painting the town red

I couldn’t put it off any longer, since Jozsi's course ended Friday, and he was leaving town. Zsuzsa had suggested we go to a place called Fat Mo’s, where sometimes there’s live music. It was a little posh for our taste, though. I mean, the soldier and the unemployed teacher. We began at Ibolya, as before, and caught a buzz for cheap. Then, at around eleven, we dropped into Fat Mo’s.

Józsi treated me to a dry martini. It was not in a martini glass. It came with an olive, and he said he thought it should’ve been a sliver of lemon. He called the handsome bartender over and asked why it didn’t come with a lemon, and the bartender explained very patiently, with scathing condescension, that it was because it was a dry martini. (At the Marriott, you’ll recall, the martinis come in a champagne glass and even the dry one comes with a lemon slice, so I don’t really know where the truth lies.) Józsi paid immediately, and didn’t tip. I smiled at the bartender and he looked back like we had been in cahoots. He was very dishy, actually.

Then at Józsi’s suggestion we went to another club, a blues club, called Old Man’s Pub. His big thing was to find some girls to hook up with for a night of dancing. He had been telling me how every time he spoke to one previously, they more or less immediately blew him off. He seemed to think that having an American in tow would increase his chances of success.

There was a blues band playing when we got there, but they were just finishing what must have been their encore, after which we went downstairs and I bought us a couple of beers. The crowd was rather pedestrian. It was kind of a typical, boring Thursday night bar scene. I mean, as I would imagine it.

He surveyed the room and spied two not-too pretty girls chatting at a table near the bar, and started planning his strategy. He was all talk, though, and the fact that he’s sort of a clumsy, not-too charming guy, a soldier, and that he’s got a wife at home, and professes not to want to cheat on her, comforted me. I figured we’d drink a couple more beers, stand in a corner like umpteen other losers were already doing, and talk strategy. And then at some point I would check my watch, yawn, and lie about having a busy day ahead, and we would leave. That was my strategy.

But I had underestimated my opponent (although he saw me as an ally, or actually more like a pawn). I should have known—I mean, here he’s been in Budapest, away from his wife for six weeks, but has not had any action, not even flirtation, and this was his last night in the city. He was in a now-or-never mood. I was in a never mood, as always. But that now part of the equation is quite a powerful motivator. That’s what I failed to factor in.

After the beers, he suggested checking our coats. At the coat check he tried to chat up some girls, and was rebuffed, but they were nice about it. It was like a game. Then he saw a couple of girls sort of hesitating in the entrance, and after conferring with me went up to them, and to my shock and horror, they were desperate enough to accept an invitation for a drink.

We went downstairs, and he asked them what they wanted. The blond said she’d have a glass of port and the brunette wanted some kind of ridiculous cocktail with beer and tonic, or something. I mean, she was that type. So Józsi takes me aside, and says, listen, I’ve only got five hundred forints left. I’m gonna slip it in your pocket. Then I paid. Looking back I guess we went halfsies on it, but at the time I was a little bent out of shape at having to foot the bill, especially when I thought about the inevitable next round. I mean, if these girls were desperate enough to come with us in the first place, then I was sure we’d be saddled with them the rest of the night. And all for this fucking soldier on his last night in town.

From there it was just tedious. The blond was funny, intelligent and charming, I have to admit, and not too hard on the eyes. Sort of a long face, with a slightly serious cast, and a bit of intriguing sadness. The brunette was broad-faced and squinty with a squeaky voice. They were roommates. The blond was dressed in low-slung flares and a no-frills low-cut bright red long-sleeved tee that showed off her complete lack of cleavage. The brunette was not particularly well-endowed either, but had obviously put a little more thought into her outfit. She seemed rather desperate to come off as something of a sex kitten, and I thought it was in questionable taste. She’s a law student at ELTE, but she’s from Szekesfehervar. The blond was studying French, and was from Veszprém, and since Józsi works in Veszprém and I had lived there for several months, we had something to talk about. It seemed sort of fortuitous, this connection, but I, for one, knew it wasn’t. They could both speak English very well, too, which was also rather unfortunate. So there was plenty of reason for optimism, if you ignored the fact that Józsi was a soldier, with a wife and child at home, and I’m queer. The girls seemed to be what they were, for what that’s worth.

Józsi suggested (he was full of suggestions) that we hit the dance floor, and I excused myself, saying I had to powder my nose. I went upstairs, and found a dark corner and sat for about twenty minutes, but it was boring. There were some mixed groups and then a lot of guys hanging out together apparently hoping something would happen, and a lot of girls doing the same opposite them. But it seemed nothing was happening. And there were maybe two decent looking blokes, and the rest were all dolled up, but with nowhere to go. Heterosexuals, at least at Old Man’s Pub, were as boring, possibly more boring, than homos.

