I remember the first time I saw her. It was a Saturday in November – point of fact it was Neil Young’s birthday. One of my best friends, Brian, was such a serious fan that every year he’d host Neil’s Birthday Bash, at which the entire discography – Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse, CSN&Y, weird soundtracks for Jim Jarmusch films…everything – would be played in chronological order. Neil was, acording to Brian, invited each year but had thus far failed to show. There was always a big crowd, a wide variety of people and the party would last the better part of two days. Neil has made a lot of records.

Deja Vu had just hit the turntable (that’s right, all vinyl until the Gold Anniversary Edition) when she walked in with her friends. It wasn’t that they were all drop dead gorgeous or anything like that…they were very attractive, well dressed, Ivory Girl-lookin’ smiles and nice hair…and there were four of them.

I was standing at the far end of the entrance hall, wedged in the doorway to the kitchen, when the front door opened. A beautiful blonde head peeked through, as if to confirm she was at the right address, then turned back and spoke as the door swung in. The blonde stepped inside and moved just to the left as another girl, also very pretty with jet black hair, followed her through the door and stepped to the right. Two more girls behind them. I wondered where the inevitable boyfriends were. Four pretty, young women at an “All Neil, All The Time” party? Seemed unlikely…I love Neil, but they ain’t playin’ Rust Never Sleeps in the clubs for a reason.

The final two girls were partially hidden from me as they all began removing their coats. It’s interesting to watch someone take their first bearings in a strange place – it’s very telling. Do they immediately begin introducing themselves to strangers? Do they shrink back into a corner, watching and waiting for a known face? I caught a glimpse of the third girl. One of them said something and she laughed as she doffed her coat. Long, thick red hair and sparkling green eyes…some Celtic sweetness with a contagious laugh.

As they hung their coats, I saw her. Dark, dark brown hair, with almond eyes and a big smile. Something quiet and mischievous in her eyes – it was her comment that set Red giggling. The eyes. I can’t even tell you what she was wearing. I recall perfectly what the other girl’s were wearing – can close my eyes and see them come through that door like I’m watching a videotape. But all I remember clearly of my first glimpse of her is her eyes and her smile. The way she smiled at me when she saw me looking at her…which is exactly what happened. I saw her and was hypnotized. She noticed me staring and smiled. The three other girls followed her eyes…there I stood, at the end of the hall, unblinking. The three of them burst out laughing and pulled the smile off into the living room. Well done. First impression, take two? Damn.

There were a lot of people at the party and I didn’t see her or her friends again for awhile. Brian had a pool table in his basement, so I went to see about scaring up a game. When I got downstairs some guy with more money than talent had just won his second game of nine-ball and was yammering through his scotch that he’d play anyone in the house for twenty dollars a rack. One of the nice things about Brian’s parties is the sheer number of strangers. This guy didn’t know who was in the house.

I decided to watch for a few minutes, grabbed a beer from the cooler and quietly leaned against the wall. Nodded to another fellow I recognized from the downtown somewhere…couldn’t remember exactly who he was…just as the loudmouth fluked the nine to win again, whining that there wasn’t anyone willing to play for money. Then the guy I didn’t recognize pointed at me and said, “You play him.”

As soon as he spoke, I recognized him. He had stood and watched me shoot pool one night in a seedy little club downtown. I won five race-to-seven matches at $50 per, at one point running five consecutive racks while he watched. Afterwards he bought me a beer and complimented my game.

Growing up around snooker tables tends to raise the level of one’s game a bit above that of the average bar player. Not that I’m a pro…it’s just very likely that I’m better than you are. I didn’t want to get into a money game with a drunk at my friends party, so I just shook my head. But then two things happened. The first was that he began a muttered, drunken tirade almost on par with something you’d expect out of Mike Tyson.

“Buncha fuckin’ pussies…nobody man enough to put a few dollars up against me on a game of pool. Sad ass party…no fuckin’ women…Neil Young SUCKS!”

Now, it’s one thing to be a drunken asshole. It’s another thing to insult Neil Young. It’s yet another thing to insult Neil on his birthday, at a party given in his honour, while Deja Vu is playing. I mean…talk about bad form! That was one thing he did.

The other thing that happened was I spotted those four beautiful istanbul escort young girls. And SHE was looking right at the asshole. And she wasn’t smiling. Having had the pleasure of seeing her smile and now witnessing her not smile, I realized that I was exceedingly displeased with anyone who would make her stop smiling. So I asked the asshole how much he wanted to play for.

