Did your parents ever tell you something that seemed annoying and ridiculous at the time, only to realize later in life how right they really were?-
The hotel was haunted, so the books said. Massive portraits of creepy looking people encased in golden elaborate frames littered the lobby walls. The lights shone down on their top hats, blazers, and canes, staring back with beady eyes, it seemed they would jump out at any moment.
It was some twisted Harry Potter shit, and we totally loved it.
A girlfriend group getaway was in full swing as we all arrived in Austin Texas.
The night began with some hotel lobby photos, which were obviously required to capture the essence of this creepy place in contrast to our bubbling giggling selves. We mimicked their stiff stances and blanket stares because back then smiling wasn’t a thing people did. Who was the first person that said, “I am going to smile in this picture? hehe” and ruin the family portrait that took an entire day to take.
What I would pay to see that smirking face…
The sound of music became louder and louder with each creepy portrait that was passed. Drawn into the hotel, a bar illuminated through the smoky depths. It was as though we had entered the cross between a saloon and a high-class parlor. The dim lights helped the old red carpet and cracked leather chairs appear classier than they really were. It was a strangely ratchet hotel bar, so naturally, we headed straight to the bartender for the first night’s drinks.
Four girls standing at a hotel bar shouldn’t take too much time to get a cocktail in hand, yet the goal of a beverage immediately disappeared when the wafting scent of melted cheese and bread hit the air.
A waitress carried out a wooden platter and set it down in front of the man standing next to me. It looked like the most high-class pizza rolls I had ever seen. The scent became overpowering, I had to have that.
“Excuse me, um what is that on the menu?” I asked the recipient of the pizza rolls.
“It’s one of them margarita pizzas, I think.” The man said in the thickest Texan accent imaginable. “Please, have some!”
“Oh I am going to order that for myself, thank you though!” I said.
“Suit yourself, young lady,” he said.
Dear god, this man was the definition of a Texan. It was as if the Texas Gods had sent him down upon us to christen our liberal souls back into some form of submission. He had on cowboy boots, dark jeans, a classic belt that likely had a buffalo on it, a button up shirt topped off with a giant white cowboy hat.
He was probably in his 40’s and when he gazed intently upon me it was done so with a permanently crossed eye.
James was his name, and he had already paid for our first round of drinks before any protest could be heard.
Making friends quickly tonight.
“Where are y’all from?” He asked. He may have well been an announcer at a rodeo this voice was so stereotypical Texan.
“Her and I are from San Diego, California. She is from the Woodlands and she is from Frisco.” I explained pointing to each of my friends.
“Well my goodness, I am from the Woodlands myself ya see,” he replied.
Sarah* and James broke into conversation about life in the Woodlands of Texas (not exciting at all) while he gave his entire backstory around moving to Austin and loving it here more. This break in conversation allowed the more immediate need to return to focus.
With the first drink partially consumed, warm tingling filled my face and hands. After the flights and time change were considered it had been a solid 10+ hours since anyone had eaten a meal of substance.
“We are going to eat some food and enjoy the music, thank you so much for the drinks.” I interrupted. Hangry, or bitchy…it was time to bid our friend farewell.
“Oh, of course, you enjoy ladies, enjoy,” James said with enthusiasm.
Fuck he was being so nice, why am I so rude?
We sat ourselves at one of the parlor style circle tables in the deep leather chairs and proceeded to crush an order of our own classy style pizza rolls and side of brussels sprouts (because brussel sprouts are all the rage right now as a pretend attempt to eat a vegetable, when in reality the side dish primarily consists of bacon and cheese)
“Cheers girls,” Tiffany* said expressing her gratitude for the free beverage and embracing the fact that we were all together again. “So excited to have a night toge–”
“Do y’all mind if I join you for another drink?” James was back in full force. Eyes circled the table.
His hand took hold of my chair as he leaned over. “What are you all having?” he asked.
Who would speak first and what would the decision be?
“Vodka soda,” said Kelly*.
Here we go.
“Manhattan,” said Sarah
“Cosmo,” said Tiffany
We all stared at her…you would
“Manhattan as well, thank you.” I finally replied.
“Coming right up ladies,” he said and walked away.
“Oh he liiiiikes you, Trammell.” Tiffany said.
