The Magician and I met for drinks at a bar where the bartender knows our first names. He ordered the cocktails I loved in high school, mixers that get you tanked and taste like candy: White Russians. Coke and vodka. I had whiskey on the rocks.
Magician: I went to the zoo the other day, and every time I see a zebra I think it’s a horse who is just stuck in the ’80s.
The Magician had only moved to New York six months ago and was in the middle of his first job. He was still making his first big-city friends and working on his first comedy act. Everything about him was shiny and new.
Magician: What do you think of this joke? I went to a fusion restaurant. It’s half Polish, half black. They passed the kielbas-ier.
Me: I thought you were going to say you went to a fusion restaurant and got radiation burns.
Magician: Radiation poisoning. I love that. I’ve always wanted someone to write jokes with me.
He had all the qualities of a new puppy. I wanted to rub him behind the ears. The bartender gave us a knowing grin, and I kicked my feet against the bar as if we were at a soda fountain, all Deanna Durbin and Mickey Rooney. He was so sweet and so hopeful.
I can’t remember when I have ever felt that way.
Me: I’m afraid I have to take off.
Magician: Now? I thought we could hang out.
I had double-booked the Magician.
Me: I’ve got a date.
He looked like I had just punched a puppy in the face. I was a jerk.
My next suitor was an age-appropriate options trader who was conversant in Bordeaux and fretted at length about the roller-coaster markets.
Gambler: What do you think is going to happen on the Apple earnings call?
Me: I’m a writer. If I had any financial sense, I would have a different job.
Gambler: Come on, play with me. Tell me what you think?
Me: I’ve never had less money in my life, yet I own three Apple products. I am the last buyer in America, and there is no one left. The market is saturated.
Gambler: Ok, it’s a put on Apple.
Me: Don’t. I know nothing. I keep my money in my mattress.
I was bored. I can pretend to talk about business, but I hate it. Occasionally it’s my day job to write about it. If I liked it, I would have a real career by now, a fully funded 401K, and a sensible mortgage. I would be the kind of reliable, steady woman who Joshes want to marry. I would not be pitching books and burning out my fertile years on soul-destroying dates.
The Gambler kissed me. I demurred and put myself in a cab.
In the narrow sense, it was a successful evening. They were good guys. The Magician is barely legal. And with the Gambler I was wrong about an earnings report, but not about how dull that conversation gets echoing over a lifetime.
I was a whole night older but twice as burnt out.