It was July 11th 2011 and I found myself at Cafe 101 on Van Ness celebrating my cousin Josh’s 24th birthday. I was there with my girlfriend at the time, Zarah, along with Jesse, Grace and my friend Whitney.
At one point Zarah wanted to step outside to smoke a cigarette. I followed her out at a reasonable distance, and just as I stepped outside to round the corner into the alley I heard a voice calling out behind me.
“Hey wait! don’t leave don’t leave!”
I paused, but stuck close to the building, it was clear he was not talking to me.
A man walked out of the bar, about 6’5″ and proceeded to approach Zarah as she lit up her cigarette.
“Oh good, I thought you were leaving, I was about to say, don’t leave. I haven’t even had a chance to buy you a drink yet.”
Zarah’s eyes darted over to me. I smiled. This was funny.
“You know you’re beautiful?”
“I know.” she laughed
He finally acknowledged my presence and asked the same question to me. “You know she’s beautiful?”
“Oh yes, believe me I know.”
Maybe it was the way I looked at her, and the way she smiled, but he seemed to put things together in that instance.
“Oh..wait….are you two together?”
We both nodded and finally indulged in a bit of an embrace.
“Wow, well you are very lucky.”
“Thank you. I do know this, though.”
“Well I don’t want to sound like a creep, I don’t mean to keep you I just wanted to tell her how beautiful she was. Hey listen, when you guys are ready for a drink, just tell the bartender Allie that it’s on me. You ladies have a nice night now.”
He turned and went back inside. Zarah and I took a few moments to chuckle about that situation before we went back inside. He was there sitting at the bar and raised his glass to us as we walked by.
Weird, but it didn’t make me uncomfortable. Zarah is gorgeous, and to me, his actions were entirely appropriate. He attempted to hit on her and when he found out she was spoken for, respectfully backed off. Sounds good to me.
Of course, most men don’t usually quit that easily and he was one of those men. After a few moments of conversation, Zarah returned from the bar and told me that that guy (Reggie) wanted to do shots with her. I told her she was more than welcome to let him buy her drinks, all night in fact. And with that, she went toward the bar.
After some time had passed, I got up to use the bathroom. When I got back, I saw that she was still at the bar. When she saw me, she waved me over and Reggie promptly bought me a drink.
“Man, this girl thinks you’re really something.” he said.
“Well thank you, I am in fact.”
He laughed. “I know I’ve been sitting here all night trying to get her to leave you for me, and all she keeps doing is talking about how great you are.”
“Oh yeah? and why should she leave me for you.”
“Well, for one thing, I’m rich and famous.”
“Oh yeah? Tell me more.”
He then proceeded to wave the bartender over to where we were sitting. He whispered something to her and she handed him a black duffel bag. He opened it and inside it were bundles and bundles of $100 bills. There must have been close to $50,000 in cash in this black bag. I had never seen so much money before in my entire life.
“So you’re a drug dealer?” I said.
He laughed. “No no no. I play professional basketball, overseas in Angola. I just got back to the US and I had to exchange a bunch of currency. Trust me, you can Google me.” (and I did, right there on the spot, and he was telling the truth)
“Oh I see. Well, that is quite impressive.”
“Your girl here was showing me some of your artwork and you’re pretty good.”
“Thank you, I try my best.”
“Do you do commissions?”
“Absolutely.” I mean, what the hell was I supposed to say? This guy had just flashed a bag full of money at us.
“What do you say you paint me a picture.”
“Sure, what would you like?”
He asked Zarah to bring out her phone again. Apparently while I was in the bathroom she was showing him my website. He pointed to a piece I had done way back in high school. A black and white self-portrait. Unfortunately, that piece was already sold and I couldn’t give him that one. Instead, he requested a custom portrait…of Zarah.
That’s a little weird, but it was the least I could do, since clearly he wasn’t going to get to sleep with her. I ran it by Zarah and asked if she was okay with this. I mean, essentially her face was going to be in some creepy (yet endearing?) strangers house. Immortalized.
She was only a little bit drunk when she agreed to this.
Reggie and I discussed our terms, which resulted in me walking out of that bar with $800 in cash. The next day I bought a canvas and went to work. It took me 2 days to get through, as it was a very simple painting. After I finished the most detailed portion (her face) on the first day, I got to work on the second portion (the petals). It went something like this:
2 weeks later, I returned to the very same bar. Only this time, I had the painting in hand. Reggie showed up, slightly embarrassed by the conditions under which our last meeting took place.
However, he made good by his word and expressed his gratitude. The painting was better than he expected (Why don’t people ever think I’m going to deliver on these?) Anyway, he couldn’t stay long so he thanked me and handed me another $700 for the second installment.
And that is the story of how a guy who wanted to sleep with my girlfriend eventually ended up commissioning a painting from me, and paying me $1,300.