Misinterpretations

By Wayne Elise

Version en español de este articulo.

A few days ago I was sitting behind a table at a sidewalk cafe talking to my friend Lael. She does the singer/songwriter thing. But she could easily be walking a catwalk. People describe her as stunning. But what I dig most about her is she's a loner - like everybody cool I know.

We were wrapping up our conversation. She was standing, leaning, eager to go meet up with her sorta boyfriend at the day job he holds grinding coffee beans and wearing hipster hats.

But then the topic of her creative endeavors held her there. She described writing music. "The lyrics have to make sense. The tone has to match the chords. It should rhyme and be interesting. And I have to be careful so I don't compromise the original inspiration. People think it's an easy job. And sometimes it is. Sometimes it just flows. But mostly it's just hard."

"I can only imagine," I said. "So many things to intertwine. No wonder musicians do drugs."

She laughed. "Anyway. How about you? What are you writing in that notebook?"

"I'm working on a short story."

"What's it about."

"It's based off my favorite book, the Hobbit. I take characters from that story - such as Gandalf The Wizard and put them in Echo Park."

"Sounds interesting. What's the…"

At that moment, as if conjured by a wizard, a strange guy appeared from my right. "Can I get a quick opinion about GMO?" he said.

GMO? Genetically modified organisms? I hadn't heard that opener before. Interesting twist. But his timing sucked.

Lael looked at me for guidance. She's no killer. For all her awesomeness, she can't slit a guy's throat.

"Come back in five minutes," I told the guy.

"Sure," he said. "No problem." He walked off, back the way he came.

"Thanks," she said to me.

"I doubt he'll come back. But if he does I'm going to tell him I just want things to be like they are in science fiction movies. Anyway, you were just leaving. We can talk later."

We said our goodbyes and she walked off to my left.

The opinion-opener guy never returned. Apparently he lost his interest in genetically modified organisms without a hot girl in the picture.

I opened my notebook and found my pen.

Later, two girls playing the five finger game tugged each other past my table. One turned and caught me staring. She scowled, pulled her hat down over her ears and turned to whisper in her girlfriend's ear.

Fuck. They thought I was staring because they're a lesbian couple. No. I was devouring them because they looked delicious. I may be a pervert but I'm no tourist. Alas there was nothing to do about it. I sighed, picked up my pen and tried to re-imagine Gandolf the wizard impressing the Echo Park crowd with his smoke rings.

Later, I took off my reading glasses and slid them back into their case. The world drifted back into focus. Cars were switching on their headlights. Morning doves were heading home and night owls were starting to peek out from their rafters.

My bike is a night time death machine. It's the color invisible. No lights or reflectors. My single front brake is symbolic. I don't wear a helmet. It was time to ride home before dark.

I collected my things and walked my bike to the corner. I like to have free space to mount the beast.

I spotted the opinion-opener guy. He was interviewing Bluebeard the local pirate on the sidewalk. He had a camera, tripod and television crew.

Fuck. I felt bad for judging the guy as being shallow and trying to hit on my friend. He was just doing his job. He was some sort of journalist, possibly Nordic.

I waited a few minutes for him to wrap up with Bluebeard and I walked over. "Do you still want opinions about GMO," I asked him. "I'd be glad to help."

He passed the microphone to a helper. "Thanks. But we got enough."

"Oh good. I'm off then. Enjoy your stay in our country."

"What? I'm American."

"Oh. My mistake. Sorry." I turned to walk away.

"There is one thing you could do," he called after me. "That girl you were with. Tell me, is she single? What's her name?"

I walked back and hit him with a karate chop to the carotid artery. The flow of blood to his brain stopped and he crumpled to the pavement.

Just kidding.

I just shook my head, mounted Silver Streak and peddled home.

On the way, I passed a four-car accident. Cops had closed off the streets to other cars but I weaved around the barrier.

I heard a guy holding a towel to his bloody forehead talking to a police officer. "That car's supposed to be turning if he's in that lane."

"Not necessarily," the cop said. "You can't presume that."

I continued to peddle up the hill.

"I texted you," Erika said when I walked into the house. "I was worried about you riding in the dark. I heard lots of sirens. I'm glad you're okay. How was hanging out with Lael?"

I leaned my bike against the living room wall. "Good. She liked the brownies you baked. At least, I thought so. Perhaps she's a secret agent and hates brownies. Maybe she takes out her false teeth and rips the rubber mask off her face and she's ugly. I have no idea."

Erika looked me as if I was the weirdest person in the world.

I squinted my eyes. "After dinner I'm challenging you to a battle of wits, Princess Bride style. We can use that Trader Joe's wine we bought."

"I didn't see the movie. What sort of battle of wits?"

"It's all about guessing the other person's intentions. It'll be fun. We just need to find some poison."