“How much you got?” He grinned.

“Name your price, pal, it’s your table. If your stakes are too steep, I ain’t playing.”

“Well, how about $20 a rack? I don’t wanna take ALL your money.”

I pulled a cue off the wall and began racking the balls. “Lemme let you in on a little secret. The reason I don’t want to play for more money is because you shouldn’t be playing me for money at all. You aren’t good enough. And I’ll tell you something else, too…I would have walked away and not bothered with this at all, but you made her…,” I pointed over at the my unsmiling beauty, “…stop smiling. For that crime, you’re gonna have to part with some cash.”

He positioned the cue ball for his break. “Is that so? I’ll play you for whatever you want, big man,” he goaded me.

“Your break,” I replied. “Don’t miss.”

I walked over and introduced myself to her. Pam. Pamela. She was smiling again.

“Are you really playing him because I stopped smiling?” Pam asked.

“I doubt he’s going to take losing very well, so I needed a good reason.”

Mr. Personality had made a ball on the break, but missed his shot. I looked at the table and congratulated him on the break – nothing frozen, nothing on the rails. Eight shots later, he was down $20, racking the balls and muttering about how, “… anyone could have run that table out.”

Pam whispered, “Nice shooting,” and touched me on the arm as I took a swig from my beer. She was still smiling.

“So long as you keep smiling, I’ll keep knocking balls in the holes.”

My break. I made two balls, but it was going to be a very difficult table to play. Three balls had jammed up together…the one, eight and nine…leaving no way to make the one-ball. Now, when you have absolutely no reasonable shot, it’s interesting to consider what will happen if you just wail the hell out of it. If you know your angles, you can predict where the balls are likely to go. Looking at this little mess it appeared to me that if I hit it good and hard, the nine-ball would be thrown two rails…pretty damn close to a kiss off the seven-ball and into the side pocket. A natural. A damn complicated natural…most folks would never look for it, much less see it.

You don’t have to call your shots in the game of nine-ball, but Mr. Personality was already down $20 and drunk, so I figured I’d mention it. “Nine, two rails off the seven.” When balls are frozen like that, there’s not much you can do except hit them hard or easy, but I didn’t want to appear too cavalier about it. I feathered the shot, struck it…nine-ball, two rails, off the seven. Minus $40, and racking the balls again.

Pam was wide-eyed. “That was an amazing shot!” she exclaimed, “You’re really good at this game!”

“Actually, that was nothing more than a fluke I could see coming,” I admitted, “but you’re right, I am good at this game.” I laughed and Pam touched me on the arm again. I was beginning to hope Mr. Personality had a lot of money.

Pam and I were making small talk: What are you studying, who do you know at the party, where are you from…that sort of thing. Mr. Personality was itchy to get on with it, so he hollered across the table, “Come on! I haven’t got all day to wait for you to get lucky again!”

“Excuse me one moment,” I smiled at Pam, “I’ll be right back.”

I walked to the table and took my time positioning the cue ball – just a couple of inches from the side rail at the baulk line. Solid contact on the one-ball…ideally the one goes in the opposite side pocket, the nine maybe finds a corner, white hangs in the middle of the table so you have a shot. The break shot sounded like a lightning bolt. As the balls caromed around the table the yellow stripes rolled slowly toward the corner and dropped.

“That’s $60,” I said, “Rack ’em.”

I walked back over to Pam. “Sorry to have been gone so long.”

She looked me straight in the eye and smiled. I was hypnotized again. She started to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” I asked

She just looked over my shoulder and then down. I turned to see her three friends, the redhead mimicking me for the other two, here eyes wide open and unblinking…rocking back and forth on her heels like a zombie. The other two were laughing, even harder when they saw me watching.

“They’ve been teasing me about you ever since we got here,” Pam whispered.

“Sorry about that. But you must be used to men staring at you. You’re really quite breathtaking.”

“They’re teasing me because I didn’t give you my Ice Queen look and ignore you.”

“HEY!” Mr. avcılar escort Personality was apparently lonely. “Are you gonna talk or shoot pool?”

