Saturday, July 10, 2010

Notes from DC, take 2.


We sat around as a group, fucked up from the heat, from the watching Argentina lose, from all the bad pop music that was playing downstairs. There had been a barbecue that had gone the way most barbecues go in July on the East Coast, too much to clean up after, even with all the disposables, too many bugs. At least four of us had wanted Argentina to win. I didn’t watch football. I respected it, sensing how much it meant to so many. But I had wanted Argentina to win. I had first wanted Mexico to win. Then Paraguay to win. Still some hope for Uruguay. But they were all chopped down and Argentina remained that day, the beautiful long-haired boys with the most European heritage out of all of South America. One of the girls says it’s the heat that makes me this racist. I want to talk about love for the underdog, but I don't. Instead I say it’s not fair that countries that control the means of production get to stay in the World Cup finals. Then we had an argument about Equal Opportunity Employment. Then we found some rum, while I tried to imagine what watching football in Argentina that day must have felt like.

We need to get out. I know this, but I need to sell the idea to the group. This is the most amount of time we’ve all spent together in a long while, and it’s beginning to tell. I can see it on their faces—a few want sleep, another wants a smoke, another misses her boyfriend, another is worried about not finding a job. Fuck that shit. We’re still young (I don't say this out loud) and it’s only 10PM on a Saturday night (this I say out loud). Don’t ask me how I did it, but I got everyone out the door; it helped that I knew this one neighborhood better than anyone else in the apartment, and there were two good places to get drinks, no dress code, no cover, nice atmosphere.

We get there. We walk into the coffeeshop first. It’s still filled with mismatched furniture and low light, coming mainly from purposefully dowdy lampshades placed around the room: numerous chairs and sofas, from yard sales, from dorm rooms, from someone’s grandmother’s living room. We corner a school desk, a couple of hard straight-back chairs and a chaise. Without anyone saying it, I know, I just know that I’m in charge of making this night work, since I dragged everyone out. The trick is to not look anxious. This place is notorious for bad service, mostly because they are used to serving kids who are high or drunk or backpackers and interns who are too tired to want their food and drink pronto. Eye contact, eye contact.
One of the guys suggests a round of shots. I want to bear hug his languid body, but I resist, concur and finally get the attention of one of the servers. Contact.

He looks messed up, man. Dark curls falling into his eyes, stained apron, this gone look as he smiles at us wanly, and tells us in heavily accented English that he’s had a real rough day, and what would we like?

I talk him down from suggesting Patron. I laugh, I lean in and say all the right things to let him know we’ve been here before, and we aren’t tourists. We get a cheap tequila, order drinks from the menu card and I know he’ll get them wrong. Remembering to not look anxious.
The tequila and lime wedges come, no salt. We spill some on the cracked wood, we grin, we mutter toasts no one hears and down our shots.

The music gets louder immediately, immediately more likeable. Wasn’t the heat of the liquor, I swear to you that they turn the music up at 11:00PM to convince people to stay longer, just one drink more. We all respond. The music takes the silence away and we are grateful. We make jokes at each other’s expense, recalling good times from the past. Our eyes are all lit up, our skins shine, we smile at each other, any outsider would say we love each other. Our drinks arrive, three of them wrong, we try them anyway but the bar tender comes this time with the right ones, shaking his Viking hair, tells us to keep the old drinks. Our server comes back, apologizing. His team lost today, please don’t say anything guys.

Shit man, we all wanted Argentina to win. Our hearts, filled with love, pour towards this server. Far from his home country, like us. One of us asks what the national drink of Argentina is. If I could’ve sucked up all his words and poured them down his throat I would have. Don’t know any Argentinians but I had a feeling symbols and standards of the country would be hard to discuss, especially at night, especially on a night like this. I know what it is like to come from a city and country with many fathers. There is some pride but also some shame in it, like how all mongrels and half-casts feel. Our server reeled but stood his ground. Said people drink a lot of wine, beer… like how all Europeans drink. Yerba Mate. And something made with gin. Or maybe ginger. The one who asked exchanged the words with the server like a chorus—
And they gave up laughing, and one who was trained in dance said something about the Argentinean tango, and the one who watched football passionately said fuck Germany, and he thanked us and asked us if we needed anything else, and of course we said no.

Then we passed around our drinks, giggling like teenagers, and took bad pictures of each other and the glasses on the table, which with all the water glasses and shot glasses and wrong drink glasses now looked like a glass harmonica. And everyone lets go. The girls squeeze my hands gratefully, and I must have blushed. Never look anxious or overwhelmed. Which is why I suggested moving on to the next door place, the best mojitos and caipirinhas in the city, probably on the East Coast, this far north anyway. I don’t give them time to falter: I leave the boys in charge of the bill, head off arm in arm with the girls to the CafĂ©.