"Uh, okay."

We played and I lost. But luckily I've developed an immunity to Iocane Powder.

http://youtu.be/U_eZmEiyTo0

Just Ask

By Wayne Elise

Version en español de este articulo.

I'm pondering which super power would be the best to give you.

Being able to fly would be great - for a day. But then you'd realize it's lonely up there. Airliners and birds make lousy conversational partners.

Being able to become invisible would turn you into a voyeur. That's not good.

Super-stretch power would be fun, but you'd spend your days plucking cereal boxes off grocery shelves for little old ladies.

No. The best super power would be the ability to read minds. Think about what you could do with that.

You'd know the person crossing the street feels hopeless and you could intercept them at the corner, tell them tomorrow will be better, give them a flower. You'd know the cook spat in the soup and you could order the quiche instead. You'd know that your father really loves you. Sniff Sniff.

The sexual possibilities though are where the real goldmine lies. You could fulfill for people their perfect sexual fantasies.

"What are those?" she asks.

You smile down at her. "Velvet cuffs. Easy on the skin but deceptively strong. Let me have your wrists."

"Okay. Sure. What's that?"

"A blindfold. I'll just tie this over your eyes like so."

"Wow. I can't see a thing."

"That's the point. Do you trust me?"

"Yes."

"Good."

"I hear someone moving around. Who else is in the room?"

"That's my assistant Natasha. She's highly trained in the erotic arts."

"I always wanted something like this to.. Oh. That feels nice. What's that?"

"Sorry, that's the cat licking your toes. I'll get him down. Oh wait. I'm getting the vibe you kinda dig it. Natasha, we'll be keeping the cat."

"This is so hot. I'm excited"

"I thought you'd like it."

"How do you know what turns me on so well? Are you projections from my subconscious? Is this a dream?"

"Like in that movie Inception?"

"Yeah. Are you Leonardo Dicaprio?"

"I should be so lucky. No. We're real. I just get you."

"But how? It's like you can read my mind."

"Muhahahaha."

"I love evil laughs too."

"Of course you do. Natasha, can we get the hot wax in here already please?"

How awesome would reading minds be? You could stop playing games and get on with the pleasure of hooking up. You'd walk around with a smile on your face as you delve into the most delicious parts of people's desires.

You may be surprised to learn that I can give you the ability to read people's hidden desires. All you need do is send three million dollars to my Paypal account at the bottom of this page.

Ha. Just kidding. I'm going to share this ability with you free of charge.

Are you ready?

Here's what you do.

Just ask.

That's right. Just ask. I find this to be the most awesome method for discovering someone's hidden desires.

What? You thought there'd be more to it? A space age, plutonium-powered device? We tried that and came up with something similar to Google's virtual reality Goggles - useful, but there's no way we're wearing those things in public.

It's simpler, more graceful, to just ask.

A guy and a girl sit on a curb talking as a bicycle rally pedals past.

"Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?" he asks.

"That depends," she says.

"Depends on what?"

"Depends on the question."

"What gets your toes smiling?"

"My toes smiling?"

"What turns you on?"

"I've never heard it put that way before."

"I'm glad to be the first then."

"Hmmm… let me think about it." She absentmindedly drew a face with a stick in the sand that had collected in the gutter. "Okay. I'll tell you. But promise you won't be judgmental?"

"Promise."

She took a deep breath. "Midget porn."

He stopped drumming his fingers on the side of his legs. "Midget porn?"

"Yes. It's amazing. It's all about the clothes. The midgets have a hard time with their buttons and zippers. I guess their fingers are too little. So the people making the videos dress them up in costumes and it takes forever to get their clothes off. The sexual tension is addicting."

"Really?"

"I'll lend you my collection."

He notices her pinkie finger twitching. "It must say gullible on my forehead," he says.

She laughed. "Oh yeah - it does. You didn't know that?"

"I believed you for a second."

"More than a second I think."

"Let's just keep my gullibility between us, shall we?"

"Too late. I just sent a text to your coworkers, your boss, your family, your dog."

"That's where you're mistaken. My dog doesn't care about me anymore since he went to live with my ex and her new boyfriend."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I want him to be happy. He lives on a farm and has horses and pigs as friends and gets to chase chickens."

"So what gets your toes smiling?" she asks.

"Well, you didn't really answer the question yourself. But that's fine. I'll share."

"I did answer. I love midgets."

"Whatever." He tapped his empty paper cup against the curb. "I may need more coffee. I'm kind of addicted."

"I used to be the same way. But I had to stop."

"I could never stop. I've tried. It's impossible. Did you know eight cups of coffee in an hour is enough to kill someone? I like to flirt with the edge. I'll drink seven cups. Get a nice buzz going, a little hallucination."

"You're changing the subject."

"I guess I am. I like skinny girls."

