It is the beginning of another month (more or less) and thus time for another installment of the Ohmygod saga (to catch up on the previous installments click on the Ohmygod menu up top). As you will recall, I used to be a cycling tour guide in Europe for several years. Through that job (yes, it is a bit difficult to call it a “job”) I met countless interesting people and have a few compelling stories to tell, but most of them pale to the story of Ohmygod, one of the clients that I had for three weeks. Some may wonder about the moniker, but the name chose itself really; it is what I uttered repeatedly during just about every interaction with him.
In the previous installment (Part Fifty-Four), we had made it to our hotel in Gent, a converted monastery, where my attempts to have a quiet beer went for naught as the rest of the group, including the Ohmygod train wreck soon joined me. Through it all, though, I had maintained my secret plans for the evening. Or so I thought….
For several moments, it seemed, I stood there dumbfounded, trying to calculate the odds of what was happening. I had not told a single person on the trip that I was even contemplating dinner, much less indicating the location of my favorite restaurant in Gent.
Each factor was entered into the equation:
- the number of clients on the trip (7) all of whom either had to agree (or at least acquiesce) to dine together
- the relative distance from the hotel (about 2km)
- the number of restaurants they must have passed to get there (47)
- the time spent trying to decipher the menu, which is only posted in Flemish (49 minutes)
- and the number of times that Ohmygod asked if they had beer (238—and that is a conservative estimate).
Thus, I figured the odds were 107,430,344 to 1 (7 x 2 x 47 x 49 x 238) that they all ended up there.
Yet there they were. And I had a decision to make.
Would I elect to join the group and certainly spoil my only free night of the trip, or would I duck around the corner, scoot back toward the hotel, search for another quaint restaurant, and enjoy a few hours of relative calm and solitude?
There are times in your life that when you look back on them, you realize that certain decisions that you made out of necessity, are quickly forgotten, as if tossed into an endless landfill of random acts. There are other choices that end up having a significant impact on the rest of your life and you try to imagine why, at the time, you didn’t decide to simply walk in front of a coming bus instead of opting for what would turn out to be one of the worst decisions in the history of conundrums.
I eventually decided to join the group, consciously hoping that this decision fell into the latter category instead of the former.
The first (and perhaps only) question was WHY?
Either I was a serial masochist, a fool, or worse, an eternally delusional optimist, hoping that the behaviors I had witnessed from the people on the trip were not innate but rather slight personality aberrations of otherwise sane, kind, and perfectly normal fellow riders on the cross-life bus of human existence.
OK, yeah, I was delusional.
As I took the first steps out of the shadows and toward the restaurant, I briefly thought about the various events of the previous two and a half weeks and I realized that I had made a grave mistake.
What was I thinking?
As far as I knew at that point I had not yet been discovered by the group and there was no way that they possibly could have been expecting me—I had hidden my intentions better than the most highly trained CIA operative—so in my first attack of sanity in close to three weeks, I stopped in the middle of a cross walk.
At the precise moment that my body had come to a complete stop and was transferring momentum to return to the same side of the street that I had just left, the unthinkable happened.
No, unfortunately, I was not hit by a bus. Nor was there a sudden lethal bolt of lightning sent by an omnipotent and merciful god.
Instead, it was a voice. An unmistakable voice at an unmistakable volume (only Americans, and possibly Koreans, can reach that decibel level) shrieking an unmistakable “Yo! El JEFE!”
I tried to continue my retreat, trying not to flinch, not to acknowledge the utterance in the slightest. No sooner did I get my reflexes in check, as any top spy would be able to do, there it was again. This time, unbelievably, even louder:
“YO! EL JEFE!!”
It was Adonis, who, earlier that week, had adopted the Spanish word for “chief” as my moniker, thinking it was a clever play on my actual name, Jeff, and my position as the “leader” of the group. He also thought that he was the first person on the planet to be so clever.
He wasn’t. Not by a long shot, but I let him have his moment of false genius.
The second was so loud and so obvious that there was no way that I could ignore it. My cover was blown, as was likely my career as a spy in the post-Cold War international theater. Still in the middle of the street, I spun around once more, which to the casual resident of Gent must have seemed like a rather perverse street dance or evidence of a loose inmate from the local loony bin.
