Like a scene out of some bullshit romantic comedy, Mr. Mehanata appeared across the room. He wasn’t the most attractive man at Bulgarian Bar, but he was exactly my type: clean-cut, muscular and well-dressed (without any Jersey Shore vibe), so his presence caught my attention immediately.
As he made his way across the dance floor, it was as if a spotlight followed him. I could feel his eyes on me for several minutes before he finally approached.
After grinding for a bit, we went outside to share a cigarette. I learned that he was from Albania, worked in construction and lived on Staten Island. The borough was all wrong, but the accent and the body were just right.
Back inside the bar, we made out in a corner for half an hour or so, before he asked me to spend the night with him. I laughed, gave him my number and went back to dancing with my girlfriends. As appealing as the Staten Island Ferry sounded, his forwardness just wasn’t translating. Shortly thereafter, we called it a night.
Mr. Mehanata texted me the next morning, in broken English: Heyy how are you niec meetin you.
Instead of ignoring him or lashing out, I did my best to suppress my copyediting experience, obsessive-compulsive family history and resulting annoyance at his utter failure to grasp basic English spelling. So I responded with a brief: Nice meeting you too :) To be clear, I didn’t judge him for barely speaking the language, and I couldn’t disregard the possibility of dyslexia, but his texting hinted at a literary laziness to which I was not accustomed. After all, though my conversational Spanish is pathetic, I rarely miss a tilde.
The next night, in a particularly uninspired moment of weakness, I agreed to accompany a friend to Pyramid, the old East Village standby. On my way out the door, I got a call from Mr. Mehanata. He wanted to know what I was doing that evening. I told him I was going out with friends. He suggested I meet him "later," after my night out. I politely declined.
Pyramid was exactly as bad as I’d remembered it from five years ago: combat boots, UFO pants and all. My Abercrombie-esque blond friend from Nyack was practically itching with discomfort, and the two of us left after just one watereddown well drink.
Still dead set on an evening of sweaty, lowbrow dancing, I convinced her to take me back to Bulgarian Bar. Before we could even get a drink, however, I ran smack into Mr. Mehanata. I couldn’t say I was that surprised to see him there two nights in a row. I cursed my friend as she insisted upon "getting some air" and leaving me alone with the Albanian for what felt like an eternity of somewhat-less-enjoyable-inmy-sober-state kissing.
The kissing wasn’t bad, but somehow it suddenly felt like an obligation. Every time I turned my head to catch my breath, he pulled me back in. I made up little excuses, to afford myself longer gasps of oxygen: "I lost my friend;" "I have to check my phone;" "I’m gonna grab a water." If I wandered over to dance with someone or talk to anyone, I’d turn around and see him behind me. It’s a small club, and I’d feel a little too selfabsorbed to call it stalking, but he was just too attentive. Plus, he had been there two nights in a row, and I was sure this hadn’t been the first of such weekends. I realized in that moment that I might never be able to go back to Bulgarian Bar. I could never just dance. He would always be there and, sooner or later, I would run out of excuses.
Luckily, my friend reappeared to bail me out, saying she was ready to leave.
For the next several days, a stream of misspelled texts flooded my phone, the foreign-stranger fantasy completely decimated by technology: Hey how you doion sweet / Hey hov are you how waz the weekand / Whan I can see you.
I reconsidered for a moment. He was good-looking, friendly and a decent dancer. Plus, he had actually picked up the phone to ask me out (but really ask me in) a few times. I couldn’t say the same about some of the guys I’d dealt with recently. Maybe I wasn’t giving him enough credit. I toyed briefly with the idea of agreeing to meet him, and I asked what he was up to the following weekend.
Maybee meten you, he responded with a garbled text.
OK, now I really wasn’t sure what to do. I lived with my family, and I was not inviting Mr. Mehanata to come hang out with me in my room at my parents’ house. And I was sure as shit not following a near-stranger to Staten Island. I asked my best friend, who incidentally was also from The Island, for some advice.
"Well, definitely don’t go to his place," she agreed. "Why don’t you ask him what he’d like to do? Get a feel for what kind of guy he is."
I texted him again:
What would we do?
I kiss you than lat see, he replied.
Sweet or creepy? I couldn’t tell, so I said nothing. Then, 20 minutes later, my phone buzzed again: Ef wee liek wee havin sex too I recoiled. Now, this was unacceptable. I felt icky just looking at the words illuminated on my phone. The spelling was somehow more of a turn-off than the request.
I barely know you, I typed in response, holding on to my last shred of hope that this man would somehow redeem himself. Then I received the strangest text of all:
I know wery well you know me in funche.
WHAT? What was this? What was happening? What did that even mean? This had gone too far.
Huh? I typed. I liek see you smailen. I couldn’t be sure of the context in which he wanted to see mewhat I desperately hope translated to "smiling" but I didn’t want to find out.
This relationship was over. No translation needed.