Friday, August 20, 2004

my night alone as the mysterious american...

Dressed in a tiny lingerie inspired number that sent my mother into both shock and hysterics, I asked Alex if I looked like a hooker. He replied, "Umm, yeah. But a really high priced one." Perfect. My goal, you see, was to spend the evening entirely alone, drinking in the bar alone, then dining alone. As I'm normally terrified to actually sit at a restaurant and have a meal solo, I figured this would be a good way to face my fear. Plus, I'm in Hong Kong at a fancy hotel. This is my one chance to be the mysterious, stunning American girl and have everyone wonder about me.
Feeling slightly slutty, yet still quite fabulous, I entered the elevator to find a Hassidic Jewish man who refused to make eye-contact with me. Oh dear. Perhaps, the wrong choice of clothing. But it's too late now. Previous evenings, I've dropped down to "The Bar", The Peninsula's old school watering hole, and found it rather empty. It's a dark room overlooking the Harbor with a mahogany bar and Ella Fitzgerald in the background. Cleary, my kind of place. In anticipation of my solo evening, I'd tipped well the previous nights, and thankfully, it payed off. Last night, the bar was abnormally packed with a large group of Australlians in tuxedos, and as no tables were available, I was offered a seat at the bar. Fine by me, as I gave me a great vantage point and added to my mysterious quality. I pulled out my book, entitled "Absolutely American" and a pack of cigarettes. I mean, if I was free of the family and in the mood to create mysterious allusions, I was having a cigarette. I pulled out a Marlboro light and before I had a chance to even grab a match, a tuxedoed Australian had a lighter in my face. "Allow me."
How lovely. He offered nothing but a light and went to sit back down with his cronies. An older Indian man walked in, and was ushered to the bar as well. He pulled out a cigar and the obligitory Cigar Afficionado Magazine and went to work ignoring me. Not even the requisite nod to the only other person at the bar, and a woman at that. What an asshole. I did, however, notice his very real Rolex, as he knocked back 3 Tanq and tonics. Suddenly, the action picked up. In walks a tall, 40 year old, freakishly tan English guy, with Hugh Grant hair and designer duds. He sits at the far end of the bar, on the other side of the Indian, and orders something complicated and fabulous. I'm impressed and begin to watch him as he pulls out some businessy stuff and gets to work. The lovely bartendress, Inka, comes by often to check on me, and I take the opportunity to speak loudly so Hugh Grant can get an earful. Soon, he's looking over and making the eyes. He's so freakishly tan, I start to realize it's a fake tan, and that gets me thinking. How cool can you really be, if here you are, swanky british businessman in Hong Kong, and you apply self-bronzer? Not very. He then does the unthinkable. He flips his hair back. Clearly, if I'm playing out my fantasy of being the mysterious American, he's playing out his fantasy of being the debonaire Brit. I hope I'm pulling mine off better than him. He lifts his drink to me, and I see a flash of gold. A wedding ring! Ugh. get me out of here. But it's too late.
Now, he's refusing to even look at his work and is staring at me. I bury my head in "Absolutely American" and hope he asks for the check. Nope, he orders another round and comes and sits next to me. "Good book?"
"Uh, yeah." I reply.
"Ah, well I'm stuck with work, I'm afraid."
"That sucks." I attempt to appear like a disinterested teenager. It doesn't work. He continues. "Hong Kong is gorgeous, really, so I suppose if I had to be working anywhere, I'd work here."
"Oh." I reply. "Does it bother your wife that you're so far away, sitting in bars, or is she here as well?" He chuckles, clearly unaware that I can be far more scathing. "Ah, you're observant. Yeah, she's in London. Stuck here for months, working for Barclay's."
"Really, that's fascinating." I'm starting to find it rude he hasn't asked me a single question about myself. I have all kinds of prepared answers already made-up. He keeps talking. "The views are incredible, aren't they?"
No shit, Sherlock. "Um, yeah. Breathtaking." Then, he says it. "They're even better in my room."
"Check, please." I practically scream it across the room, so much so that Hugh is startled and leaps off the seat. "Sorry. Didn't mean to offend." And he runs back to his end of the bar. The Australians, who've apparently been watching the entire transaction, errupt into laughter. One even comes over as I'm signing the bill, pats me on the back and says, "A gal with sass. Are you sure you're not from Australia?" I smile and hold up my book. He chuckles heartilly, slaps me on the back again, and sists back down.
Slightly shaken, but now quite confident in my abilities, I saunter over to Chasa, some Swiss joint next to the bar. It's dark and wooden, with german phrases all over the walls. This, I think to myself, is what I'd imagine the Officer's Club at Auchwitz to look like. I'm seated at a table in the middle of the room, and make my observations. There are several tables of Asian businessmen, dining and drinking loudly, and paying me little to no mind. And then, the rest of the tables are filled with couples. I'm hardly mysterious to anyone in here, and while I'm a little bummed, I've had my fill for the night and peruse the menu. Turns out, Swiss food is basically German food, and as I can't really pull of having fondue by myself, I opt for a salad and the foie gras. The salad is fine, although huge, but the foie gras is really just a giant piece of liver. Giant. Like something used in medical school exams. I'm terrified, yet have no one to pass it off to. The maitre'd is the only one remotely concerned with me, and he comes over constantly to check on me. "You no like-uh?"
"Oh, no, no. It's lovely. Just so much." He smiles, and sends over a tray of petit fours. I eat my chocolates and drink my latte and watch the restaurant empty. As it's now 10, I'm relatively drunk, exhausted, and feel I've certainly overcome my fear, I sign the bill, and head for the room. I survived my night alone as the mysterious American, and while I hardly has the Lost in Translation experience I was hoping for, I think I did quite well.


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