A few minutes later he returned with a pile of drinks in hand. Each was passed out to the respective girl. He handed me my “Manhattan” with a tip of his hat and a flicker from the crossed eye.
Manhattans are one of my favorite drinks, you can slowly consume one or two over the course of an entire night to maintain the farm fuzzy feeling without the sloppy blackout. It is a go-to that has sustained my later years of drinking.
So I know my Manhattans, and the drink set forth was anything but, it more resembled what a drink would look like if a Manhattan and a Cosmo had sex on the beach one night and this drink was the half bread outcome- clearly something that should not be consumed.
James sat down next to me with a giant grin peeling from ear to ear. The fizzy substance swirled around in the drink just like the unsettling feeling in my gut.
See, this is what happens when I am friendly to strangers. Fucked. Up. Shit.
I looked at the drink, then Sarah, who returned a glance of “don’t you dare fucking drink that.” then back at the drink.
My phone lit up and a message showed through from Sarah: Be careful with that drink.Girls look for girls. Hearts.
“I am going to go to the bathroom,” I said and excused myself.
Once inside the calmly lit bathroom, the effects of the original non-tainted drink were apparent. I sat down on the cool marble seat and felt a sense of relief while my mind began to race. I am always getting shit for being quiet, unfriendly and coming across as “a bitch”.
Yet when I am nice, smile at a stranger and inquire about pizza rolls, detrimental consequences arise. How is it possible that a simple question of “what did you order?” would result in a roofied drink 5 minutes later. What do these people who give the “bitch” feedback expect to happen if I was actually kind and interested?
These are the first world girl problems that one must face, and I will bravely defy them.
Upon returning from the bathroom the live music in the bar was getting really good and when this happens all I want to do is dance. Dane Cooks line “fuck guys I just want to dance” may be my life’s motto.
I left and began to break it down on the dance floor like I was a backup dancer for Beyonce when in actuality I more resembled one of those tube people blowing in the wind outside a car dealership.
The smile on my face was larger than life.
With a break in the music, I ordered us all shots of tequila and included our dear friend James, who had continued to stay in the count. About 15 seconds after requesting the shots I turned to find his card passed off to the bartender in payment.
“You don’t need to pay for that,” I said.
“No problem, happy too,” he said and shot the tequila back. “I am going to step outside for a smoke, enjoy your shots.”
He walked out the door and I quickly turned to the girls, “Guys, he already paid for more of our drinks. I don’t like this”
“I look at it like he is paying to hang out with us,” Kelly explained.
“That is what an escort is Kelly,” Tiffany replied between fits of laughter.
“We are pretty fun girls, hell, I would pay to hang out with us.”
Kelly stared back in confusion–sometimes she needs a little help.
“An escort is like a high-end prostitute, they get paid to spend time with someone, and sometimes that also involves sex, sometimes not.” Tiffany began to outline for Kelly.
A full on course defining escorts versus prostitutes began to unfold. Luckily James was still outside otherwise we may have had to explain things and discuss all of this using some form of girl code.
Girl code is quite possibly the most impressive thing young basic girls learn to understand. A series of looks, hand gestures and subtle word cues enable us to have full on conversations with each other in front of other people. One raise of an eyebrow can explain an entire girl’s thought process around a situation. It is quite magical.
“So are we accidental escorts right now?” Kelly asked.
“Well, if we continue to let him buy us round after round of drinks, I would say yes,” Tiffany answered.
Things quickly began to progress from this point. The girl code huddle broke up as James returned with an added whiff of cigarette scent to mesh with his cologne and a round of shots, topped off with a bucket of beers. This was the tipping point, no girl needs five drinks within a 2-hour limit unless there is one goal–to get fucked up.
No. Thank. You. James.
We cheered the second tequila shot, and instead of drink it, the shot went straight back onto the table and my soul went to the dance floor.
Within seconds James had appeared right next to me, eyes inches from mine, “Would you like to dance?” he asked and without answer took hold of my waist with one palm and my hand in his other. His dance moves momentarily wisped me away, I love to be lead on the dance floor and turned into a thimble to be spun and twirled.
He likely grew up learning the two-step at his family farm cookouts post truck rally (was that too stereotypical of me?) I was so ready to bid our friend farewell that no level of dance moves was going to save him. His hands dropped lower and lower down my back and his whispers grew closer and closer to my ear. The heat from his breath hit the nap of my neck and blew the hairs back.
