When we left off, the Dirty Rotten Cat Lover had just invited me to join him for dinner at the Polo Lounge. Though I teased him about his supposedly cancelled “dinner meeting” and the initial invitation for “drinks only,” I was not truly offended by the Cat Lover’s excuses. Quickly upon sitting down, he revealed that he too had been burned–as I had suspected–by the online dating industrial complex.
“I just say that,” the Cat Lover explained, “Because so many times you end up meeting someone and there’s not much chemistry, and then you have to wait through the whole dinner, and I guess I’m just tired of it now.”
“Yes, I know what you’re talking about,” I said.
“One time, I met a woman for a date, and she had brought a friend with her.”
“She brought a friend on her online date?”
“Yes. She brought her friend, and then I had to buy them both dinner.”
“Both of them?! In what universe is this a common practice?”
“–But that wasn’t as bad as when I took a woman out and after dinner the waiter came by and said, ‘Will there be anything else?’ and she said, ‘Yes, I’ll have a lobster bisque to go.’”
“She didn’t eat anything at dinner?” I asked.
“Oh, she ate dinner. She just wanted an extra lobster bisque. To take home.”
“Wow. That’s ballsy.”
“I thought so.”
I took a drink of my club soda and thought about how I hate club soda, and how I should have ordered a Diet Coke. But it was easier to deflect questions about why I wasn’t drinking alcohol if I drank something that looked like it could have alcohol in it. And who drinks club soda without there being alcohol in it? Not that the Cat Lover had even noticed my drink.
“I think we should get Kobe beef hamburgers,” the Cat Lover said, gesturing toward the menu. I thought, OK, and wondered if he had seen how much they cost.
“What about dessert?” He went on. “They have a chocolate souffle, and you have to order it before dinner. I think we should get two of those.”
“OK,” I said.
I wasn’t quite sure what this was going to be. But it was turning out to look like quite something.
And then something strange happened, the kind of thing that when it happens in a novel you think, “Well that must be an event that I’m supposed to remember.” Because otherwise, there would be no narrative purpose to this kind of thing happening. It just wouldn’t make sense, from a narratological point of view, to drop something like this into the plot unless it was to mark something as Significant . . . to make it clear to the audience that this was an Important Meeting that changed the trajectory of the rest of the story.
Because, as I sat in a booth facing the door and the bar of the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a man walked into the room, and I thought, “Wow, that guy looks A LOT like Brad Pitt,” the way you do sometimes. Except this time it wasn’t just a passing resemblance. He looked identical to Brad Pitt, but he was so small. Still, the resemblance was uncanny. Uncanny. But it couldn’t be him, could it? He was wearing a motorcycle helmet, and though he looked muscular and was probably just above average height, he just seemed . . . too damn small to be Brad Pitt.
While I was busy running these hypotheticals in my head, my face apparently looked a little something like this:
Because the Cat Lover said, “What happened? Oh my god! What’s wrong?”
“I think Brad Pitt just walked in,” I whispered. The Cat Lover turned around.
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“But he’s so small.”
“People always think celebrities look small because they’re so big on the screen,” he said.
“Where’s he going?”
“He’s sitting at the bar.”
“Who is he with? His wife?” the Cat Lover asked. This was back in the days of the Brad & Jen TruLuv4Evah publicity scheme.
“I dunno. Nobody.”
“Nobody recognizable. A guy and a girl.”
“You want me to go get his autograph for you?”
“WHAT?! NO! ARE YOU CRAZY?”
“Look, you’re obviously a huge fan . . . your jaw dropped like ten feet when he walked in.”
“No, I’m really not.”
“Oh, come on.”
“No, I’m really not. It’s just . . . you don’t expect to see Brad Pitt walk in somewhere.”
“Well, he’s got to eat.”
We were then interrupted by the waiter, and so the Cat Lover ordered for us. Some people don’t like that, when the man orders for the woman. Me, I love it. Any time I can avoid talking to people because my date is a gentleman, I’m all for it. Of course, the waiter still had to ask me how I would like my meat cooked, and when I answered “rare,” this apparently made quite an impression on the Dirty Rotten Cat Lover. At the time, he said, “Wow, I’ve never met a girl who likes to order their meat cooked rare.”
I began to think that anything I said or did would be A-OK with the Cat Lover, and perhaps that’s why I then told him, “Oh yeah, I used to eat handfuls of raw hamburger meat when I was a kid. My mom would always get mad at me,” which was–admittedly–both a very strange thing to do and a very strange thing to share. What I didn’t know is that in that moment the Cat Lover would decide that I was definitely the girl for him, maybe forever, all because I liked to order Kobe beef cooked rare. Yeah. Hey, people have made decisions based on less. Try not to hate.
But we should not dwell too long on the odd mating rituals of postmodern carnivores, because Brad Pitt is still seated at the bar of the Polo Lounge with two unknowns, the female of which is–WAIT, HOLD THE PHONE–IS THAT WOMAN CARESSING BRAD PITT’S THIGH?!
“WAIT, HOLD THE PHONE–IS THAT WOMAN CARESSING BRAD PITT’S THIGH?!” I exclaimed.
“What?” the Cat Lover turned around. “I think she might be caressing more than his thigh,” he decided.
“Yep. And that’s definitely not Jennifer Aniston.”
“But–wait, what? Well, I always heard their marriage was just an arrangement,” I said knowingly.
“I never heard that,” he argued.
“Well, how do you explain that,” I said, gesturing to the display at the bar like it was so much trash.
“That’s Hollywood,” the Cat Lover said.
Strictly speaking, it was Beverly Hills. Still, we ate our Kobe cheeseburgers and made small talk on a variety of subjects. I don’t remember them all now, but I remember walking away from the evening thinking that it had gone much better than I had thought it would, and was impressed that the Cat Lover not only picked up the tab for the whole evening but also went the extra mile by taking my ticket, paying the valet, waiting with me for the car to show up, and opening the door to see me off. It might not seem like a huge gesture to you, but this is a Los Angeles love story, and the gestures a suitor makes in the service of making the driving experience of a Los Angeles woman easier or more comfortable translate the same way as might walking a girlfriend’s dog in Manhattan or shoveling snow in Minnesota. After he closed the door to my car, it would only take about fifteen minutes for the Cat Lover to call again–I didn’t even make it past Hollywood and Highland before my cell phone rang.
And I remember worrying that there was no way I would ever live up to be the woman that this Dirty Rotten Cat Lover seemed to think I was based on his first impression. But as it turned out, we had the rest of our lives for him to prove me wrong.