Mister Arkansas: Part I

I once met a man in a karaoke bar in northwest Arkansas and fell for him within a matter of hours. Thirty-five days later, I was sobbing on my kitchen floor, alone, in the dark, too drunk to stand up, and utterly heartbroken. I never saw him again.

On the night we met, I had just walked into the bar and I was chatting with my girlfriend. She was getting married that weekend and we were out for her bachelorette party. Mr. Arkansas interrupted our conversation to introduce himself, and immediately pulled me out onto the dance floor. After we danced, we sat at the bar and chatted.

He was a Ph.D. student, teaching classes at the local university. He had multiple graduate degrees already. He was a musician and he had a tattoo on his forearm. It looked like a pair of “Rs” but I didn’t ask about it. He spoke with a deep southern drawl.

He was wearing designer jeans, a thick navy blue sweater, and a navy blue down vest with blue and white plaid lining visible in the hood. He also wore a golf cap.

I love men with a sense of personal style. I’m drawn to intelligence and I’m a sucker for creative types. I’ve always thought the southern drawl was a little off-putting, but on that night, it was as intoxicating as a new album from a favorite band. My heart was pounding.

He was the hottest guy in the bar and charming as all hell, and those things were clear to everyone.

I was two months out of a three-year relationship then. It had atrophied over the course of its final year and I’d put on 15 pounds during that time. I felt like a hideous slug, invisible to men. I’d forced myself to put on a cocktail dress for the bachelorette party that night, but it had taken everything I had to resist inventing some stupid excuse to duck out of the party.

I’d been dreading the karaoke bar all day. I’d spent the whole day fantasizing about staying in my hotel, curled up in bed with a pint of ice cream and a Law & Order marathon.

Now I was seated at the bar with this man, showering me with compliments, and periodically jumping out of his seat to drag me back onto the dance floor. This man—oh my goodness, this man. I was fanning myself.

He insisted on singing karaoke and I selected “Walking in Memphis” for him. His rendition was terrible. I didn’t believe that he was “a semi-famous musician,” as he had claimed. He sounded drunk. I did not give one single fuck, though. He was hot. So hot.

We chatted all night. I left the bachelorette festivities for a few minutes and joined Mr. Arkansas and his friends at a filthy college club across the street. He suddenly seemed a lot more drunk when we sat down, so I told him I had to leave. He insisted on getting my number.

“I’ve never met anyone with your attitude,” he said. “I have to see you again.” I acquiesced and we traded phone numbers.

I returned to the bachelorette party for the final hour of the festivities, then rode back to the hotel with everyone else. I exchanged rapid-fire text messages with Mr. Arkansas for the whole ride home. We were talking about how we could find time to reconnect before I left town.

He kept saying, “Just meet me for dinner once. That’s all I need.”

The night we’d met was a Thursday. As fate would have it, he’d already made plans to visit his grandparents in southern Arkansas for the weekend, so he was going to be leaving town on Friday and not returning until Sunday afternoon. I was tied up with wedding stuff until Sunday and planning to drive back to Tulsa on Sunday afternoon for my flight back to Denver. We would just miss each other.

He persisted. He asked me to move my flight—a day, maybe two. He said he’d come to Denver if I couldn’t stay, but he had to see me one more time. He said he’d put me up in a hotel downtown and arrange to get me back to the airport if I could just please stay a little longer. It was all very flattering, but I wouldn’t budge. I hated the idea that the whole fantasy rested on me spending a small fortune to change my flight.

But on Sunday morning, with a nasty post-wedding hangover, I awoke to a series of romantic and charming text messages. I caved. I told him I could push my flight back to Monday morning on the condition that he would meet me in Tulsa for dinner on Sunday night. And I would take him up on the offer to put me up in a hotel, but I wanted a reservation for one adult only. He said he’d have to drive 4.5 hours from southern Arkansas to get to Tulsa, but that he’d do it if I was serious. I said I was. Absolutely.

Ten minutes passed. Then I got a text message with a confirmation number and the address for a hotel just minutes from the airport in Tulsa. Our dinner date was on.

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