Many girls are okay with being touched all over by complete strangers, however, I consider my body to be a temple that is reserved for only those that I grant access to. Like an exclusive night club where only the highest quality drinks are served and the best DJ’s are played.
Now I know what you are likely thinking, and no I am not some overly confident chick that thinks she is hot shit, it’s simply the value I hold when it comes to being grabbed and groped. Call me old fashioned. Gentlemen that have had the pleasure of touching my low back and whispering into my neck…congratulations because that was VIP access you were given.
But, being that I am currently a single girl, clearly, none of them liked the club that much…damn.
The music luckily ended and the guitarist needed a break to recover from playing a behind the back riff solo. The moment to bolt was now, and in this state of escape, it had reminded me of something my father had said when I was a little girl about to go to high school…
We were on a road trip through South Dakota to visit his family and old fraternity house at USD (University of South Dakota–not to be confused with the University of San Diego). Mom and dad sat in the front seat, while I was in the back wedge between a suitcase and a cooler filled with Cheetos and Mountain Dew.
The roads were winding and my urge to throw up was pretty much constant. The tiny Toyota Echo provided little sound protection from the windy hills of Colorado and the luxury of this vehicle was at an all-time low considering the manual windows, locks and stick shift.
To add to matters, the way my father drives is possibly his biggest weakness. As my Uncle always says, “Joe, you drive like old people fuck–slow and jerky.”
So here we are windy around the rocky mountains headed towards the mid-western plains of abso-fucking-luty nothing and he dives into a monologue about sex, safety, drinking and basically being an all-around teenager.
“Now Kirsten you have to be safe.” he began.
After quick consideration, there was no escaping this conversation. The old fashioned, “I’ll be right back, have to pee.” tactic wasn’t going to work while trapped in a car driving through winding mountains.
As a really cool teenager that needed no advice from mom and dad, I attempted to not pay attention and wedge my neck onto the cooler top with my feet contorted against the opposite doors handle.
“The later you stay at parties, the worse things start to happen, the rowdier the people get, and the more you have to watch out for drunk guys…Be careful and don’t stay out late”
I had really not wanted to hear any of this and had pretended not to care at the moment…
But now, I was suddenly searching for my phone on the dance floor to take a guess at what time it was.
11:07 pm. Hmm, well, that is late for my grandmother-29-year-old ass.
I am sure my dad told me many important things throughout my life and adolescence but this was one that really stuck with me. Every single time I stay out late, the next morning I think to myself, “Shit, my dad was right. Things got way too weird last night.”
And tonight was definitely going to be one of those nights.
With the profound words of wisdom from my father in the forefront of my mind, I rallied the girls together. “I think its time we say goodbye to James.”
“I agree, it’s over the top.” Sarah said.
“I didn’t like that he commented to you about how much he spent on us, like we didn’t ask for these drinks.” Tiffany added.
“Perfect, lets escape.”
Instead of being adults and walk out the door like respectful humans we elected for the less classy act and devised a plan of escape. Because, let’s be real, playing make-believe is more fun.
“I am going to pretend to get sick. I am the mother, so it makes the most sense.” Tiffany said.
We are getting creative while staying realistic, strong move. God, I love my friends.
Tiffany marched outside and leaned over by a window to “throw up” while I walked to the bar and poured two plastic cups full of water for our “sick friend”. Sarah and Kelly snuck away during the commotion.
“You can’t leave the bar with those cups.” the bouncer boomed.
“But, my friend is sick…its just water.”
We both looked over and saw Tiffany kneeled over putting on the pretend puking Emmy of a lifetime. Sarah stood on watch and held her hair back for added effect. Only problem was, there was no puke coming out.
The bouncer turned back towards me, “no, cups stay here.” he said.
“Okay, okay” I said and in defiance, chugged the water, from both cups, and then ran outside before James could catch me. We all started sprinting down the street and ran into a new bar to collect ourselves.
We had escaped the accidental escort situation however a lesson to the wise, if someone hands you a questionable drink…leave them immediately. Even if you feel a need to “be nice” to people, fuck that noise and walk away.
Don’t forget the words of my father, the later you stay out, the worse things begin to happen.