to admit that I had not, in fact, made a thorough study of his teeth. Shame on me. I pooh-poohed Christy as a dental snob, and left it at that. No more thought on the matter. (I am nothing if not a master compartmentalizer.)

Don called me the next day, an action that was unusual enough to be remarked upon – San Francisco guys waited three days to call (?). The cognoscenti did, anyway, my friends informed me later. Don’s call was short and uncomfortable; he seemed extremely nervous about the whole proceeding, and could barely manage to make me understand that he was trying to ask me out to dinner the following weekend. He proposed to take me to "a really killer steak place" and take me to a show - sounded fair enough to me, so I readily assented. Queenie, as always, was game.

The week rolls by, the dinner date arrives. Don has no car, so he calls for me in a cab...and a tuxedo. This was my first indication that something was wrong. I mean, I was nicely dressed; skirt, sweater, heels - but not black-tie dressed! Don, turns out, wasn’t as handsome as my beergoggles told me he was at the club the previous weekend, but he wasn’t ugly...Kinda balding. Paunchy. Older than I thought. No big deal. He hands me into the cab, like a gentleman, with a big smile...and I see the teeth.

The teeth. God, how to describe them?

Have you ever seen an old hearing-aid from the seventies? One of the old-fashioned kind with the big, plastic earpiece that hooked over the outer ear - the kind that old men used to use years and years ago? Don's teeth were the color of that earpiece, a yellowed green, like old hearing-aid plastic, covered with old-guy ear gunk. These yellow-green choppers were veritably swathed with sweaters of plaque, visible fuzzies. Those teeth weren't rotten - yet - but they looked like they had never been brushed. Ever. EVER. The situation was amplified by the fact that his front incisors were long – unnaturally long, reminiscent of a cartoon rabbit. Those suckers were out there.

In the cab, Don began to talk nervously. His breath was fetid, and soon filled the enclosed back seat of the taxi. What made the scene, to me, even more piquant was what Don was telling me with these teeth, this breath: we were eating at the steak place, he said, because he never ate anything but meat and bread. At all. He hated all vegetables, he laughed! Always had! Hadn't eaten a green for twenty-six years!! Vegetables made him nervous!! Wasn't that funny?!? Wasn't that just a scream?! So could I please not eat a salad or anything with my meal? And could I please drink anything but water? Because water made him, um, nervous? Isn’t that silly????

I shrank back into my seat as the cab made its way across San Francisco, picturing the inside of Don's colon and just not feeling very hungry any more. Don’s eyes darted to and fro as he talked himself into a frenzy, his voice a high shriek, about how he hadn’t been on a date in a long time, since his fiancée died five years ago, and that I was really going to love the meat at this place, but really, to please consider his dietary requirements when choosing my meal. I made little murmurs of assent, trying not to look too creeped out, trying not to judge…really, trying to relax the poor guy. The poor, poor guy. Right?

So, the restaurant that Don took me to was a nice, quiet place out in the avenues, a little mom-and-pop steakhouse with an intimate feel. We were seated, the waiters placed our menus, and took our drink orders, and I have a hopeful sense that things are looking up. As I’m framing a few complimentary remarks about the menu and the décor, I noticed Don swabbing his face and head with the dinner napkin. He was drenched in sweat; it was running down into his eyes, down his neck. His shirt-front was plastered to his chest, and even his hands were beading up. Now, at this point I was more than a little creeped out...and the more I watched that poor linen table napkin get drenched and sodden and yellow with his sweat, the more creeped out I got.

I think I was a little green around the gills; Don asked me if I was feeling okay. I leaped at the opening. No, Don, Queenie is not feeling okay. If the waiter comes, please ask him to wait. Queenie needs to go to the ladies' room.

In the loo, I planned an exit strategy. I knew I was with a nutjob and that I had to bail; my every sense was screaming at me that I was not safe with this man. I called my roommates from the pay phone and described the situation and my location. Then, I carefully washed my hands, splashed a little cold water on my face, and made my way back to the table.

"Don, I am so sorry," I said, lying bitch. "I think I am coming down with something; I just threw up in the bathroom, and I think I'm getting a fever. I don't think you should waste your money on this nice dinner for us; I need to go home."

I overrode his every (vehement, smelly, and sweaty) protest, and insisted that he allow me to pay for my own cab - my own, private, sweet-smelling cab - home. I thought I was pretty slick about it, and when he called me later to see how I was feeling, I played up the flu, and hung up quickly.