“You’re in an awful hurry to part with money I haven’t even seen yet, buddy…are you sure you can afford to gamble like this?” Nothing shuts up a sore loser faster than asking him to prove he can afford to cover his loses. Now he has to actually pull out some cash and wave it around in order to get me to keep playing. He threw a $100 bill on the table.

“More of that’s mine than yours,” I said, “is that all you’ve got?”

He threw another hundred on the table. “And there’s more where that came from,” he sputtered arrogantly.

I smiled. “You won’t need any more than that. $200 is my going rate for lessons. When you’ve lost that, you’re done.”

“Shut up and break,” he snarled, “we’ll see who gets whose money.”

And we did. Three racks and one double-or-nothing wager later, Mr. Personality was two hundred dollars poorer and hopefully more respectful of the talent that is Neil Young. Pam’s smile was back, too and beyond my wildest hopes, focused in my direction.

“So…show me the Ice Queen look,” I grinned at Pam, as I grabbed us each another drink, “and what do I have to do to deserve it?”

Pam laughed. “The Ice Queen look is reserved for men who stare at us like we’re rotating on a spit and they haven’t eaten in a week. It’s one thing to be looked at…all women like to be noticed…but it’s another thing to have a total stranger stare at you like a piece of meat. When that happens, I usually just look right back, like I wouldn’t use him to scrape off my shoe, and then walk away.”

“Is that how I was looking at you…like you were a piece of meat?”

“No,” Pam smiled again. Ahhh, that smile. “There was something different about the way you looked at me. You looked at me like…like you had never even seen a woman before. I didn’t feel threatened or objectified at all…I felt…flattered and…I don’t know how really…but just…pretty.”

“Well, I fooled you,” I leaned in close and lowered my voice, “I was totally undressing you with my eyes and thinking to myself, ‘Now THERE is one hot little hunk of love.'”

Pam burst out laughing. She knew better. “Actually,” she said, “that’s exactly what Alison and Megan have been calling you since we got here. Over and over again, ‘Pam…where’s your big hunk of love?’ They’re so used to me not giving guys a chance, when they saw me smile at you they were shocked.”

“So why did you smile at me? My skill as a pool hustler was still a secret…I was just standing there looking like an idiot.”

“Why are you asking why?” Pam leaned into me, “Some questions don’t have answers.”

Lady has a point, I thought. Whatever her reason for smiling at me, might it always be so.

Pam and I sat and talked for the next three hours…about everything. School, politics, music, relationships, jobs, family, home towns…the conversation flowed easily. She looked me in the eye the whole time. There was not a single uncomfortable silence, not one awkward moment. It was like spending time with an old and dear friend I’d only just met.

We finished our drinks, the last of many, and Pam asked if I felt like getting something to eat. I was starving and two hundred dollars richer, so I told her that dinner was on me. We grabbed our coats and without saying a word to anyone walked out into the crisp night air. Rather than hail a cab, we decided to walk. It was one of those clear, late autumn nights. You could see your breath, but it wasn’t too cold. As we walked, she slipped her hand into my coat pocket and laced her fingers through mine.

Pam leaned into me, playfully shoving me offstride, “What made you stare at me like that when we came into the party?”

How do you answer a question like that? I opted for the truth…heck…might work. “I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to flatter you, which would be fine, I’m really just telling you what I thought at the time. When you and your friends walked in I thought, ‘There’s a group of pretty girls…wonder where their boyfriends are?’ But when I saw you, I stopped thinking entirely. I just…sort of…froze. I mean…I’m sure guys tell you how beautiful you are…but what got me was your eyes. I was almost hypnotized. I think I even knew that I was staring like an idiot…I just couldn’t stop.”

I felt Pam squeeze my hand inside my pocket. “You can look at me like that anytime.”

We walked quietly through the streets, talking about nothing in particular until we were in front of one of the ritzier hotels in the city.

“Since the meal’s on Mr. Personality,” I said, “I don’t think we ought to let him skimp on some cheap, greasy diner food. I think it’s only fitting, after his coarse behaviour this evening, that his money be well spent in a more refined setting than his sort is likely to appreciate, much less be permitted entry.”

We went in. Unfortunately, şirinevler escort ritzy hotels are not generally in the business of operating their finer dining establishments at freakish hours of the night. The restaurant was closed. I was disappointed and made a mildly sarcastic comment about starving hotel guests, to which the desk clerk snootily replied that twenty-four hour room service was available to the hotel guests.