I went back downstairs, having been unable to come up with an escape plan, and found my party on the crowded dance floor. Józsi was like a kid in a candy shop, about to hyperventilate from the excitement. He danced facing me and the girls faced each other, and elsewhere on the dance floor, the lonely guys were dancing—‘dancing,’ I should say, sort of shuffling around—with each other, and looking at the girls, who were dancing with each other near by.

The girls, for their part, were giving it their all. The blond seemed to be into the music, but the brunette seemed attention-starved. Every time I looked over, she made some sort of erotic move and gave me a significant look, and I immediately turned away. I was very aloof on the dance floor. A couple of times Józsi grabbed me and drew me to his breast (the most ample of all our breasts), pressed his cheek to mine, and shouted into my ear, ‘which one do you want?’ I pulled away, rolled my eyes, and shrugged. But he was serious.

When they went off to the girls’ room, he said he was sure they were eager to offer us blow jobs, and asked me again which one. I said I liked the blond better. He did, too, but yielded her to me. Big of him. Then he went to the DJ, who was old and toothless (perhaps the ‘Old Man’ in Old Man’s Pub) and requested a slow song. Thankfully the DJ refused.

I remained aloof, which was my revised strategy, and the girls grew a bit bored, according to plan. I watched a tall boyish lad watching a busty blonde, dancing with a buddy he apparently did not realize was actually a raging queer, too, who was longingly watching him longingly watching the blond. The tall one was really the only one in the whole place I found the least little bit interesting. In a sexual way, I mean.

The blond we were with was actually charming, but I didn’t dare flirt with her. I was having violent visions of Józsi actually managing to get the brunette into a dark corner for a little make-out session, and since they were obviously using the Buddy System, I might have to do the same so that the blond didn’t feel left out.

We went upstairs finally, around half past one, by which time I think it had become obvious to the girls that they were dealing with one horny soldier and a stuck-up American, at the very least, and that this was probably less than ideal. People are funny. At the outset, when they left the flat that evening I’m sure they were thinking, well, what have we got to lose, really? Then they meet two guys, within certain acceptable parameters, though far from the secret image of perfection they hold in their heart of hearts, and they were thinking, still, well, what have we got to lose? But after that the dance of formal courtship commenced and things got a little more complicated. I mean, we had paid court to them in the beginning, and that was necessary to get the ball rolling. But what kind of girls would they be if a beer bought their favor? You have to flatter and fawn over them continually.

Józsi’s eagerness looked increasingly like rampant libido (and it was), while my aloofness must have seemed like vanity, like I expected them to court me.

In the end, we three girls grew tired of Józsi and all of us were ready to call it a night. But he tried desperately to persuade them to stay. For what, I don’t know. I mean, what did he have in mind? What did he have in his limited arsenal of charms to keep them there? Nothing, as it turned out. Me. But nothing else.

So, after some rather weak protestations from the girls (is it possible they wanted me to join Józsi in insisting that they stay?), the blond (I never learnt her name, even though Józsi had earlier told me he thought introductions were imminent and had informed me that he would use an alias) leaned over to break the news to me that they had decided it was time they got home. I said, oh, what a pity, and told her she was charming, anyway. To my surprise she returned the compliment. I had not been in the least charming. But they were in rapid retreat, and this gesture may have been meant to hasten their escape, somehow. Although I wasn’t about to make a fuss, myself.

Then she said although it might seem forward for a girl to ask a boy’s number, she wanted to ask mine, or ours. I shrugged, but she ran off to the coat check before I could give it to her. Then we were out on the street, walking through the rain, and soon we were at Blaha. I was going off one way, and Józsi had insisted on seeing them back to Orczi tér. Before parting, Józsi told me he would give them my number, and he would phone me from Veszprém the following week.

I stood in the rain and waited for the night bus. I felt calm and perfectly relaxed. Even on the bus, which was packed with people of all ages in the withering stages of drunkenness. I phoned a taxi from Széna tér, and was surprised at how perfectly fluent my Hungarian was all the sudden. So I knew that I, too, was in a state of blissful drunkenness, and decided to enjoy it. I had a lovely conversation about the weather with a perfectly charming middle-aged cabbie, and paid with the company card from the company I no longer worked for, and made sure to give him a cash tip on top.

Zsuzsa had made my bed for me. I wasn’t really in the mood to sleep all the sudden, but I did.

When I told Jackie about my night out she didn’t seem to see the significance of it. Truth is, nothing in what might in a liberal mood be called my sex-life is particularly interesting. I’m just glad I managed to avoid ending up in a dark corner groping a girl. I mean, that’s my sex-life nowadays.


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