It’s been a while now since I went to the free vodka event. I find myself wistful for rooftop garden spaces with deep green leaves overflowing terra cotta pots and carved planters, and the warm wood of a long dignified bar tucked into a far corner. I don’t spend much time in bars, but I like the look and feel of different types. These days I’d love to go back to that one and order something muddled with lime and sprigs of mint in gentrified comfort.
What I don’t miss is what I left out of my original article about my brush with the place. I’ve only just emerged from the residual strangeness of my encounter with two odd women and their very nice friend. The nice friend had an easy smile, open personality and intelligent demeanor. Her friends tried to be intelligent, but they missed the other two attributes for lack of seeing anything advantageous in them. Funny, since they were reasonably new to Chicago and expressed dismay at the cold treatment they received from ‘south side women’. Even though I found that strange, I told them how sorry I was to hear such a thing. How wrong, I thought, that newcomers should be treated so unfairly in their new city. They were welcoming to me when I returned to the high table they had now settled on, with the drink I’d brought back from my excursion to the bar, the table at which I’d already written a poem and sampled a glass of honey-flavored vodka lemonade.
I tried to look each of them in eye with a smile as we introduced ourselves. The tallest woman began to have trouble looking at me, as if I was unworthy of her sight. I immediately knew she was one to avoid, but I was happy to be meeting new people so I was polite. I smiled at her too, before looking away.
Somehow here I feel compelled to tell you what I was wearing. Clothes can be a kind of shorthand, and an oddly dressed person or someone with no inclination toward style could give an unfortunate impression to people who don’t delve deeper through conversation. I lean toward a classic style with artsy/hippie touches. On this evening, I wore the pair of jeans I have that fit well and are still a deep (though slightly faded) color, high black wedges, and a loose fitting, sophisticated, powdery pink sleeveless J. Crew linen blouse with lovely pin tucks and stitching. I wore a small pale green and pink crystal hair clip on one side to hold back errant strands. I know I looked like I had sense. I was hoping to attract a fellow.
After they shared their employment statuses, I somehow I fell into trouble with the “What do you do?” question. I let slip that I was unemployed at the moment, but seriously writing with a blog and a couple of works-in-progress. The pleasant one asked about my blog. The tallest one looked sour, as if a foul smell was emanating from my direction. The last, who stood between the other two, perked with something approaching anger and said, “Do you want to work?”
I was too shocked, shaken, to respond in kind. I’ve thought of a few things I wish I’d said, but in the name of education, since she asked, I gave a three or four sentence explanation for the fact that trying to find a paying position in the present job market isn’t as easy as it may seem. The attorneys, accountants, administrators, and other professionals I’ve met at jobs events could tell her the same thing.
She said, “I don’t believe that.”
Of course I should have explained how little her tiny thoughts meant to me, but I was too tipsy and immediately sad inside to expose my feelings and lose my half smile. I didn’t want to sink so far away from the respite I’d hoped to find at such an event. The pleasant one tried to intervene obliquely on my behalf and managed to veer the conversation slightly. The obnoxious one stopped to take a sip of her drink, then announced that her mother had become a writer after retiring, authoring several books. She added that her mother was fond of sharing her tricks of the trade at free seminars aimed toward new writers.
I was honestly interested. “Does your mother have a blog?” I wasn’t trying to smile, I just did. I was in a dimension somewhat removed from the one in which she had insulted me. Don’t ask me how I got there.
She sputtered, no doubt realizing how strange it was that she wouldn’t know.
I’ll just stop this story here. The only other things worth noting are that she and I eventually exchanged business cards and that — from the research I did on her (did you think I wouldn’t?) — I found her mother’s author website, the names of her books and sample pages from them. Her mother is a writer with little use for, or perhaps knowledge about, the beauty of language or the diverse ways it can be arranged. Her mother is a learned university graduate, retired from an esteemed profession and I have nothing whatsoever against her. Obviously there is a market for her novels and short stories. More power to her and her marketing skills.
The daughter, on the other hand, insulted my character and hurt my feelings for absolutely no reason. I hold that against the daughter. She should be glad that I haven’t used her name. I wouldn’t think of doing that.