"Shot down again?" I asked Lance as he resettled himself on the stool next to mine.
I picked up the beer in front of me and sipped from it slowly. "What does that make you for tonight?"
"Oh for seven."
"No phone numbers?" I offered.
"One," he said sourly.
"Well, that's a start," I said, trying to encourage him. We guys had to stick together, especially when it came to the women.
Lance shook his head and lifted his own drink to his lips. "I recognized the number after she walked away."
I eyed him, waiting for the punch line to this story. "It was the number of this bar." He pointed to the matchbook in the ashtray on top of the bar. "One and the same."
I tried to stifle the chuckle, but just couldn't. Lance gave me a stern look and took another swig from his cocktail. He was on his third vodka and tonic. It was helping his confidence as always, but it was wreaking havoc with his competence. At least he wasn't slurring his words. Yet. The women never seemed to go for that.
Me, I liked to keep my head clear when chatting up the ladies. I did not have the confidence of my buddy, that's for sure, but I did okay with the ladies. Lance took the scattershot approach, chatting up as many chiquitas as possible on the slim chance that one might fall for his lame rap. My strategy had always been the tortoise approach, slow and steady, the right girl at the right time.
Lance, as always, was seated to see every person coming in and out of the bar. Well, every chick coming in and out of the bar. Whatever lounge, bar, restaurant, tavern or saloon we sat at, he always found a seat from which he could scope out the front door.
His neck snapped up and a saw a smile cross his face. He nodded, confidently. I did not even need to check out the door. It was obvious what had just happened. A woman, or maybe some women, had just entered. He cut his eyes my direction for an instant and motioned with his chin towards the door. I shook my head, but slowly moved my eyes that way. It was women. A pair of women. This usually meant that I would be roped in to his plans, too, so I gave them a quick once over myself.
The girls were classically attractive, a blond and a redhead. I was usually partial to blondes, but at first scope the redhead may have been my first choice. She was a little taller than her friend and wore clothes that were more my style. She wore a nice pair of slacks and a tight long-sleeve patterned sweater. Her hair was just past her shoulders and had a real nice wave to it. Knowing women, I doubted that either the color nor the curl was natural. But that didn't matter to me. I always thought natural was a little overrated.
"What do you think?" Lance asked.
I was interested, but I was never in a hurry. Lance always thought that every girl might be the one, and the time to act was always now. "Maybe later."
"Which do you like?" he asked. He always asked in situations like this. He didn't seem to care about picky things like what a girl looked like or what her personality was like or what her criminal record revealed.
I told him I preferred the redhead, but emphasized again that I wasn't ready. It's not that I didn't want to speak with her, I was just not a fan of swoopers. Lance didn't get that. Well, of course he didn't get that. He was a swooper.
He started to rise and I grabbed his arm. "Not her," I said softly. "Not yet."
He eyed me and smiled. "Plenty of fish in this sea," he said, looking around the bar for any other women who hadn't blown him off yet tonight. "I'll be back." He must have found one. Or maybe more than one.
I spent the next few minutes working on my beer with an occasional glance in the redhead's direction. I caught her eyeing me once, and I gave her a brief nod before moving my eyes elsewhere.
Lance was right about being back. Maybe five minutes had passed. "Tough room," he muttered as he settled back into his stool. He sounded like a bad stand-up act who had just gotten the hook. That's probably a pretty good comparison. Bad stand-up.
"Tough city," I responded.
"Shut up," he said with a scowl. But he didn't mean it. He didn't mean either the words or the scowl. This was all part of the routine.
"What am I doing wrong?" Lance lamented. He was almost weeping in his beer, except he wasn't drinking beer and he wasn't exactly weeping.
"Where should I start? The list is too long," I joked.
"Not that you're doing all that well yourself tonight?" he fired back.
I sighed. We had had this conversation numerous times. Almost any time we drank together we had this conversation. I was beginning to wonder if he remembered the numerous times we had had this conversation. Maybe is wasn't schtick. This always happened after three or four drinks; maybe he always thought it was a new thought whenever he thought it.
"I'll do all right," I finally answered. We rarely compared notes, but I was quite satisfied with my rate of success, if you will.
We sipped for a little while without talking. We were just observing, taking in the ambience of the club and trying to look attractive. Neither of us had an easy time in that department.
Lance grunted to a new girl sitting by herself at a table beyond the bar, down by the pool tables. He was off, weaving between the chairs on his way toward her.
I watched him go. It was like the proverbial car crash. I just had to watch. Talk about reality TV. Even without sound or subtitles, this was worth watching.
When I heard a rustle next to me, I turned to face-hey, it was the redhead. "Hi," she said with an electric smile.
"Evening," I said. It was about all I could think at the time.
"Hi. I'm Marcia," she said, drawing out the soft "c" sound of her name. She was nearly as attractive up close as she was at a distance. You learn picking up chicks in bars that this is not always the case.