The Birthday Party

Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Peru — By on September 3, 2006 at 7:28 pm

Even in an overstuffed metropolis that’s located thousands of miles and an entire hemisphere from the one I just left, there’s simply no hiding from Murphy’s Law. As I discovered on the night of my 28th birthday in Lima, the less you want bump into someone, the more likely you are to come face to face. But let’s start at the beginning…

I’d met Raul on my second swing through Peru’s capital city, just a few days before departing for the Amazon jungle in late July. He and his drinking buddy introduced themselves a way that might be considered suave in the local machismo culture, but seemed to me about as canned and unsophisticated as Cheez-Whiz: he sent over an “anonymous” bottle of champagne.

The waiter presented it to our table and said insisted that we accept before he’d reveal the identity our patron (who made himself just a bit obvious by hovering a few feet away). On a budget and more curious than anything else, we accepted the Dom knockoff and proceeded to sip the bubbly until its sender finally asked if he and his friend could join us.

To our mild surprise, Raul turned out to be one of the lounge’s co-owners and had just received his MBA in entrepreneurship from a university in Boston. He was well-spoken, poised and answered my endless stream of questions about the Peruvian politics and culture with aplomb (and responded to my inquiries about the absence of toilet paper in the bathrooms without blushing). In direct opposition to his buddy, a gastroenterologist who’d somehow received a black eye and was so drunk that his breath required its own alcoholic proof, Raul seemed the perfect host. So, despite the fact that our parents had warned us against getting into cars with strange boys abroad, we decided to cab it over to Voce, where Raul assured us that we’d move right past the velvet rope and into the VIP section upstairs.

He was true to his word-we entered without paying and climbed the steps to the perch overlooking thousands of bodies dancing to the house music pumped out by a god-like DJ high above.

The scene was incredible, but the clientele in the VIP section consisted mostly of wasted dudes who would not take no for an answer. Every time Jen, Holly and I would start to dance, we literally had to pry off men who would slip their bloated bodies between us or writhe grotesquely behind us.

He “This is my girlfriend! We don’t like men!” Jen shouted over the music as she draped herself over Holly, in a vain and misguided attempt to remove the thorns from both of their sides.

“Jen, I don’t think that saying you’re a lesbian is going to deter them!” I screamed at her as some guy grabbed my arm and started pulling me toward him.

Raul occasionally rescued us, but mostly seemed content refilling his cocktail at the bar as we tried to remove ourselves from the Night at the Roxbury nightmare.

I’m not sure how late it was, or how long we’d been dodge dancing when a significantly drunker Raul finally decided to cut in and dance with me, a little too close and too breathy for comfort. I immediately wanted to go, but when I tried to pull away, he became insistent that I leave the girls behind and go home with him.

“Not a chance,” I said. “We don’t separate. When we go, we go together.”

Machismo rearing its ugly head, he didn’t accept the answer, and become more insistent that I come back to his place, with or without the girls.

If my life were an after-school special or even a feature story in the New York Post, this would be the part where I’d feel guilty or beholden and agree to ditch my girls to take off in a strange car with some dude I’d just met. But earlier, I’d spoken with Holly about not giving shit if you’re disappointing some random guy, especially when it’s clear when what he’s after, and her words were fresh in my head.

As a consolation prize, I ended up throwing my email address at Raul and thanking him for a fun night. Why feel bad…I’d never had to see him again, right?

That’s where Murphy’s Law, mentioned earlier in this story, comes into play.

Fast forward one week: the night of my birthday, and it was Sunday once again. We’d planned to ring in my late 20s by indulging in a delicious meal and a Pisco Sour at the just opened and very trendy restaurant Tanta. Knowing just how important it is to be a pretty, pretty princess on one’s big day, Jen and Holly bought me a kiddy tiara which I was to wear throughout the meal. Thrilled that my girls remembered, I donned their gift with pride.

In incredible spirits (especially considering my unhappy proximity to the big 3-0), we slipped into our table at the restaurant and glanced around for the nearest waiter.

That’s when Jen’s face froze. “That isn’t…Raul, is it?”

We all turned slowly in our chairs to follow her gaze, and agreed, from the back, the guy sitting with a big table of friends (all dressed in trendy, high-design threads) looked suspiciously like our champagne patron.

Mortified, I stood up, not sure if I should bolt or stay. Unfortunately, a strategically positioned mirror that I hadn’t noticed made the decision for me: from my new vantage point, Raul and I were face-to-face, neither sure what the next move should be.

He turned around to face me, and in a split second, I decided to take the ultra-fake, kisses-kisses sweetheart route.

“How are you?” I gushed, taking a few steps over to give him a big hug. “We had such a great time last week!”

Almost imperceptibly, his face changed from deer-in-headlights to a more relaxed expression and he broke the tension further by introducing me to his mixed group of friends. Once our two groups had shaken hands and were in the midst of small talk, I quietly whispered. “Hey, I’m sorry for bolting last week. But I was just a little uncomfortable and…”

He cut me off, deeply embarrassed, it seemed, by his own behavior, and apologized profusely for acting like an ass. I felt relieved, thrilled actually that I wouldn’t have to spend my birthday dinner sitting a table away from a guy who I’d rejected so resoundingly just a few short days before.

It turned out, Raul and his friends were nearly done with their dinner, but hearing that it was my birthday, decided to have an impromptu get-together at one of their houses to celebrate the night. Would the girls and I like to attend?

I was actually shocked. I figured that the guy would just been happy to get away from this terribly coincidental run-in without an embarrassing confrontation. Instead, he was throwing me a party.

We agreed to go-but the girls and I decided to take our own transportation.

Two hours, an incredible dinner and a couple Pisco Sours later, I found myself clinking classes with a dozen new friends in an ultra-modern apartment in the hills overlooking a Lima’s dramatic cityscape. Maybe it was the sparkly princess crown I never took off, or maybe he just decided to show me a more gallant side of himself, but Raul did a great job of treating me like lady all night.

Ninety nine times out of hundred, Murphy’s Law brings you back to people, places and experiences that you never wanted to deal with again. But every once in a while, it gives you nearly missed second chance to change a first impression.

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  • Abigail says:

    Girls, I’m loving your posts-living vicariously has never been so fun…keep up the good work. And be safe 🙂

  • Dramedy Girl says:

    Happy belated birthday! I found your blog through Frog My Blog and I’m fascinated by it. I’ll be a regular visitor. Have fun and stay safe!

  • Nikki-ann says:

    Murphy’s Law, indeed! I’m glad you had a great birthday and I loved your post. I think I’ll be back here again soon! Take care.

  • Dirty Butter says:

    Continue to be safe! I hope you keep your rule about the three of you staying together. We live near the Aruba missing girl’s family, so we hear a lot about this sort of night club scene on the news.

    On a lighter note … Happy Birthday, and as always, it’s so much fun to read your posts!!

    I voted for you today on BLOG VILLAGE!!

  • Buttercup says:

    Holy Crap! I just found you through the blog that you’re “renting” and I’m thrilled by the whole concept behind your blog and becoming “lost girls.” Or rather, I guess you were lost girls, who have now identified yourselves as such and are pursuing yourselves. No?

    I’m unfortunately lost at work, but I will be back. Come visit me! I want to be a lost girl!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Don’t get into cars with strangers! Didn’t your parents ever teach you that cardinal rule? Even if it was a super stretch-limo. I’ll just keep reading your blog to see what other super stuff and stupid stuff you get into. Please don’t take candy from strangers.