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-Five), I went across town to my favorite restaurant in Gent for a nice quiet evening alone only to find the entire entourage seated at a table. They had read my review of the establishment on Yelp and figured that is where I would be eating. Shortly after being served the wine, I excused myself to go to the bathroom where I was propositioned. By Brad. For a ménage-à-trois with Angelina.
I am not a big fan of surprises, particularly those that will cause you to stay awake at night for fear that if you were able to fall asleep, your subconscious would take the opportunity to warp that surprise into something far more sinister. But even the inner machinations of my twisted mind were not ready for the ménage-à-trois proposition. I pride myself on being able to use the right words in most occasions, but this one was simply not in the manual.
I stood there for what seemed like days, with Brad staring up at me with the bright eyes of expectation, as if he had just asked Santa for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. There was only one “right” answer: “Hell, no!” (yes, I thought about adding “It will poke your eye out!” but that seemed out of place) but this guy had spent a fair amount of money, had made more passes than Dan Marino only to have Angelina shoot him down as efficiently as the Red Baron (that is enough cultural references for one paragraph).
Luckily, the chaos of the situation (spilled wine, food everywhere, my future bride sprawled out on the floor) provided enough cover to enable a bit of introspection. How the heck would I extract myself from this? If I flatly refused with all the fervor that it deserved, Brad’s “balloon” might deflate beyond repair. It might also strain my already tenuous relationship with Angelina, who was my responsibility, as were all the clients, for the rest of the week.
But if I assented? Ewwwww.
As Zoë scraped herself off the floor, our eyes somehow met across the chaos of the restaurant, through the window, and out onto the terrace. At first, I detected a warmness, an indication that she recognized me and that it was a pleasant memory. But not even a heartbeat later, she seemed to realize that I was a part of the group that caused her current state of embarrassment, resulting in the steeliest of gazes, slicing me nearly in two. If I had ovaries, I would have felt them instantly harden up, with no hope of ever procreating.
Averting her murderous gaze, I turned to Brad and I said, meekly, “Let me think about it.”
What was I thinking? There was no way on this green (and increasingly browning) earth that I would be anywhere close to the two of them in a bedroom alone, leave aside the prospect of them also being naked. In fact, there was a better chance that I would use arsenic as a mouthwash or a chainsaw for a toothbrush. So why did I not just say that?
I am an idiot.
Brad appeared oddly satisfied with my response, perhaps expecting an outright refusal (if not a punch in the neck). In fact, I could have sworn that he muttered “So there is a chance!” under his breath, giving a slight fist-pump as he did so.
Not wanting to probe his state of mind in the slightest, I quickly made my way across the interior of the restaurant and back out to our table, hoping I could help remedy the calamity that had just occurred. Before I was even within twelve feet of the crime scene, Zoë, who was down on one knee picking up the large shards of porcelain and glass, without even remotely looking in my direction, extended her left arm toward me with her palm facing outward as if she were a traffic cop demanding my car to come to a complete and immediate stop.
Zoë then let forth a bit of a diatribe without ever looking directly at me, calling me and our group just about every expletive possible without taking a breath for what seemed like six minutes.
At least that is what I imagine she said–I did not understand a word, as she was speaking Flemish. I think.
I stood there and took it, nodding apologetically, with my most sincere empathetic gaze. After she had finished picking up the remnants of our neighboring table’s aborted dinner, she stormed past me without the slightest glance on her way back indoors to the kitchen.
There was nothing else to do but return to our table and resume the evening. As I was about to sit back down at the picnic-style table and bench, another employee from the restaurant showed up with a broom, a mop, and a dust pan to render the area as clean as possible. This required all at our table to rise so that he could go about our task.
All except Ohmygod, of course, who, by inexplicably standing up on the bench, bumped the table and thus served as the catalyst for the entire episode, had sat back down, clearly affected by the preceding events. He was staring intently at his half-consumed beer on which he was applying a death grip with two hands. He was holding it so firmly, in fact, that his knuckles had lost almost all their color, as if he were a brakeman on a San Francisco cable car that was screaming out of control downhill and he was trying desperately to bring it to a stop. I watched him for what seemed like five minutes as the area gradually returned to its pre-catastrophe state. He did not move an iota, he did not blink, and perhaps most surprisingly, he did not take a single sip of beer.
It was not until the group had all resettled at the table that he was once again able to take a sip from his beer. Well, it was not exactly a “sip” as he downed what I estimated to be several healthy shots of the remaining half of a liter in about three gulps. Having drained the beer, he slammed it to the table as if he were in a fraternity drinking contest, which was followed by a healthy belch. “Healthy” as in thirty-seven seconds.
The rest of the meal was, at best, uneventful. On the “reboot” since we had only ordered drinks to that point, I moved to the far end of the table, away from Brad, Angelina, and, of course, Ohmygod, and no one seemed to mind (they likely figured that it was a veteran move to get away from the stench that was Ohmygod–I would have to remember to require that he shower again).