"Like anorexic girls?"

"A little anorexia is hot."

She laughs. "You realize, that's wrong on so many levels?"

"I know. But I think it's a turn on when a woman stretches her arms over her head and you can see her ribs. After my break-up, I hooked up with this girl Amanda. I remember picking her up off the couch and carrying her to the bedroom. She was so light in my arms. Like nothing. I found it a big turn on."

"That makes sense actually. Men look for their opposite."

"I also like braids. When a girl braids her hair in tight ropes, intricate patterns - it's beautiful."

"I like braiding my hair."

"Yeah. I can see you got one going on there. I love the attention to detail that goes into them. The fifteen minutes it took you to make it. The dexterity involved with using your fingers to braid it. I don't know if that makes sense. I guess it's a representation of a feminine ideal."

"Yeah. I get it." She watches a tandem bicycle ride past. The riders drink from beer cans. "I like intelligence," she says. "I tend to date lit nerds."

"How lit do your lit nerds get?"

"They're the kind who'd rather stay home on a Friday night reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being than go out drinking."

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being. That's Nabakov right?"

"No. Milan Hundera. Nabakov wrote Lolita. Geez, where's your mind, perv?" She bumped him with her shoulder. "Ha. As my dad used to say, I'm just messing with your hair. I've read Lolita many times. The writing is… thoughtful. I imagine Nabakov obsessing over each word."

"Yeah. I just read it on my Kindle." He played his fingers along the paper hospital bracelet around his wrist. "Do you find the bohemian thing sexy?"

"Can you tell?"

"I can. I like it too. I often fantasize I'm living with a girl in a flat and we're poor together. The furniture is old. The place is falling apart. But in the morning we smoke cigarettes together on the balcony with just blankets over our bare shoulders and talk about whatever."

"And drink coffee?"

"The Italian press is the only reliable appliance."

"Those flats always have the radiators turned on and you can't turn them off. It'll be hot."

"Yes and first thing we do when we walk in is strip down to our underwear. When people visit they have to do the same. Our dinner parties are R rated."

"What's her name?

"Who's name?"

"The girl."

He thought for a moment. "Claire."

"Yuck. Claire's the name of the school priss. You've seen The Breakfast Club right?"

"No. What's that?"

"You haven't seen The Breakfast Club? Movie from the Eighties? My dad can quote the whole film. Anyway. You can't go against The Breakfast Club. There are intrinsic truths in that movie."

"Okay. Then you pick a name."

"How about Sarah?" she asks.

"Sarah's the name of a fat girl who wears sweaters. No offense. You're a skinny girl wearing a sweater."

She pushes the sleeve of her sweater up her arm. "None taken. How about Veronica?"

"I like Veronica."

"Classy yet capable of being crazy sometimes."

"Do you want to be my Veronica?"

She looks at him. Her pulse races ahead. "Maybe. Yes. And you can be Tomas."

"Sounds like a German bicycle mechanic."

"It's a sexy name. It's a man who's controlled by his love of women."

"Ha. Okay. Sounds like me." He taps her arm. "Okay. Let's go buy a hat."

"I can't just go off with you. I don't know you. That's not how it's done."

He just stares at her.

She smiles. "What sort of hat?"

"A fedora. I'll teach you hat tricks."

"And then?"

"We can get lost in our imaginations. We can laugh and smoke and drink coffee and make love on a balcony maybe."

"Oh my god. I can't believe you said that."

"You don't want that?"

"It's just… This is very nonstandard."

He stands up. "Yes I know. I don't do this every day either. I guess this is an adventure for us both."

She climbs to her feet, looks at the scar on his chin. "This is a story."

"The first chapter."

"I can't help when a story begins thinking about the last chapter though."

"Yes, but the chapter you savor, the one you read slowly, is coming up."

"I like that."

"Are you sure? I can leave you here if you want. This may not be the story for you after all."

"Shut up. I know a hat store we can go to. I like a guy in a hat and..."

"And what?"

"That's it. Just a hat."

"Oh."

Just ask.

****

Join me for an event. Upcoming is the Dallas Conversation Camp on Oct. 20-21st and a New York Conversation Camp on November 3-4th. Also, I'll be teaching events in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor and Stockholm. See our complete schedule for a list of all events (including links to a page with details for each event).

Follow me on Twitter.

All the best, Wayne

Perceptions

By Wayne Elise

Version en español de este articulo.

Three Summers ago I was sitting at a coffee shop when I saw a girl walking on the other side of the street who I found immediately attractive. But I hesitated approaching her.

"Go talk to her," said a voice inside me.

I'd like to claim I don't have conversations with myself. But that'd be a lie. "I probably should," I thought back.

"So do it."

'The thing is, I'd have to pack up all my things. I'd have to rush across the street. It'd look awkward."

