Okay, I'm sorry. I know. I went MIA. But, wait baby, don't go--I'm back. And, even after that inexcusable absence, The Wingman Chronicles is back with me, returning for its final installment (for now). Reliable future posting, and an explanation of my disappearance, to follow.
Thus far The Wingman Chronicles have delivered us blues-singer sex, Ivy Leaguers on balconies, a free strip club romp and a shameful home invasion perpetrated against an award-winning actor. There's only one way to trump all that for this, the final part of the chronicles:
The Night of the Midnight Oysters crossed over into new territory, requiring one maneuver I'd never tried in flight school. I'd heard legend of the controversial move, a socially dangerous combination of laziness and perfectly calibrated match-making, but never dared try it: A Double Wingmanning? Mythic, beyond me, like the Five-Point Exploding Heart Technique or a public health care option.
Ariel was, of course, the ideal partner for the last piece of my official reintroduction to the wild, a "low key" night she declared would be run, casually, on her terms. (RED FLAG: Ariel metabolizes gin the way normal people do Vitamin C. So unless you're Keith Richards or Liza Minnelli, "low key" may be misleading...)
Due to a random work commitment, Ariel, two gay pals and myself were forced to begin our evening in what is the New York social equivalent of Dante's hell: an 80s prom re-creation/dance party set in the upper level of a bridge-and-tunnel cesspool on the LES. Bitter but motivated, we (the only attendees not dressed in stretch fabrics) did what any dedicated band of Saturday night revelers (who make under $40K annually) can do in such situations--roll in with flasks and an hour's tolerance for drunk bachelorettes dueting Bon Jovi covers with actors crammed in a fake varsity jackets.
The night thankfully took a turn for the better at midnight (after we escaped the club, stealing a bounty of Ring Pops in the process), when Ariel decided New York City had but one jewel worth seeking, one orgasmic drug to be ingested: raw seafood.
"Oysters?" I half-protested as she grabbed my wrist, leading us down a side street. Her chin was tilted slightly upwards, a gesture midway between militant defiance and a hungry pit bull sniffing the air. This was followed by an even more skeptical "the Meatpacking District??" when she Pied Pipered me (the gays dropped out at the first suggestion of oysters, heading off in search of a very different kind of briny valve...) onto Gansevoort Street. "We're going to spend our night in the fucking Meatpacking District?"
"No," Ariel called calmly, ignoring my distain as I stumbled (literally...WHY are the streets cobblestone in a stretch of city that heavily trafficked by stilettos??) behind her. "We are going to spend our 'fucking' night with really good oysters."
Just then, my phone rang. James was on the line.
James is a blue-eyed, dark-haired professional modern dancer who happens to be my sister's ex-boyfriend. Having amicably parted from sis several years ago (actually she broke up with him in a not so savvy way--I told her she was crazy, then made it clear I was still hanging out with him whether she liked it or not), and having carefully sculpted himself a body ready for the pages of Why Wear Clothes At All? magazine, this laid-back Adonis was recently snatched up by a high-profile celebrity trainer. He now travels the globe shaping the bodies of blockbuster action heroes and willowy indie-ingenues, occasionally landing in NYC (though not nearly enough).
[Fun Fact: James drinks a gallon of whole milk every 1-3 days. He needs an extra-large refridgerator to support his crippling dairy addiction, which I find hilarious since his clients usually end up on strict "no sugar, no dairy" diets. Meanwhile, their Personal Jane Fonda's secretly got a cow's udder running teat-juice intravenously into his heart-stoppingly chiseled biceps. I digress...]
James got into NYC that night just in time to inform me that A) he was looking for a good time, B) it was his BIRTHDAY and C) he was hoping I was free, because his birthdays "always suck" and he needed a wingman. After emphasizing to Ariel his epic existential sulk about a shit string of birthdays, she agreed to make our duo a trio.
"He's pretty," she also commented, off-handedly, when he met us shortly thereafter.
"And a giver, according to my sister."
"I didn't mean it like that," Ariel, ever-stoic and emotionless, said. "Too young. Too pretty." A pregnant pause. "Oysters."
Not to get all Proustian and shit...but Proust wrote, upon tasting his first madeline: ..."a shudder rain through me, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that had happened to me. An exquisite pleasure invaded my sense, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin."
That's what that first oyster was like.
Before Ariel paraded us into that French brasserie, I'd never had an oyster. Despite growing up on the shore, and maybe because of the year I once spent shucking be-shelled tongue-surfers for a clientele of frat boys and local businessmen at a local Hooters, I'd managed to go 26 years without tasting one. I know...not a big deal.