When I arrived at the table, it seemed as though everyone (except Ohmygod, naturally) was expecting me. So much so that there was even an empty seat, replete with a plate, napkin, utensils, and wine glass. There were seven of them, so clearly they had asked the server to leave a place setting at the rectangular booth.
Adonis, who apparently had adopted the role of group spokesperson, blurted out: “It is about time you showed up! We were waiting for you to order!”
My eloquent response: “Huh?”
Adonis continued: “Yeah, you said you were not going to dinner, but we figured you would eventually show up here.”
Me. Again: “Huh?”
This time, Anita took over the parole, but I stopped paying attention–I was going over every conversation I had during the day, and I was convinced that at no time did I so much as hint that I was going to dinner, and at no time did I mention the restaurant–I could not even remember the name of the place (when I reached this thought, I instinctively looked at the sign, Eetkaffee De Lieve. Oh yeah, that was it).
Near the end of her diatribe, I came out of my reflection and I heard Anita say “yelp.”
I continued with another very thoughtful response: “Huh?”
Clearly frustrated, and having realized that I had not really been listening to Anita, Maggie blurted out: “You rated this place five stars on Yelp. Where else would you go?”
Anita (apparently) repeated: “We were looking for a place to eat and we found this on Yelp. I immediately saw your review! No brainer.”
Realizing that the situation was indeed my own doing despite my seemingly careful approach, I accepted my fate and decided to sit down. The open spot meant sitting directly next to Ohmygod, which is never where anyone wants to be as shrapnel from the assault on his meal was assured and his stench could spontaneously cause unconsciousness. While that was again the case, I had learned early in our “relationship” that I needed to breathe through my mouth or risk passing out, potentially causing severe bodily harm.
In a rather dramatic change (although not nearly as shocking as when he spontaneously decided to start eating all food without utensils), Ohmygod inexplicably adopted a new posture at the table. He sat hunched over his place setting, with his arms planted firmly on the table and emanating out at precisely 45° angles as if he were some bastardized interpretation of the Rocky statue. Over the course of the evening, he only took his arms off the table when he was pouring beer down his cavernous pie hole or he was using his fingers to shovel food into his mouth. As a result, I had very little personal space. And I like personal space.
If that were the only issue.
I was seated directly across from Angelina who was, shockingly, sitting next to Brad, which was literally the first time that I had seen them this close together (at least at a meal–of course they are even closer together on their tandem bicycle where Angelina, seated in the rear, would place her head firmly in the middle of Brad’s back). There was also something different about Brad, but I could not quite place it.
I checked his upper lip and while the daily, dried, dirty nasal drip had indeed been washed off, that was not it. Haircut? Nope. Particularly natty clothes? Uh, no. So what was it? After more deliberation, I got it.
He was smiling.
Now, it was not a six-year-old’s “I just got a puppy!!” kind of smile, but there was a decided upturn to the edges of his lips. It was not quite an I-know-what-you-did-last-night smirk as it was not wry in any way. I settled on “I’m cautiously thrilled, but I want no one to know.”
So I was intrigued. I honestly thought the guy was incapable of joy since every morning started with a story of how incredibly sad, frustrated, confused, or, most often, pissed off he was at his current situation.
And here he was the Chesire freaking cat.
It was not the time nor the place to inquire, so I filed it away for another time.
Assuming I could remember that is. I was about to get my drink on.
Unfortunately, my favorite waitress (was her name Zoë?) did not appear to be working that night, which was odd since she had been there each of my previous four visits. She was cute, maybe more than that, and on one occasion I had asked her to marry me.
Or maybe I had just contemplated it. There had been a lot of beers involved.
All the better as I was sitting next to the human buzzkill, which was certain to make me the (second) most unattractive person in Gent.
As the rest of the table gave their beer order, I decided that I would go the wine route as the restaurant always had fantastic wines at very reasonable prices. They only had one white and one red, though, which was unfortunate only because it would have been nice to have been able to peruse a wine menu as Ohmygod performed his “What beers do you have on tap again?” seven times (which I believe was a new record).