I didn't hear from Don for about two weeks. When he did call me for another date, I very kindly (and untruthfully) explained to him that since I had heard from him I'd gotten back together with my ex-boyfriend on the east coast, that we were getting married, that I was moving. I talked without letting him get a word in edgewise, about how nice he was to have taken me out, how sorry I was that I’d been sick, how I knew he’d meet a nice girl soon. Perfect closure, I thought, the message clear: you’re nice, and cute enough to date, but circumstances beyond your control have intervened and I am no longer available. Goodbye.


I was not expecting Don's reaction. He flipped out. Started crying on the phone, about how I had led him on, that he was trying to woo me – he used that word, woo - that he'd called his mother and told her he'd met the nicest girl. He went rapidly from sad and depressed to angry and abusive, and started screaming down the phone at me, that I was a whore and a prick-tease. At that point, I, of course, hung up, cold and more than a little scared.

Monday, and there are a dozen roses on my desk. Tuesday, and there is a fruit basket and a dozen roses on my desk. Wednesday and there is a diamond engagement ring, a fruit basket, some daisies, and a dozen roses on my desk. Thursday, and there is all of the above...and a brown manila envelope just full of candid shots of me - in the grocery, in the gym, at the bus stop, getting coffee, etc. Thursday afternoon I talked with an attorney, contacted the San Francisco Police Department, told all my friends, and began to get seriously paranoid. Friday evening, and my worst-case scenario comes to pass: Don crept up behind me outside my San Francisco flat and bashed my head open with a piece of metal pipe, leaving me unconscious on the sidewalk, a mass of blood and hair and bone. I remain convinced that he would have raped me, and perhaps killed me, had my house-mates not just happened to come up the hill at that very moment.

The damage, luckily, was superficial, though painful enough. I spent a few days at San Francisco General, thanking my lucky stars that I’d already run through my insurance deductible for the year. Of course, police were now totally necessary – a crime had been committed. Assault and battery charges were levied, Don was jailed and later released, restraining orders were filed. It was a fucking nightmare, my friend, one that really only ended when I was transferred to L.A. I still think about it, from time to time. Obviously, since I’ve filled these pages – and your head, too – with all of it.

But, see? Strange attractors, and I’ve got a million of ‘em. I'm a goddamned looney magnet.

Posted by Queenie at December 16, 2004 07:57 PM

Ya know. . . you can ask the Spousal Unit, but I have said -- at least a zillion times -- that I could walk into a bar and the biggest wife-beatin', no-shower-takin', just-got-outta-state-prison, shitheel would slide up to me and offer to buy me a drink.

My darling Spousal Unit notwithstanding, of course.

But you -- wow. That story is incredible. And proof-positive that one should definitely not give out digits while also inebriated. Eee.

I love you for sharing it, though. This story should be printed and handed out to sixteen year-old girls, everywhere. A cautionary tale. Aheh.

Posted by: Margi at December 17, 2004 06:17 AM

Oh shit girlfriend! That's one scary horror story.

Posted by: BeeBee at December 17, 2004 06:25 AM

What's next? An alien visitation? And I thought I had some diverse experiences...

Hope he got some good lovin' in the general population. But as it was San Fran, he probably just got counseling , right?

Posted by: Steelheader at December 17, 2004 10:04 AM

DAMN!!! That scared me and I ain't scared of nothing!!!

Posted by: WarWagon at December 17, 2004 11:57 AM

Whoooaa.....holy shit!
My nut magnet stories pale in comparison...and I'm glad.


Posted by: Ames at December 17, 2004 01:40 PM

Holy crap. I was waiting for the punchline.

Posted by: ErikZ at December 17, 2004 08:30 PM

A damnable thing, a beating, Queenie. I stand aghast. Having had a few.

You rock, though: that is a baring of the soul.
I pretend to do it (bare my soul, not beat people), but would never carry it off with such eloquence, or, shall I say, grace.

I would like to discuss the part about the buyers' market, though.

Thus endeth Velociman's tenuous grasp on Queenie's thang. Long live ye.

Posted by: Velociman at December 17, 2004 11:06 PM

I forgot the part about long live Margi, who rocks. My bad. Well, one of my many bads.

Posted by: Velociman at December 17, 2004 11:29 PM

It is called a handgun...Buy one!

Posted by: saphyre rose at December 18, 2004 11:39 AM

Saphyre, I embrace and agree with your commentary. Queenie is - now - nothing, if not armed to the gills. At that time, though, a hand-gun would not have helped me; he snuck up behind me, and cold-cocked my ass. I never even saw him coming.

I am, though, a great believer in bearing arms.

Posted by: Queenie at December 18, 2004 01:18 PM
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