The Cockblocker Chronicles
I just watched my favorite football team blow a chance to go to the Super Bowl. They had a perfect opportunity to win in the waning seconds but didn’t get it done. They’re a young and talented team, and in all likelihood they’ll have other chances in coming seasons. But the future is never guaranteed. You need to seize the moment like it’s a last dying gasp. The gnawing uncertainty of getting a second chance is a killer.
Which brings me to this. It all happened at the wrap party for the movie I had just worked on. These tend to be restrained affairs, seeing as how no one wants to be the drunk asshole who isn’t asked back on the next job. Don’t get me wrong - people have fun, but by and large they’re also very aware of the impression they make.
This one was different. The hall, the food, the decor, the vibe…it was all great. And a Beatles cover band played happy songs everyone knew. I also happened to work with my friends, which made it better. My friend J brought a girl named KP as his platonic date. KP had worked with us a few times, and so it was natural for him to bring her along. I had always had a major crush on KP. She was impossibly cute with big brown eyes and spoke in a Texas drawl that made it sound like she had a honey-glazed tongue. She was also one of the most genuine, kindhearted people I’d met in Los Angeles. If you live here, you know how precious that can be.
The party was well underway (as was my buzz) when KP came over and grabbed my arm. “Come on, we’re going to dance!” she said. Now, gentle reader, lest you misunderstand what is to come, let me give you an idea of my feelings on dancing. I don’t do it. Seriously. I’m way too shy and self-conscious to engage in something so carefree. Slow dancing is one thing. I can get away with swaying from side to side without looking stupid. But fast dancing is just the most terrifying experience I can imagine. I can count the number of times I’ve done it on one hand and have enough fingers left over to type this story at a pretty good clip. And those few times I did do it, I was lubricated by enough beer to drown a horse. Allow me to explain what happens in my brain when I’m dancing. Imagine that you are on the dance floor among a crowd of people. Further imagine that not only are you in your underwear, but that your underwear is Wonder Woman Underoos. With a tear in the back. Under a spotlight. Now multiply that by ten, and you’re getting close to the abject fear involved here.
But I digress. KP was dragging me onto the dance floor. Amazingly, I went. Sure, I’d had a few. And sure, who doesn’t feel like shaking something when “Can’t Buy Me Love” is playing? But this was still a big deal. And when I got out there, I actually found myself enjoying it. I’m sure that it was mostly because KP was paying attention to me. But I did notice with relief that no one else was paying attention to me. And as one song turned into the next, I was really having a good time. It was the same kind of thrill mixed with fear that makes people wait in line two hours for a roller coaster. She had watched me dance for a good twenty minutes and hadn’t either recoiled in horror or looked over my shoulder and seen a phantom friend that she had to say hello to. This was big.
The band took a break and we went to get a drink. J saw us at the bar and asked us if we wanted to come up to the second floor with him where it was quieter to take a break. We went upstairs to the balcony, as this party was being held at an old theater, and we discovered that we were the only ones up there. When we sat down on one of the plush couches strewn about, J planted himself squarely between us. The conversation was animated and vaguely philosophical, as conversations tend to be when the participants are shit-faced. The talk revolved around how when WE had some clout in this town, things would be done differently! I was giddily on the verge of a perfectly logical utopian vision of Hollywood when J realized that KP and I were leaning over him to talk. Before long he was playing the Berlin Wall to my awakening libido’s East Germany. Yet there he stayed, the self-appointed last line of defense for KP’s virtue. Now, I would normally applaud this. As sexist as this may sound, I’m a big fan of keeping assholes away from nice girls. But J was my friend. A relatively new friend to be sure, but still my friend. And I don’t happen to be an asshole. A woman’s virtue is safer with me than a plate of broccoli is at a pie-eating contest. In my head, this was as clear as if I were wearing a giant scarlet ‘H’ for Harmless. But maybe J didn’t know me well enough to know this. Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Despite conducting our first giggly get-to-know-you-better conversation in front of a militant chaperone, KP and I managed to elude J long enough to go downstairs and dance some more. By now, I was having the best time I could remember having in years. I was floating on air. It says a lot about me, I fear, that a few hours’ attention from an attractive female can put me in such a state. But I was in the moment and loving it. I had even managed to overlook the disturbing fact that when the band ripped into “Got To Get You Into My Life”, she said she didn’t know the song. When the band took another break, we parted for a while and retreated to our respective corners to chat with our friends. Then the defining moment of the evening was upon me.
