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2006-04-14 - 1:48 p.m.

This is going to make me sound much more exciting than I actually am, but check this out! Or, just check this out:

Six of us--three couples--had beers at the Admiral's Cup in Fell's Point last night, from about 7 to 10:30. About four beers in, we got bored with regular drinking and so we played quarters, not the kind where you bounce them in the cups, but the kind where you just sort of flick them in from the edge of the table. So we're playing quarters outside at this bar. And then this woman, about 35 or so, with lots of makeup, dressed in going-out clothes, came up to our table.

"Hi. My name's Kim and you guys are having a lot more fun than we're having over there," she said, nodding behind her to the three guys she was with. "Can I take a shot?"

And she did, and on the fifth try, she made one and made Nate drink the beer. We asked her where she was from and she said Tennessee. We asked her what she was doing in Baltimore and she said she was there for the Miss USA or Miss America pageant, which is at the old Baltimore Arena downtown, presumably this weekend. The three guys she was with were from Delaware, Kansas, and some other midwestern place. They were judges and I asked about Maryland they said she had no shot and Nate asked about Oregon and she had no shot and these people were referencing Miss Oregons and Marylands from five, ten years ago and they really knew their pageants. Two of them were gay and the other dude, the one from Kansas, was on Survivor Guatemala, maybe? His name was Brandon and he said he made it halfway through before losing out. Definitely somewhere in the Caribbean or Central America. He drank Miller Lites and was kind of droopy-eyed drunk. Anyway, we got drunker and they were looking for something else to do and so Kevin said we should go to the strip club, which always sounds like a good idea at 11:30 at night but which is not a good idea at any other time, especially when any other time is, actually, this morning when I had to get up and go to work.

We walked the three blocks up Broadway and go in, five bucks for the cover. Kim from Tennessee was just against this whole strip club thing. She, with one of the gay guys, stood by the back wall and tried not to look uncomfortable. But they were very uncomfortable. I went to the bar and ordered vodka tonics for my girlfriend and me and then I got a tap on the shoulder. I turned around and there stood a tall girl in a bikini looking at me, intently. She looked familiar, in a pleasant way, good memories associated and all that, but my first thought was that she was going to ask me if I wanted a dance or if I wanted to buy her a drink, which is strange because we'd just walked in a few minutes ago.

"Excuse me," she said.
"Yes?" I realized then that she was a dancer and that she was talking to me and no one else. These two thoughts happened in rapid succession and are not inconsequential thoughts.
"I used to play softball with you."
I said nothing, and some of my friends noticed that this dancer is talking to me. I was trying to register her face, register her face, and there it was.
"You're Lindy."
"Actually, here, it's Lindsay."
I introduced her to my girlfriend and my friends.
"Yep, there are your tattoos," I said. She's got five-pointed stars, about the size of dollar coins, on the tops of both wrists, two-three inches up the forewarm.
"Yep," she said, turning her back toward me, "and I've got these, too." She had tattoos of wings, feathery, coiled wings, done on both shoulder blades. "And I got married," she said, pointing at her ring. And, later, we watched her dance and I gave her a dollar. She danced to indie rock and she danced very fast and aggressively. She is a strong girl.

But I'd seen her naked before, of course. We had actually played softball on the same team, when I worked for the newspaper and when she took advertising orders over the phone or somehow got the ads ready for the paper or something. I played left and batted lead off and she caught and was pretty terrible. She gave me her number on a scrap of envelope after the last game that summer and said for me to call her. I said that I was leaving in a few days, two hundred miles away, and she said that, "So, you should take advantage of that," and I'll never forget those words. But we'd done more than play softball, in those few days before I left for grad school and then that next winter, during the break between semesters when I was in Baltimore. I felt so much older than her then, which was probably true.

I'm not really sure how to end this one, where the meaning is or where the circle takes me, but I know this: life is rich and salty and sweet and, sometimes, it'll pow you in the belly. And that sometimes it's enough to register the pow and smile at it because the opposite is much less interesting and a lot more hollow.

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