"It'd be like a movie."

"A horror movie?"

"A romantic comedy. You could be direct. You could be charming. Look at her. There's something compelling about her. She's probably creative. You know how you dig creative girls."

"But I should finish my work here. I'm writing an article about picking up girls."

"Seriously? That's the lamest thing I've ever heard."

"It's too late anyway. There she goes around the corner. I'll talk to her if I see her again."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

"Okay. But I'm still pissed."

"Sorry."

"Buy us a cupcake."

"Fine."

"A big one. Chocolate. I'm depressed."

Two weeks later I'm working with a client on the campus of the nearby university.

I pointed out some Asian girls sunning themselves on the grass. "Let's go talk to those girls. You should go after Asian girls."

"Why Asian girls?" he asked.

"Let's just say that you're very un-Asian and opposites attract."

"It's because I'm short isn't it?"

"What? No. You're not short."

"I'm five five."

"Really? I'd never have guessed. You have a tall personality. Come on. Let's go make some Asian girls happy. They're going to love you."

"Wait. I have to use the restroom."

"Diarrhea?"

"What? No."

"Oh okay. The graduate library there has a nice restroom. Walk in. Go down the stairs. I'll wait here."

No sooner he left, I spot the girl from two weeks ago walking in my direction. My first thought was, oh shit, I am wholly unprepared.

"You promised," said that voice inside me.

"You again. Okay. I know. I'll keep my promise."

"What're you going to say to her?"

"No idea. I'll think of something."

"You should recite poetry. That's what Byron would do."

"Are you serious? That's a stupid idea. Trust me. She's not going to appreciate poetry."

"Sorry. I'm only your collective unconscious. I don't get out much."

"It's okay."

"Try to look busy. Pretend you're talking on your phone."

"My phone's in the car."

"Look like you're out for a run."

"I'm not wearing running clothes."

"Pretend you're stretching against a tree."

"Shit. Okay."

I put my hands against a tree and stretched my leg muscles. I pulled my arms behind my back. I pretended to crack my neck. The girl seemed to notice none of this as she began to walk past.

"Say something to her," said the voice inside me. "Quick."

I stepped in front of her. "Hi there."

She stopped walking and gave me a look that said, do I know you?

I stepped closer to her. "Good to see you. I saw you before… The thing is, you have a nice way and I thought… Um, do you mind if I walk with you?"

The voice inside me was shaking his head. "That was the worst series of pick up lines ever. You call yourself a professional? This is so embarrassing."

She looked around as if there was a hidden camera somewhere. "Uh, okay. I'm just walking back to work."

"Great," I said. "It must be nice to walk to work."

"Yes. It is."

"My name is Wayne."

"Nice to meet you Wayne. I'm xxxxxxxxx."

"So I think it would be fun to get a drink sometime."

"Well, that might be difficult. I have a boyfriend who may not like me getting a drink with a strange man."

"Yeah. He might not. Well, perhaps we can get a drink just as friends."

"As friends, maybe."

"We could sit outside at a cafe and drink a glass of wine and talk about relationships."

We reached the edge of the campus and the corner where traffic began. It was clear this was as far as we would be walking together that day.

I looked at her. She looked at me and seemed to make a decision. She pulled out a pen and wrote her number on a card.

"I can't believe I'm doing this." She handed me the card. "Just as friends."

"Of course. Friendship is good. I'm all about friendship. I've never met a friend I didn't like. Okay, what I just said there makes no sense. In any case, I'll text you tomorrow."

After she walked away the voice in my head returned, "That was the most awkward, painful thing I've ever seen," he said.

"Yes," I said. "I know."

"But I'm proud of you."

"Thanks. How about we get the client, round up some Asian girls and go for cupcakes?"

"You read my mind."

That Summer the girl and I became friends. Her French boyfriend, who she had just began dating a month earlier, was absent while visiting France for the Summer. That left me alone with her to work my magic. We would meet up, drink a glass of wine and I'd try to convince her to sleep with me. But she was an honest woman to the end. She wouldn't cheat on her boyfriend. She described him as very good looking and very jealous.

Eventually she found out what I did for a living. We were sitting outside a cafe on Main street when she brought it up. She set her cabernet sauvignon on the table and screwed her face into a serious expression. "I should have known you were a pick up artist by the confident way you approached me."

That gave me a pause for thought. "Really? Is that how you saw it?"

"Of course. How else?"

The Summer ended and her boyfriend returned from France making it impossible that she and I would be able to spend time together. I got into a relationship with a girl I met at the gym, then a few months later I moved away to New York where I met and fell in love with Erika.

But since that Summer I try to stress to my clients and anyone who'll listen that how you perceive yourself is not the same as how you're perceived. And you get credit for taking action. Boldness has it's own language.

Good luck, Wayne