The band announced the last song, and it was “Hey Jude”. I was in mid-sentence when KP ran over and grabbed my hand, pulling me onto the floor with an insistent “Come oooooooon!” much to the amusement of my friends. As we settled into our first slow dance, I had an overwhelming feeling that this was right. She was looking up at me with those big brown eyes and a smile, and I was Jello.
And then it all went inexplicably, astoundingly wrong.
I didn’t kiss her.
It felt like the time was right for a kiss. And if I am aware of this, then every pair of eyes in the place must have been focused on me, wondering “why the hell isn’t that knucklehead kissing that girl?” Even a dopey romantic movie would have known enough to have a kiss here, no doubt set to a schmaltzy ballad by a veteran of the Mickey Mouse Club. How then, you might ask, did this fail to happen? In nearly every aspect of my life, I’m strong in the clutch, saving my best for when it’s needed. When it comes to women though, I’m a big time choker. I never have the fortitude to close the deal. I can describe to you in painful detail every instance in which I’ve failed to kiss a girl that was eminently kissable, from the time I first started to think girls weren’t so icky right up until this shameful debacle. I often wonder how many women that I thought the world of didn’t know I was interested because I didn’t kiss them. I took this one to the moment of truth, and came up short yet again.
Yet somehow, when the party ended I still had a puncher’s chance. We huddled with our friends to see what was happening next. Fortune was about to smile on me and give me yet another opportunity. Our group was going to go to my friend and boss R’s house to wind down with a nightcap. But KP wanted to go home, and didn’t feel she was in a condition to drive. So for once in my life, I stepped up. Even at this early stage, I was aware of the blunder of the non-kiss, and I was prepared to fix it. You should have been in my brain. I was so proud of myself in advance for what I was about to suggest. I selflessly volunteered to pass up drinks at R’s to take KP home.
This immediately set off J’s radar. “I don’t really feel like going over there either. Why don’t all three of us go to KP’s place and have something to eat?” I assured him that this wasn’t necessary. “It’s okay, I’ll take her, there’s no reason we should both miss the fun.” I can’t be certain, but I think a threatening tone crept into my voice. I knew exactly what he was doing, and I strongly resented the fact that I was considered a danger. My mind flashed back to every bad TV movie about date rape, and I thought, “Is that what he thinks I am?” My intentions were honorable. I just wanted to take her home, make her something good to eat, and maybe suck her face off. J didn’t care though, as evidenced by his absolutely brilliant reply. “I’m not sure I should drive. Why don’t we all go to KP’s place in your car? By the time we leave, I’m sure I’ll be fine and you can bring me back to my car.” The guy was slick. No wonder he went to Yale. He had cleverly made it impossible for me to take KP home alone, lest I appear the type that would make a drunk guy drive in order to get some action.
So thus we went, the ingénue, the eunuch, and the human chastity belt, off to see the fucking Wizard. On the way there, KP turned the radio up loud and started singing. She can’t sing, which made it even cuter. However, J insisted on talking over her and thoroughly ruining the charm of the situation. I briefly considered telling him to undo his seatbelt so that I might crash into a telephone pole and send him through the windshield.
When we arrived, they both claimed to be ravenous, but it was too late to order anything. So I was soon enlisted to cook. It’s a well known fact among my friends that I know my way around the kitchen, mostly from the various desserts I’d bring into work on Fridays to help ensure that I’d still have a job on Monday. I rummaged through KP’s refrigerator and discovered that it was emptier than a Russian grocery store. I found a carton of egg whites, salad fixings, salsa, a bag of shredded cheese, some condiments that shared their prime years with The Doobie Brothers, and the ubiquitous bottled water. I have a pet theory that females under the age of 40 in Los Angeles live in constant fear of a contaminated water supply.
