- The Good Stuff
- Contact Us
Written by Isabel Fink. This story is the first part of a series. For more writing by Isabel, check out The Secret Rebbetzin.
“Why are we so early?” Brynn grumbles as she pushes me toward the black bearded bouncer, his beard more reminiscent of a goth band frontman than the normal Austin hipster. I pull out my ID and mouth an apology at my embarrassing photo.
“Oh, stop.” Brynn pulls me up the concrete stairs of the old White House turned Blackheart Bar.
“We are drinking…early. One to get us loose. Two to help me remind you that a speed dating bar crawl for Jewish singles is simply a disaster waiting to happen. Plus,” I say edging toward the gothic bar, “I’m not the one who signed us up.”
“Signed YOU up. I am here for the shits and giggles. You are here to maybe just maybe not date so many loser goyim.”
I shrug my shoulders and slide up to the wood paneled bar where another gothic bearded man takes my order. Black and white photos of naked prohibition era women peer at me from behind the bar – and the black shawls hanging over the chandeliers make me wonder if I’ve stepped into a brothel, or at least the romanticized version of one.
Brynn sits outside on dining room chair unironically placed on the porch. I hand her a blackberry-laced gin and sit down in another mismatched dining room chair. The black bearded bouncer with his tight black t-shirt and rocker black jeans wanders by with takeout box in hand, sits on the edge of porch, catches my eye and smiles. Brynn sees me smiling back, rolls her eyes and swats at me.
“What?” I shrug. “He could be Jewish.”
“And, he could be a bouncer by day struggling gothic godknowswhat by night….No.”
“And, I could be a tattooed, punk-haired professor.”
“Professor being the key word.” Brynn rebuffs me. “This, my dear, is your problem. You think your sleeve tattoos are an open excuse to drag any loser with a cool beard or a nice voice into your life. Need I remind you that you have a PhD?”
Brynn has been my best friend since our days at Penn and, while harsh with her severe ginger bob and endless matching sweater sets, she usually has a point.
I audibly sigh and take a sip of my drink.
“So, what’s our game plan, oh knowledgeable one?”
“Well.” Brynn stretching out her words and as she ruffles through her red Marc Jacobs bag- pulling out a folder. “Here. I’ve come prepared.”
I grab the folder; open it up, and out falls photos of men along with bullet points. I laugh. Ever-prepared, Brynn has clearly done her homework from the guest list. Nothing she loves more than Google-stalking: potential babysitters, employees, friends, mothers at the park and, clearly, dates for me.
“See Izzy, this is a bar crawl. People will act stupid. They act stupid on dates and they act even more stupid when wandering place to place with copious amounts of alcohol. I will happily laugh, but we are not wasting our time on JDate rejects.”
“Aren’t most Jewish guys JDate rejects?”
Brynn shoots me a look.
My JDate experience has been rather brutal. Unlike most nice Jewish girls jumping into the world of Jewish dating, I am openly bisexual. And not in that curious way or the I-really-want-to-marry-a-man-to-live-a-heteronormative-lifestyle way. My search for a mate is equal when it comes to men and women. Unfortunately, sites like JDate don’t really have a box for bisexual. So JDate suggested that I pick a gender and mention my bisexuality in my profile. Bad, bad idea. Awful idea, in fact. Women won’t talk to me at all and men…well, men think it’s perfectly appropriate to message me things like “Are you dominant or submissive?” in their first email. My one actual date ended in oddly uncomfortable groping by some overly-successful Israeli. I thank God every day that he never called me after.
Brynn thinks that maybe the bisexual card might be better kept close to my ample bosom. And for once, I fully agree.
Page by page- Brynn and I stare at these men. They all seem the same to me – lawyers, doctors, MBAs – it’s like one long Jewish stereotype stuffed into a folder and given breath.
I shift uncomfortably in my seat. I want so badly to want this speed-dating thing to be something other than a joke. Everything feels like a joke. And Brynn knows it, otherwise she wouldn’t be here. She’s destined to find me someone with a job.
“Izzy- snap out of it. We must concentrate.”
“Otherwise what Bry? I’m wasting your time?”