Ordering went rather quickly as there were only three options, which would normally still be an issue for Ohmygod, but he seemed to be still traumatized by the prospect of losing his beer, so when it was his turn to order, he just pointed at the first item on the menu and grunted.
The wait for our meals was exceptionally long, though, which I am not sure was a result of a particularly busy weeknight or of a particularly angry head server. (That would be my former-future bride, Zoë. Although she was not the server for our table, she did have several conversations with our waiter, gesticulating angrily while staring at Ohmygod.) Speaking of Zoë, I tried to make eye contact with her on several occasions, but she was either making a valiant effort to intentionally ignore me, she already considered me among the dead, or she really had no idea who I was, having no recollection of seeing me prior to this ill-fated night.
I struggled to determine which theory I wanted to espouse.
I opted for the first, since I was not yet willing to give up on our pending nuptials.
Yes, the glass is always half full (or at least a few hopefully tasty drops left).
Dinner eventually came (as did several additional bottles of wine, naturally), and the meal went off without much of a hitch, particularly since Ohmygod had unwittingly ordered a steak. He opted to eat it with his hands, as he had been doing with all his meals since the beginning of the week. He ate it as one might eat a hot sandwich: he picked it up with both hands, taking a bite with a rather violent twist of the head as he ripped away a hunk of flesh (somewhat reminiscent of an animal in the wild), returning the remaining portion to his plate after every bite–no doubt since it was still quite hot. He would then proceed to wipe his hands on his cycling jersey, which was sporting the stains of nearly three weeks of dining, as his napkin remained neatly folded under the knife and fork to the immediate left of his plate.
As I rose from the table to go pay the bill, I scanned the restaurant looking for Zoë, but she was nowhere to be found. Instead, I stupidly made eye contact with Angelina, who promptly winked as she opened her mouth and slid her tongue out.
I had to come up with a plan. Any plan to avoid that situation. I figured I would suggest to the group that we go out for a beer (or seven) at one of the many bars we would encounter as we returned to the hotel; Gent is a rather vibrant college town and is therefore littered with countless night spots. I could then feign going to the restroom at some point, and stealthily slip away, hoping to get back to the hotel unnoticed.
There were still four nights left to the trip, though, and even if my rather crude “plan” for the night before me somehow worked, I worried that it was not a long-term solution. I knew at some point I would have to tell Brad that I would rather be slowly eaten alive by a thousand fire ants than see either one of them naked.
I probably wouldn’t put it quite that way, though.
As I returned to the table, our server was trying to clear the last of the dessert plates, but was thwarted by Ohmygod, who had amassed all the empty plates and was in the process of literally licking them clean. Oh. My. God.
As expected, the suggestion to go grab a beer was greeted with enthusiasm, particularly by Adonis (who no doubt wanted to pick up some of the local “talent” as he liked to say at every single opportunity) and Ohmygod (for obvious reasons). Brad and Angelina seemed less enthusiastic as they were perhaps more interested in getting along with their plans for the evening. Plans that involved me. Plans that I had no intention of executing.
As we started to meander back through town, Brad was essentially my shadow (albeit a very short version). Although he never spoke, it was clear that he wanted to be as close to me as possible should I decide to provide a response to his earlier proposition. Not far from him was, of course, Angelina, who also had a vested interest in any opinion I might express.
We settled on a wine bar along the main drag in town, which solved two issues: I would be able to have a decent glass of wine while I planned my escape and Ohmygod continued on his merry way, stating that he had “already drank enough wine for a lifetime on this trip.” He scampered off into the night with the hope of finding some Canadian beer (which, one could argue, he had already consumed enough for a lifetime on the trip, too) since he was “tired of all this German crap” (I did not make the effort to express that they had actually been Belgian beers–we would not be in Germany for another couple of days).
After my first glass of a very tasty sparkling Vouvray, I decided to have another glass since I was having a rather nice conversation with Anita (it was closer to a mon-versation as she still had no real interest in hearing what I had to say, but at least she was not just talking about herself), and Brad and Angelina seemed to have disappeared, at least for the moment.
After that second glass, however, Anita started in on how absolutely magnificent she was at some particular skill (I had stopped paying attention, so I really do not know what it might have been–skeet shooting? Who cares…), and I thought I should bolt lest Brad and Angelina return demanding an answer.
As I left the bar, I saw Adonis sitting among a bevy of what appeared to be female college students. He was also flanked by Paul, who I think was trying to act as Adonis’ wing man, and Maggie, who was the epitome of a third wheel. When she ascertained that I was leaving (and likely realizing that she was not in Adonis’ plans for the evening [or any evening for that matter]), she left from her stool and followed me out the door.
When I told her that I was heading back to the hotel, she seemed relieved and started walking with me. This was a very good thing since not only could she provide cover in case we ran into Brad and Angelina, she also had a better sense of direction than I (but that is a very low bar) and no doubt would cut the amount of time it would take me to get back to the hotel by at least 50%.
I thought about running my conundrum by her to get her take on how I might rectify the situation, but instead I decided that if I actively ignored it, it just might go away.
Yeah, I really thought that.