by Peter Aguero
Once upon a time in a bar in Camden, NJ, a young woman was out with her friends and spotted a young man walk in. She was taken by two things: his black leather jacket and his sense of purpose. From her stool, she watched him stride across the room looking like he owned the place, shaking hands and laughing with a cigarette perched in the corner of his mouth. They met eyes and he walked toward her. He said, “I’m Bob. You should come home with me tonight.” She didn’t, but she did give him her number and they went out soon later. Less than a year after that night, they were married. Three years after that, they had a son.
I was a quiet kid and kept to myself much of the time. I was categorized as a sensitive kid, inheriting my mother’s temperament and not much of my father’s bravado. As I became of age, girls became important, but they were really only to be watched from afar. I would go to dances with friends and sit in a chair, hoping that the pretty girl I’d pine for would approach me, as I hadn’t the stones to approach anyone. Through my teenage years, I would date the girls of least resistance. The girls that were also quiet, the girls that seemed to almost accidently become attached to me, through no discernable effort on either side. It was a milquetoast sort of way to conduct love affairs.
By the time I got to college, I began to discover things about myself. I started to perform in plays on campus which led to doing some sketch comedy. The group I found myself a part of seemed to be made of people like me who never found their spot and grouped together with other outcasts for safety. I started to embrace my size, my humor and my potential for volume. It was good. My dad came to a sketch show my sophomore year and said that I looked like I’d figured out how to be myself. However, taking off my shirt in public and doing pratfalls did not a sex symbol make.
Before my junior year, my father helped me move into my first off-campus apartment. Afterward, we had some dinner and he asked how things were going with the ladies. I really didn’t have an answer. He told me how he met my mother, that the way to get what you want in the world was to ask for it, to just go get it. He told me that I was very lucky. I was young and handsome, with the world by the balls. All I had to do was squeeze.
When the semester started, I kept that in mind. I began to be quite brazen, going up to the prettiest girls in my classes and asking them out. More to the point, I’d ask if it would be OK if I asked them out sometime. This seemed to confuse them. I asked out the British girl in my Chaucer class. That went nowhere, but made me a hero to my classmates. It wasn’t really working, but it was at least positive momentum. When the annual sketch comedy show for charity came up, I auditioned and got in 6 of the 24 sketches. The cast itself was huge and the rehearsals were just an excuse for me to use my newfound charisma to engage every girl I saw in conversation. I did feel powerful, if not a little predatory, with really no success. One of the directors was a beautiful girl named Sara. She had a funky haircut and an amazing body from her membership on the crew team. She was funny and goofy and off-limits. She had her high-school sweetheart back home and no one was able to break that up, though more than a few tried. In my first play with the group, two years prior, she played a character called Dr. Fine. It still suited her well.
The sketch show was fun and it was followed on the penultimate night by a great cast party at my friend Laura’s house. I was a bit like a special forces unit at parties: First in, first drunk, last to leave. It was a good time and the night raged on until late. As the beer keg began to empty, so did the party. I had secured the last beer of the keg and sat on the couch, figuring to leave in 15 minutes. Just then, Sara walked in. Emboldened by malt and barley, I said, “Hey Dr. Fine, why don’t you come over here and sit on my lap?” To my surprise, she did. Her assistant director, a freshman named Brian, followed into the room a minute later and sat on the opposite couch, looking disappointed that he wasn’t going to get his chance to awkwardly flirt with her.
We had some small talk about the show and how much fun it was. About our plans for the rest of the semester. She brought up how her boyfriend Mike was doing in medical school. I remembered my dad and decided to go for it. “Dr. Fine, you should come home with me tonight,” I said, causing Brian to spill his beer on the other couch. Sara just looked at me, with a cocked eyebrow. She said, “Well, thank you, but I have crew practice very early in the morning.” I replied, ” I have two alarm clocks.” She paused. “I get very cold at night.” From me: ” I have a huge down comforter, plus, as a larger individual, I do generate much heat.” “Well,” she said, “I have trouble getting to sleep every night. I listen to music.” I told her that my stereo was quality and my John Coltrane and Miles Davis would easily be able to help her drift off. She laughed and excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she left, Brian was agog. He asked if I knew that she had a long-standing boyfriend. I did. He asked if he knew that they were supposed to get engaged. I said I didn’t care. He then asked if this had ever worked before. I just winked at him. As we both waited for Dr. Fine to come back, I felt somewhat powerful. My dad was right. If you want something, go after it. There’s no harm in trying. Be bold.
Dr. Fine came back and said that she was going home. I went for broke. “You know, Dr. Fine, I’m quite good in bed. I k now it’s late, but I can easily get some references. You won’t be disappointed.” She laughed, thanked me for our conversation, kissed me on the cheek and left. Brian followed after her. I finished my beer and figured that I guess what I really wanted all along was to go home alone. Because that was what I was about to do. And I did. My dad was wrong.
The next day, I went to the theater for the last show. I was hungover and worrying that I’d put my foot in my mouth the night before. Right before curtain, I saw her. I had to say something, she was coming right up to me. I said, stammering, “Sara. Hey Sara, how are you? Are things well? How was crew practice?” She said, “You know Peter, you got me to thinking last night.” She paused. I said, “Well then Dr. Fine, how would you like it if I asked you out to dinner sometime?” She said that would be alright with her.
It’s 14 years later. Dr. Fine could be just about anywhere. Maybe she’s preparing for work, or riding a train to visit someone. Maybe she’s watching a movie or hanging out with friends. Or, she’s in our apartment in Queens, NY because she’s now my wife. Thanks dad.
Peter Aguero is a storyteller and teacher living in NYC. He was the winner of The Moth Stories GrandSLAM Championship in March 2009. He’s also the lead singer of The BTK Band.