Brynn sets the folders down…toys with her pearls, smiles and replies, “Always, Izzy. Always.”
“I need another drink.” I stand up, making my way from the porch back to the darkened bar…the evening hipsters are now filling up the corner.
I stand waiting behind a cohort of overly excited couples on date night. While trying not to shoot them dirty single-girl looks, the cigarette machine in the corner catches my eye. Suddenly, I’m desperate for a pack of ten dollar cigarettes. I push against the crowd.
And there she is- standing at the cigarette machine: short blond hair, light green eyes, vest, bow-tie. She is boyish on the outside – curvy underneath. She is, in fact, my regular bartender at a small Mexican-themed bar on East Sixth famous for its spicy margaritas. Our conversations have been quick. She makes me nervous. She makes my face red and my hands sweat. She is friendly and open and… fuck, I could never talk to her.
And yet, here she is – out of her normal element – standing at the cigarette machine.
I imagine staring at her in bed, her green eyes staring back at me. I sigh.
She looks up and smiles. “Hey.”
Oh my god. She recognizes me.
“Isabel? Right?” she asks.
“Um, yes.” My mind goes blank and all I can think of is how good she looks in that vest and that I want to brush her hair out of her eyes.
“Carina,” she points to herself and smiles with her eyes.
I giggle like a fourteen-year-old girl. “I remember.”
“So, what are you up to?”
“Oh, I’m here with my best friend. I was just coming in to get a drink. And somehow found myself at the cigarette machine.”
“Yeah, well.. It gets pretty crazy in here. Let me get you a drink. I know the bartenders.”
A bit stunned, I simply nod my head. I lamely follow her. I don’t even register her interaction with the bartender. Lust has made the whole bar turn fuzzy.
She hands me a drink. Our fingers touch. I want to roll my eyes at myself. “Carina.” I say her name wanting to roll it around in my mouth.
“Want to join us outside?”
Carina follows me. Brynn has found an actual table on the patio. Her folders are now spread out. I realize it never occurred to me to get her a drink. Fuck.
“Hey,” I say, weakly thankful that Brynn is still slowly sipping her drink.
She looks up, raises her eyebrow me and then says- “Hey, Carina right?
“Brynn? Whatcha workin on?” she asks, sliding confidently into her seat.
Brynn straightens up and smiles. “A speed-dating bar crawl. We are going to find Izzy an acceptable nice Jewish boy with an actual job.”
For a moment, I think Carina might spit out her drink. But then I think I must be imagining her reaction. Maybe I might spit out my drink. I want to kick Brynn under the table.
I shoot her a look. Brynn ignores me.
“Wow. A speed-dating bar crawl. Is that where we are meeting nice boys these days?” Carina laughs and then looks at me. She opens her mouth to speak and then closes it again.
My face reddens. I want to crawl under the table or run up the street to another bar. Then Brynn stands up.
“I’m going to the bathroom. Then, I’m getting a drink, since you seem to have forgotten mine.” She stands up, straightens her perfect skirt, catches my eye and shakes her head ever-so-slightly.
Carina and I are alone. She takes a sip of her drink, puts her elbows on her knees and says, “I’m surprised.”
“Surprised at what?”
“All this time you’ve been coming into my bar, I never took you for the nice Jewish boy type.” She catches my eye, holds it, and my stomach plunges. I am speechless. I don’t remember how to smile or flirt or answer her. I want to babble that it’s complicated, that I feel a little bit pushed, that none of these Jewish boys have ever made my palms sweat like her.
“What type did you take me for?”
“Well, possibly the nice girl type?”
“Oh really,” I whisper raising one eyebrow. “What makes you think that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. You come into my bar an awful lot. You roll your eyes at the men that try to talk to you, but you don’t talk to me that much, so maybe I’m wrong.”
I sit up straighter in my chair then reach my hand over to hers, “Ever think that I’m too shy to talk to you?”
Carina laughs. “What, me? You’re all confident and beautiful, and I’ve listened in on your conversations. Smart. I’m just the butch girl behind the bar.”
“Confident? Not when it comes to you. I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk to you since the first night I stepped into the bar.”
I stop. Red again. Oh my god. How did I just admit that?