I inquired about the red, and it was a fantastic Château La Haye Saint Estèphe Cru Bourgeois (Cru Bourgeois are Bordeaux wines with lesser official pedigrees than some of the more well-known producers, but can be incredible bargains). After I ordered, Angelina asked if she could share the bottle with me.
That would have been enough of a shock since it would be, assuming she actually consumed some of the wine, the first time she had any alcohol on the trip.
That was not the more troubling aspect, unfortunately.
When I responded “Sure!” she looked directly at me and…
I pondered what I thought I had just seen and convinced myself that it did not happen.
Shortly thereafter, a foot was caressing my inner left calf.
I panned the table. Maggie and Anita were too far away. Brad, while still having the stupid half-grin on his face, was decidedly straight and he was just a few playing cards over five feet tall–there was no way his leg could reach if he wanted it to.
I contemplated turning to Ohmygod, but I immediately threw up a little in my mouth, which caused me to breathe through my nose. Yeah. Not good.
And she was now looking at me. I glanced at her. She awkwardly licked her lips like a five-year-old who had terribly chapped lips and was outwardly and violently ignoring all pleas for him to stop licking them.
It felt as though I was caught between disgust and an icky place with a slobbering Angelina across from me and a splayed-out Ohmygod my only avenue to try to get away from her. I contemplated simply standing up and leaving, but I had only just arrived and that would have appeared odd at best.
Before I could think of another option, the bottle of wine I ordered arrived, and being the anointed “wine guy” at the table, I was therefore required to stay and drink it. After I approved the wine, the server poured a full glass and left to attend to her other tables at which point Angelina slowly slid her empty glass toward me for me to fill it as well. The action was accompanied, unfortunately, with a bizarre look on her face. Given the under-the-table action, I assume it was meant to be alluring, but it was closer to being psychotic or a desperate attempt to delicately release some intestinal gas.
So I poured her some wine, which as anticipated, was quite nice, floral and vegetal with cherry, rose petals, and just a touch of bell pepper. Initially a bit linear, but followed by more fruit and a bit of intrigue.
Speaking of intrigue, fortunately, the leg tango underneath the table had stopped, at least momentarily, but the conundrum still existed. My choices: start up a conversation with the foot masseuse and or her lobotomized roommate, or remain silent, keep my head down, and drink myself into oblivion.
After plowing through half of the bottle, the foot was once again back. Powered by about 300ml of liquid courage, I got up and made my way inside the restaurant to the men’s room–I just needed to get away from the table and breathe through my nose again.
After a few moments of joyful solitude, I opened the door to leave my newfound tiny sanctuary, Brad was waiting outside. Had he seen what was going on under the table? Was this going to be some sort of confrontation?
I wasn’t worried. The guy was five foot two in cycling shoes, weighed about 93 pounds, and perpetually had dried snot on his face. So yeah, he was an adult in a fourth grader’s body. I was pretty sure I could take him.
He was still sporting the stupid little grin though, so I figured it was something else.
He started right in: “Angelina said she would have sex with me.”
Me (trying to feel excited for him, but knowing it would likely be the worst 37 seconds of his life): “Oh, that’s great!”
I almost asked him why the sudden turnaround, but I stopped, realizing the less I knew the better I would sleep.
But he went on: “She said she would do it under one condition.”
Not wanting to hear the rest, I started peering through the window at our table. Ohmygod was now standing on the bench, both hands raised, looking as if he were about to make a toast. He reached down for his beer, which caused him to lose his balance. As he struggled to remain upright, he bumped the table, causing my bottle of wine to teeter and then fall to its side, and then roll out onto the floor, at precisely that moment, Zoë, the former (current?) love of my life (who apparently was working after all–was she avoiding me, the little minx?), was passing our table with a tray of food. She tried to pivot to avoid the falling bottle, but this caused her to lose her balance, which sent her tray full of food crashing onto an adjacent table and its two patrons.
Before I could even gasp, Brad had one more thing to say:
“She said she would only have sex with me if you joined in and made it a threesome.”