But for some reason--be it the company, the three carafes of red wine consumed, the gentle reminder I've seen and experienced so little that even nights begun at a faux-80s prom can be righted--when that first salty, squirming nubbin of satin protein swam down my throat in a flourish of brine and lemon, an unjaded piece of me stirred. It was like The Awakening (only instead of walking into the ocean like a suicidal bitch at the end I sucked down bougie shellfish...but you get the point).
The combination of oysters and wine slammed into my brain like a bag of Columbian narcotics.
"Dancing!" I declared. "We must dance! We must drink! We must drink from the cup of life!"
"You must stop talking like that," Ariel said, wearily, from across a mound of empty shells.
"No, she's right. We should dance," James chimed in, eyeing Ariel. "It's my birthday."
Having blown a week's worth of responsibly budgeted cash on bivalves and wine, we had to do continue the night on the cheap...which meant hiking across the city to the one bar where we could dance, and drink, for free because Ariel knows the bartender. A schizophrenic half lounge/half sports bar boozehole in Murray Hill isn't really our scene, but if you want to shake your hips with a strong drink in hand for free at 2:30am, anyplace will do.
Especially if you roll in with a gorgeous professional dancer on your arm, one who commandingly twirled, spun, lifted, arched and salsa-ed (alternately and, more impressively, simultaneously) with Ariel and I while pounding back birthday beverages.
Until three large, bejeweled, slightly terrifying hoodrats interrupted us.
"Hey, yo, my man," the leader, a 6' thug with a flat-brimmed BROOKLYN cap and a Puerto Rican flag jersey on, said to James. He was rubbing one hand suggestively around his chest, that creepy motion which signals heartburn more than sexual prowess if you're anyone but LL Cool J circa "Doin' It." "You bein' greedy, my man. You can't keep both these beautiful girls to yourself. Bro's gotta share." His wingmen nodded in agreement.
"Well, bro, it actually looks like I can?" James answered without hesitation, drawing both Ariel and myself into his hips. "Because you're the guys with no one to dance with."
I fell mildly in love with him at that moment.
But I also saw the exit strategy, the move that left me capably in my element--manipulating social retards--while Wingman One and Wingman Two, intoxicated and by now flirting shamelessly despite Ariel's "too young, too pretty" mantra, were left as a pair. You're takin' one for the team, so your friend can live the dre-ee-eam....
"Papi," I said to Alpha Male Interloper, extending my elbow and leading him away from the pack. "I like your hat. See, I need a little Brooklyn help? I just moved into the 'hood and am pretty sure my white ass is going to get shot..."
Half an hour later, my new friend "JoJo" had called his dogs off James and Ariel, bought me a drink, taught me how to properly haggle with empanada vendors in Bushwick (3 for $5 is standard) and given me the number of his weed dealer. (Uh, thanks Jojo.) More importantly, my wingmen had been dancing. With their hips very close. Without Ariel coming over once to tap out. I eventually thanked Jojo, gave him a kiss on the cheek, took his number (deleted it the next day) and headed to the dance floor to approach my duo.
"Guys, I'm sooooooo drunk," I (half) lied. "We have to get out of here."
"'kay, you'll shtay with me, right?" Ariel slurred, subtly, to me.
"Only if you help me convince Birthday Boy to come back with us."
Her eyes narrowed.
"I know what yerrr doing," Ariel hissed in my ear as we started staggering out of the bar, James a few steps behind.
"Doing? What do you mean?"
"He's too young. And pretty. I don't do young and pretty," she protested.
Right. Cuz chiseled virile reciprocating oral-sexers are such a bad idea.
"I know." I hailed a cab.
"No, but for really. Heeees sleeping on the futon with you," Ariel declared.
"Sure. Hey, Birthday Boy! Get your ass in this cab..."
It took precisely seven minutes for both of them to disappear into her bedroom when we arrived in Queens. It doesn't matter who shut the door.
I myself pulled out the futon, my Queensian home away from home, poured myself a trough of water and turned on the television, peeling off my tights and dress while Planet Earth annointed the Midngith Oysters with a vibrant array of sea creatures (including an octopus that could run on two of its eight legs, which is fucking awesome). All the while I was smugly thinking: I wingmanned my wingman my wingman. Mission, even if done so lazily, accomplished.
The next day, back in Brooklyn, vowing to lay off the expensive socializing until I jump into the next tax bracket, I mused on The Chronicles. What, exactly, had been the point? Originally it had been to re-socialize myself after five years of sequestered nesting in suburbia, but...honestly, on some level I knew it was all shallow, booze-soaked behavior that meant nothing in the scope of the universe.
Then, later that day, two texts came in:
JAMES: Best. Birthday. Ever. Missed you. Miss you.
ARIEL: Well played, Wingman. Welcome back.
Ah, there it was.
Good to be back.
Good to be back.