Thursday, October 22, 2009

The best birthday that turned into the worst relationship

posted Wed, 20 Oct 2004

I promised the story about the Big Jerk (aka BJ).

Here’s what happened. I met this guy. For reasons I would rather not divulge, I trusted him. It was the “Omigosh! We’re both in Paraguay but we’re both American so you must be OK!” syndrome. You know – because of some real commonality, you imagine a reason to trust immediately and suspend the normal processes.

Anyhow. I’m not going to write the whole sordid tale (although with that sort of intro, I know you are dying to know more). I am only going to tell you the good part.

BJ and I had met. BJ had also met my friend Leigh, the tiny, charming, blonde from Alabama. If you have never met a woman from Alabama before, you need to rent the movie “Steel Magnolias” to achieve full understanding of this tale.

BJ and I had spoken only a few times. I thought he was interested in Leigh because all men who meet Leigh are interested in Leigh. Who wouldn’t be? She is cute and flirty and vivacious. My role has always been to be the sidekick friend, starting with Julie in high school (another southern belle, this time from Georgia), then with Anita in college, moving to Terri when I lived in Austin, and so on.

So when BJ called me the day before a group of us had arranged to meet at the weekly wine tasting at a neighborhood bar, I was not surprised when he asked more than once, “Will Leigh be there?” Yes, I assured him, Leigh will be there. Or at least that’s what she told me.

I wanted to ask, Why don’t you just call Leigh? Why are you making me be the go between? Aren’t we a little beyond this second grade stuff?

But I didn’t because I never say rude things on purpose, just accidentally and unawares and in situations where it could torpedo my career.

At the wine tasting the next night – which happened to be my birthday eve, BJ was there, along with Leigh and Megan and some other friends. Leigh was her usual flirty, fun self. I resigned myself to the back seat. I don’t flirt competitively. Why bother to play a game you are not going to win? Not only that, but I also think that men know when they are interested in someone and when they are not. If BJ was interested in me, it wouldn’t matter if Leigh was flirting with him. And actually, she was flirting with Jay, the guy she was dating.

But nothing was happening with BJ. It was time for me to go home – work night and all – and so I made to leave. “No!” Leigh cried. “You can’t go.” She looked at BJ and pointed her chin toward the restaurant kitchen – the Chilean chin point, we call it. (Leigh and I were both Peace Corps Volunteers in Chile, which is how we know each other.)

BJ disappeared while Leigh held me at the table. He returned in a few minutes, carrying a chocolate raspberry cake – the kind with just butter, sugar, cream and chocolate that you have to keep in the fridge. The raspberry sauce was separate.

He smiled, put it in front of me and started to sing “Happy Birthday.”

BJ had heard me mention my birthday. He had remembered the date. He had made this cake for me and had arranged with Leigh to get me to the wine tasting. To keep the cake cold, he had designed a special holding pen in a huge ice chest in his car.

He might have turned out to be a big jerk in the end, but for that evening, it was one of the best birthdays of my life.

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