“You need to come out and join me and my friends at the Grog Shoppe this Saturday,” she said to me. “We sing karaoke there. It starts at 9, unless that’s past your bedtime,” she winked.
I thought to myself… I could do this. This sounds like fun. And it would be nice to meet new people and see how this turns out.
Of late, I’ve been trying to crack out of a figurative, self-imposed, painful, emotional exile. And so far, it’s been successful. My recent trip to the trivia championships last week was a start. And yesterday afternoon, I attended a housewarming with some of my Facebook friends, which was really awesome in and of itself.
And if this get-together at the Grog Shoppe in Schenectady with this girl and her friends works out… well then, this is certainly another escape from the chrysalis.
Saturday night. It’s just a short jaunt from the Town and Village to Schenectady and the Grog Shoppe. I called the bar. What time does karaoke start? 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., they tell me.
Plenty of time.
It’s about 9:20 p.m. when I arrived at the Grog Shoppe. She’s not there yet. That’s fine, nobody’s expected to be perfectly punctual these days. I grab a chair, sit down, and start perusing the karaoke notebook, searching through zillions of songs for something that I can (A) sing without totally embarrassing myself, and (B) sing without totally embarrassing myself.
9:45 a.m. The host calls my name. I tear through a rendition of Blue Swede’s “Hooked On A Feeling,” which gets some applause (as well as a half-sing-along from an Aerosmith T-shirt-wearing drunken patron). I go back to my table. She hasn’t shown up yet.
And of course, thoughts go through my mind. You know that whole idea that if you hear hoofbeats in the distance, you know it’s horses but you think it’s a stampede of zebras. The worst case scenario. Nah, I thought. She’s running late. It happens. She would text me if there was an issue, she has my number. Relax, Chuck. She’ll be here.
Around 10:45, the host asks me to take the stage and sing another song. I oblige. And apparently, belting out “Jim Dandy” by Black Oak Arkansas is a great way to get the patrons at the Grog Shoppe on the floor and dancing and cheering. Who knew?
Crowd loves it. But she’s not in the crowd.
This is not good. The zebra stampede continues.
And I’m brought back to past memories. Memories of people who pulled hurtful stunts with me. “Oh yeah, Chuck, we’ll meet you at the restaurant. You get a table and wait for us, we’ll be there … ha ha ha ha…”
Or, “Yeah, we’d love to have you on our sports team. Why don’t you go reserve a field for us at the park, we’ll be there very soon … hee hee hee hee…”
Or, “The Scoutmaster wants you to go to the other troops in the Jamboree and ask if any of them have left-handed screwdrivers or striped paint. Make sure you check with every troop out there, and don’t come back until you get them … ho ho ho ho…”
Or, for me, the worst one … “Hey mister, my friend here thinks you’re cute.” “Susie, stop, I never said that,” “Yes you did, ha ha ha ha…”
Yeah. THOSE feelings. Those feelings of emotional battery and belittlement. It’s hard to not think of these feelings.
And I think to myself, “Don’t do this, Chuck. Look, you’re having fun, people are enjoying your karaoke stylings, she’s probably just running late.”
Yeah. Bartolo Colon could hit an inside-the-park home run before she shows up.
Bartolo Colon home run called by the Mets Spanish station WEPN: pic.twitter.com/eRdyvgI13U
— In Mets We Trust (@InMetsWeTrust) May 8, 2016
Yeah, I know, I did say “inside-the-park,” but it’s close enough for government work.
11:15 p.m. 11:30 p.m. 11:45 p.m. Nothing. Patrons are leaving, and she never shows up.
One more karaoke song. One more hope against hope that maybe she’s a night owl and will arrive at the stroke of midnight. Midnight-fifteen and I’m belting out John Anderson’s “Swingin'” to the few remaining patrons at the Grog Shoppe.
What, you don’t think I know any honky-tonk country music? Silly you…
But she never showed up. Nothing. No calls, no texts, no nothing.
And I just left the tavern. Chuck got chumped again.
Yeah. I got chumped.
It doesn’t matter if I went out and sang karaoke with a bunch of strangers in a dive bar in Schenectady. Because the only reason I even did it was because someone strongly suggested that I go – and that she would be there – and we would have a good time.
Well, maybe she had a good time somewhere else, doing something else with someone else.
And all the way home, I thought to myself, “Chuck, how could you let someone do that to you again? Haven’t you built up enough defenses and warnings and alerts to keep people from making you feel like a chump by now?”
I guess my defenses were built by the same construction crew who built the Maginot Line.
Because in the back of my mind, the next time someone says to me, “Hey, why don’t you join me Saturday night and we’ll have a good time…”
My first thoughts will be, “Yeah, I’m sure. And Godot will finally meet up with Vladimir and Estragon.”
Because, in the back of my mind, all I will think about is, “Don’t get chumped again, Chuck…”
Don’t get chumped again.