Somehow, through some act of cruel fate, "Paris" had gotten bored at work a few weeks ago.
She'd started emailing friends and ex-flings from college to find out if anyone was going to be in the vicinity of the ol' alma mater after Christmas, people she'd lost contact with in the five years since her undergrad years.
Guess which category I fall into.
And guess who was dumb enough to answer one of those emails?
* * * *
Once upon a time, I was Paris's journalist friend who became the Oh my God! You're a talk radio personality! fuck buddy.
I was the D. doesn't understand me and I think one day you'll be on ESP Fucking N escape hatch for this woman, the guy who knowingly went home from the bars with a buddy's girlfriend while he was taking a quarter off from college.
I remember the first time vividly, in the same men's restroom where Weird Al recorded his first hit. It was a Thursday, about three in the morning. We'd been working on a group project for a class together, had gotten into an argument, and she followed me into the john to continue the fight.
And, well, shit happened. Shit happened several times before I ended the whole thing. Once in a dark corner of a now defunct nightclub. Once down by the creek across from the San Luis Obispo Mission. A few times in her apartment, a few times a various house parties, and once ... in her boyfriend's apartment.
And now, six years later, we're sitting in a fancy restaurant, discussing her recent breakup from some Los Angeleno trustfunder, my not keeping in touch with her, her change in hair color, her new Chocolate mobile phone, her personal trainer's affair with some television actor, her...
It took ten minutes for her to even ask what I now did for a living or how I was doing.
Some things never change.
* * * *
I tried to play the role of the attentive listener, as I had done years ago at parties and in overcrowded college bars, but for some reason my mind kept wandering, kept trying to answer questions like "why the fuck am I eating lunch at the Carlton Hotel with a woman I don't like?" or "why the hell did she only eat two bucks' worth of food out of a $10 salad?"
I readily admit my personal dislike of "Paris." Of the women I've been involved with, she is, by far, the most self-absorbed, the most vain, materialistic to the point of being downright ignorant. I only agreed to have lunch with her as a courtesy.
As I was driving from my parents' house to meet her for lunch, I tried to remember one redeeming quality, one conversation about something other than what she'd read in Vogue or why I never had the money to shop in those boutiques she liked down in Santa Barbara.
The only thing I could remember, of all the pointless conversations about nothing, was an argument over shoes.
* * * *
A classmate in one of her major classes had dropped a Sharpie on one of her pairs of Bruno Frisonis during a group presentation; the marker left a tiny (approx. one millimeter in diameter) black dot on the toe of one of her black shoes.
As we lay in bed, she informed me that, well, she loved the shoes but they just had to be tossed in the trash. When I pointed out that there were a lot of working class women who'd kill for a pair of $700 shoes to wear to job interviews and that the least she could do would be to consider giving them to a local women's shelter or a clothing bank, she told me that her "dedication to fashion" prevented her from "punishing" another woman with "dirty" shoes.
Jason, you're so fucking redneck sometimes. Those people would just sell them for drugs or something.
It's amazing what parts of conversations become ingrained in one's memory.
* * * *
I also remember waking up the next morning and realizing that I completely hated the person I'd just spent the night with, a woman who I'd willingly allowed to use me for months.
At the time, I was in the worst shape of my young life, 250 pounds and living off a diet of fast food, beer, and a two-packs-a-day habit. On top of that, I was an aspiring journalist at a small AM radio station in a mid-sized market, working my way through college with two other part-time jobs and student loans to pay for it all.
My friend D., her boyfriend, was a handsome guy; every time he and I would go out drinking with friends, his grey-blue eyes and just-damned-genetically-fortunate good looks drove sorority girls wild. He came from an upper-middle class family and worked odd jobs here and there to earn beer money, because that was the only part of his college experience not paid for by his parents.
D. was a party guy, a stereotypical male college student. By my last two years of college, I was as serious as cancer, overworked, and full of enough piss and vinegar to make one nasty badass salad.
He had the looks, the designer duds, and the popularity. I had the brains, the maturity, and the 15 minutes of fame.
In the end, it was "Paris" who won out, as I once found out she bragged to her friends, because she had her "hot boyfriend" who looked good and bought her things, and the "nerd fuck buddy," the guy who wasn't hot but was enough of a minor local media personality to know "like, famous people."
When we'd all go out together for lunch, nobody save our fellow students would come up to talk to either of them. But everyone from little old ladies from SLO to attorneys, dot-commers to doctors to professors, would stop by the table to say that the recognized my voice from the radio, to inquire about the Dodgers' chances in the N.L. West, to ask about some crack I'd made about some local high school basketball player's nickname.
For some reason, I'd been content to let "Paris" use me back then. She loved hanging out with somebody with a little bit of fame; I'm could barely stand the lack of privacy sometimes, but she ate it up.
It probably has something to do with the fact that I could, I guess. In all honesty, based on physical beauty alone, she is by far one of the hottest women I've ever slept with. I'm pretty sure my attraction to her was equally driven by the rather shallow, immature desire to be able to say "look at me, folks! The fat, dorky, funny radio guy is fucking the hot fitness model!"
I wasn't much of a saint when I was a reporter or an undergrad.
I'd like to think I'm a little wiser now...
* * * *
While I was in the midst of my internalized trip down Amnesia Lane, "Paris" noticed that I wasn't paying attention to her.
Apparently, I hadn't responded when she'd asked if I could tell that she hadn't gained a pound since we were in college (Pilates four times a week, and, well, I'm pretty sure she's still living off not more than 1000 calories a day.)
Yet, in 30 minutes on non-stop talking about her woes, she'd not once asked me anything about my life beyond the initial five minutes of "So what are you up to these days?" questions.
Not one question about whether or not I was married, no questions about my health, what I do for a living, or what, exactly, I'd been doing for the last half-decade.
I was there to listen to yet another spoiled rich girl rant about how trying life in the real world can be, how hard it is to understand why spoiled rich guys treat her like a possession the dump her, how she can't understand why her coworkers compare her to Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton (hence the alias).
As things had been in the past, so too do they continue into the present. I wasn't invited to lunch as a former fling or former friend or even as a long-lost former classmate.
I was nothing more than a prop, a stand-in for a real, honest-to-God human being. That is how she lived her life in the past, how she's apparently still living it in the present, and probably how she'll die one day.
And that, for some reason, pissed me off.
* * * *
As the lunch ended, she mentioned that, well, she'd like to hang out some more, to go catch a movie, to go out to Morro Bay and make fun of the tourists, to...
I told her I was in a hurry and that I'd already made other plans.
Okay, so I lied.
She asked when I was flying back to Ohio and suggested that we hang out some other time before I returned. I told her I was leaving the next morning.
Okay, so... I lied again. Still here, in California.
I figure it's easier this way, more polite.
Hell, what the fuck am I supposed to say?
Chica, email me again in five years. Or better yet, don't.
- # # # -
* "Learn By Doing." My college alma mater's motto.