“Coffee and donuts?” I asked.

“No, Sir,” he dripped, “the full menu is available to our guests after hours. Just not to the public.”

“Why didn’t you say so? We’ll take a room and a menu. Do you accept cash?”

Pam burst out laughing. “You’re not going to get a room just to eat!”

“Sure I am. I want something to eat from that restaurant. Only way we get it is to rent a room, so I’m renting a room. Mr. Personality is not getting off without having his money utterly squandered!”

Desk Clerk was nonplussed at this display of extravagence. “I’m sorry, Sir, but we have nothing available at the moment.”

Sometimes you get something in your mind and you can’t let it go. It would have been an easy thing to simply say, “Okay,” and walk away, but I seemed to be in a mood for jousting. Neil’s birthday always brings out the best in people.

I put my palms on the counter and looked straight at Desk Clerk. “You have nothing available?”

“Booked full, Sir.”

His tone was enough to inspire momentary fantasies that would make Sam Peckinpah nauseous, but who needs to be cleaning up that sort of mess on Neil’s birthday?

I spoke slowly and very quietly.

“If the manager of this hotel walked in here right now and told you that he needed a room, would HE get a room?”

“Well, of course, Sir. He’s the manager.”

“It’s 3:30 in the morning, buddy…the manager ain’t coming. I’ll take HIS room.”

I put the two hundred on the counter and waited. The desk clerk looked at me, looked at the money and then reached for a key. He asked if there was anything else, so I asked for a menu. With that in hand, Pam and I strolled over to the elevators.

“That was interesting.” Pam grinned. “‘He’s not coming, I’ll take his room.’…do you always get what you want?”

“Not always,” I replied, “but if you try sometimes, you just might find…you get what you need, oh yeah…”

We sang along to the Rolling Stones as the elevator doors closed. The last thing I saw was the look on the face of the clerk. He looked certain that in a matter of moments, for some as yet unknown reason, our neighbours would be calling him to complain. But it was too late for that, now – we had the key and his fate was no longer within his own control..

I’ve never been in hotel room I thought was worth the money they charged for it. This one was no exception. Hotel’s are hotel’s. Unless you’re in the high roller suite in Vegas, they’re all pretty much the same. Couple of double beds, big colour television…one nice feature, though, was a separate huge bathtub and shower stall, all marble.

While I scanned the menu, Pam flipped on the television and began scanning around the channels. She sort of coughed and yelped when she found the pay-per-view porno previews. They trailers didn’t show much, but Pam was watching.

“Call up and order one if you want, Pam,” I laughed. You look like you’ve never seen a porn film before.”

“I haven’t,” Pam said, “ever. Alison took one from her boyfriend’s place once and we were going to watch it, but then they had this huge fight and she pulled the tape out of the cassette before we ever did.”

“Well, here’s your chance, doll,” I laughed, “If you wanna watch a porno movie, fill your boots.”

There was that mischievous look in her eye again. She took it almost as a dare.

“What would you think of me if I ordered up a porno movie. I’m already in a hotel room with you and we just met tonight. How did you get me up here anyway?”

“Food,” I groaned, “I enticed you up here with offers of food.”

Pam reached for the phone. “I’m ordering a movie!”

“Not before I order food!” I dove for the phone and snatched it out of her reach.

A few minutes later we were waiting for pan fried scallops in white wine sauce, strawberries and cream and a chilled bottle of champagne. Pam was flipping through the porno trailers trying to appear discerning in her selection. I began to tease her.

“That one looks like a gloomy period piece…probably has subtitles….That one was panned by all the critics for having a shallow plot….I think that one was nominated for the Palm D’or at Cannes….That one won a Grammy for the wahwah-pedal guitar soundtrack: chuka woka chuka woka….”

Pam was laughing out loud. “You pick one!” She tossed the remote to me.

“Me? You’re the one who wants to watch porno! I’m here for the scallops!”

Pam slid up next to me on the bed and sprawled across the mattress. “Do you watch porno?”

“I’ve seen a few. Bachelor parties, you know.”

“Sure…” the sarcasm just dripping, “…bachelor parties. Wouldn’t rent one yourself. Perfectly fine for other people. I bet you have a collection at home!” She was grinning at me with those eyes again.

I picked up the remote and began flipping through the selections. “Got it…got it…need it…got it…got it…need it…need it….”

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