It’s a testament to either my lameness or my true love of cooking that for the moment the biggest challenge in my life was not how to get rid of J, but how to assemble these meager ingredients into a kickass dish. I quickly decided that the egg whites dictated an omelette. Mushrooms, peppers and cheese inside with a dollop of salsa on top. Seeing as I don’t like mushrooms and I don’t like salsa on eggs, I did not partake of the feast. But J practically had an orgasm on the spot. Too bad I wasn’t hot for him instead. KP also had lavish praise for me, and I replied by saying “Well, I’ll have to cook dinner for you sometime.” She responded by saying “Oh my God, yes!” Damn, I’m smooth.
After the meal, we sat around talking that end of the night talk, which is to say we had exhausted our daily allotment of wit and insight earlier in the evening. Soon it was time to go, and KP bade us goodbye with hugs. I also snuck in a kiss on the cheek, which I felt was more than appropriate, if not an admission of defeat. On the drive back to J’s car, he kept up a lively patter, apparently ignorant of my silent seething. I proceeded home with my radio on full blast, filled to bursting with the conflicting emotions of triumph and regret.
Monday morning came and of course the topic of the day at work was the party. Just as the conversation had petered out and I thought I was going to escape unscathed, out it came from the mouth of R, my boss. “So, WWW, what’s up with you and KP?” Suddenly a chorus of ‘ooooooohs’ filled the room as if two characters on a WB sitcom had just kissed. I told the Reader’s Digest version of the story, and R turned to J and said with perfect timing, “You cockblocker!” The entire bullpen practically fell off their chairs laughing except J. That was his nickname for at least a week. Later that day I asked him for KP’s number. He asked me why I didn’t ask her for it. I wanted to say, “Because you wouldn’t leave us alone long enough to exchange so much as an area code!” but didn’t, seeing as how he had something I wanted. He seemed reluctant to give it to me, but he eventually did. Maybe he felt a slight twinge of guilt. In any case, I was certain that he would soon tell her the call was coming and then warn her that I had been seen in the company of Chris Hansen and a phalanx of TV cameras.
I waited until Tuesday to call her. I needed two days to summon the courage. After all, I had managed to live a good number of years on this Earth without calling up a girl on the phone and asking her on a proper date. I had always just fallen into dating my friends; promoting from within was my policy. So I dialed the number and waited about an ice age (or three rings) for her to pick up the phone. I started off strong, I really did. I told her what a great time I had, and we talked about what a great party it was, and she again complimented me on my culinary skills. “This is it,” I remember thinking. “It’s in the bag.” Now, it seems obvious that after a little warmup, you go right to the reason you’re calling, and ask her out. But I kept on blabbering away about God knows what. And after about 15 minutes, she said that she and her roommate were watching a movie, and could she call me the next day? “Of course”, I said, and I gave her my number. In retrospect, 15 minutes was a very generous amount of time on her part to give to a guy that obviously has no idea why he’s even on the phone. Amazingly, she did call me back the next night while I was still at work. When I got the message and called her, she was out. We played phone tag for a few days, and then I just sort of resigned myself to my fate and gave up. I knew when I was beaten. I heard that a few months later she moved to San Francisco. I never saw her again after the night of the party.
It’s clear why I thought of this story after watching that football game. Another chance is never guaranteed. In fact, I got two chances and still came up wanting. I could very easily blame J the cockblocker for this, and in fact I did for a long time. Everyone else did too. It would have been easy to leave it at that. But he only prevented me from taking her home. He didn’t stop me from kissing her when she should have been good and kissed. He didn’t bungle what should have been a simple five-minute phone call. Sure, he didn’t help any. Maybe if I had been able to take her home by myself, things would have been different. But I had my chances. This was my fault. And I hope to God that my desire defeats my fear before I’m 50 years old and making up lies about how I’m married to my job.
Then again, maybe she was just drunk and playful that night.
But I’m never going to know, am I?