On a Wednesday night, I went to see my friend Caroline perform at a local comedy night held at a definite locals' bar. The night was about what you might expect from a comedy night at a townie bar — the humor was lacking, but the audience was worse. The comedians certainly weren't good, but the sprinkling of patrons who shouted out idiotic comments and had worn permanent butt marks into the barstools were downright rude and salty.
Despite the unappealing atmosphere and bad jokes, there was one comedian who I thought was sort of cute, and I found his self-deprecating humor to be rather endearing. (What can I say? I'm an odd duck who finds wry humility appealing.) Most of his set had to do with what a loser he is — how he works as a dishwasher and lives in a blanket fort.
After his set, he joined the table where Caroline and I sat with some of the evening's other performers. He sat down in the seat next to me, and I made a joke about how "if only you lived in quilt fort instead of a blanket fort, I totally would have given you my number." He was oblivious to my flirting until after I left, and his friends pointed out to him that the girl who looked like Kristen Schaal had definitely been sending him signals. He texted me later that night, having gotten my number from Caroline, and we made tentative plans to hang out.
A couple of days later, while I was babysitting my friend's daughter, he called and asked if I was free that night. I was, and perhaps I should have said I wasn't — who asks someone on a date the night of? — but my fascination had gotten the better of me. I was a woman on a mission, and I was determined to see the infamous blanket fort.
See, the night before, I'd met with a couple of friends who knew him — including Caroline — and we confessed our shared, albeit morbid, fascination with this concept of living in a blanket fort. It was determined, only half in jest, that I clearly had to "take one for the team" and report back on this structure. Giggling with tipsy delight, I fantasized aloud about getting an "I went out with a guy who lives in a blanket fort and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" T-shirt — or a more R-rated version of it. I quickly became committed to the idea.
So after babysitting, I put on my favorite black boots and a leopard-print skirt and headed out to meet him for a drink.
We got along well, talking about everything from our respective hometowns to literature, to his sleeve tattoo comprised of cartoonish depictions of Americana. He drank whiskey neat; I drank cabernet sauvignon. I ignored the fact that he excused himself once or twice to go smoke a cigarette — a habit I despise. I ignored the fact that he didn't even offer to pay for my drinks. In fact, I think I might have paid for both of us.
Still, despite all of this, I offered him a ride home as we left and approached my car. He lived only a couple of blocks away, but as I said, I was a woman with a mission. We parked outside his place. Emboldened by the wine and the sheer fearlessness that comes from having reached a point of frustration with your life at which you're willing to totally debase yourself, I asked him if I could come in.
"I'm sorry," I said. "But I just have to see this blanket fort."
He looked at me with raised eyebrows and then said, "OK." I followed him inside to a somewhat squalid two-bedroom apartment with at least one wood-paneled wall; it smelled of male body odor, pot smoke, and something I couldn't identify.
One of his roommates was sitting on the couch watching cartoons, wearing boxers, and eating cereal. He grunted in our general direction, in what I perceived to be a salutation.
At the other end of the living room was the blanket fort — or what I discovered was really more of a blanket room. In an effort to save money in our fairly expensive California town, he and his roommates had tried to turn a two-bedroom apartment into a three-bedroom by strategically hanging sheets and blankets from the ceiling to create a new room. Using the existing living-room corner, he was able to essentially make a squarish, tentlike space blocked off from the rest of the apartment solely by blankets.
Perhaps a more self-respecting woman would have ended the night at this point and gone home, her curiosity satiated. She would not have done what I did, which was to start making out with the blanket fort dweller on his mattress inside the fort.
While we were making out, he kept mentioning how he hadn't expected this and how he thought I was so cute. I was flattered, but, again, there was that strong nagging feeling that I should probably get the hell out of there. However, he also called me "hot" at one point, an adjective I am definitely not used to having ascribed to me. In fact, I'm not sure if I'd ever heard the word "hot" used to describe me without the word "not" before it. My looks, which in my adult life I've grown to accept and appreciate, have never been what I consider to be my primary appeal; quirky sense of humor, perhaps; intellect, maybe; but not my looks. But I digress.
So there we were, making out, him tasting slightly like stale cigarette smoke and cheap whiskey, which is gross but not gross enough that I can't will myself to ignore it. After several minutes, he got up to go to the bathroom, or so I thought. I think he actually went to go have a cigarette, a decision that is both strange and gross. Who gets up in the middle of making out to go smoke a cigarette? Is the siren song of tobacco and nicotine really so strong? When he returned from outside, the smell of cigarettes filled the room, slipping through the opening of blankets before he did.
After this brief interruption, we went back to making out, even though he now tasted even more like cigarettes. But it became clear that things weren't exactly progressing. Nature was not cooperating on his end.
He excused himself to go to the bathroom, and while he was gone, the reality of the situation finally hit me. I was sitting on a mattress in only my bra and tights, with just a thin blanket separating me from the view of his roommate.
OK, I thought, I might be unemployed, still reeling from a recent breakup, and quickly sliding headfirst down a path of self-destruction, but it's not over yet — you're better than this, Jess.
I groped around for my shirt and was pulling it over my head when Sir Blanket Fort returned.
He came back to the mattress, and as I was about to say how I should go, he blurted out, "I'm sorry. I just don't think I can do this. I think I need to have some romantic attachment first."
Talk about a slap in the face. Now reality really rushed in, and I immediately began pulling on my boots as mortification set in.
"No, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I should go. I need to go," I sputtered, my words slurring together and my face growing hot. And so I scurried to find my belongings as we both continued to apologize, the embarrassment filling the room to a palpable level.
I made my uncomfortable exit, making small talk about perhaps going on some sort of completely G-rated and wholesome kind of date.
What it all boils down to, though, is that I was sexually rejected by a guy who lived in a blanket fort. Try putting that on a T-shirt.