I would not have sat across from him if I had known.
Okay, that probably makes me sound like a douchebag. I am not an asshole. Maybe a little, sometimes. When I am hungry, tired or on those occasions when the person in front of you in the line orders the last piece of deliciously looking cake, the one with glistening chocolate topping and raspberries blinking at you and you alone, those handmade earrings that would perfectly match to your new blouse and surely are a single-item or the last hamster in the cage when you just came up with a name and subconsciously added it to your family tree (true story). Then I might get cranky. But otherwise I am totally zen.
Let me explain myself. I am not a person who is known to be shy. My mouth is running most of the time, like I cannot stop it. Honestly, sometimes I wish I could. And well, basically I have no problem with guys. Usually guys have a problem with me. It is not that I am super stunningly beautiful or anything but I consider myself not bad looking. And I am kind of straight forward. So there is that.
Well, this guy really did not play fair. Sitting on the bench in the corner of a booth with his arms crossed and his glasses slightly askew, watching people dance with the forced coolness of indifference from under the bangs of dark brown hair that were falling into his face, how should I have known? I just needed a place to sit because those shoes are not made for walking. Or dancing for that matter. Fact is, I needed them to be off and I needed a place to put my glass of whatever bought by whoever and his booth just happened to be nearby. Of course I also happened to start a conversion because that is me. Besides, there were salted peanuts in a small bowl sat in front of him which he did not seem to eat anyway and when you are devouring someone else’s food it is common decency at least to talk to them while you do it. Or so I heard.
Thinking about it, there were plenty of hints. For once: his speech. But the thing is, during the wee hours of morning in a crowded club while shouting across a sticky table and the beats of the newest remix of the latest top-of-the-charts act, you do not exactly expect people to flawlessly recite Hamlet. If his speech was kind of slurred and I caught only half of it, so what? It is not the first time two people in a bar have spent the night talking about two completely different subjects and still woke up in the same bed on the following morning.
So… call me inattentive if I just thought he had been a little tipsy.
And straws. God forbid the invention of straws as additions to bar drinks. Because how can you tell anything about the person sitting across from you when all they are doing all night is leaning forward a little to capture the tiny straw between their lips – and oh those lips by the way – to take a sip and that is it? Like, come on, give us a little help here! A small notice beforehand. A warning sign, waving flags, anything. Maybe add a few blaring sirens just to make sure and because it is really, really loud in bars nowadays. No one knows why. Maybe because the shit that is called music can only be suffered when your last bit of brain is blasted out of your ear canals. But what do I know?
Anyway, I do not appreciate surprises. I am the surprise. I like to be in control and I like to pick my own battles. Usually I am the one winning. My strength is not so much talent or accuracy but endurance. I already mentioned that trait, I can talk someone to death. I mean literally, I am sure I could.
“What I’d really want to know is: why do guys like it? I mean, that’s the only reason girls are wearing those torture devices. Except for the fact that they come in pretty handy if you want to stab someone to death in a dark alley because let’s face it, they are a hell of a killing machine. Right now, they are only killing one person and that is me. I’m sure it’s not supposed to work like that. But again: why? What is the reason? Do you like to watch us struggling to walk?”
I think his eyebrows lifted in amusement. It was hard to tell because of all that hair obscuring his face. Honestly, what is it with hair, nowadays? Somehow, it needs to be everywhere, on your head, down to over your eyes, with strong eyebrows and bushy beards for the rest. A camouflage made of self-renewing, self-attaching body cells. Though, beards are sexy, I get that part. And his hair was nice, in a way, unruly, fluffy and soft. I suppressed the impulse to reach over the table and run my hand through it. He threw his head back a little and cleared part of his face of it. It is also possible that this was the first time he actually saw me.
“I don’t know.” The skin around his brown eyes crinkled as he grinned. Yeah, I admit it, he was cute.
My fingers worked on the tiny clasps at my shoes, fumbling to get that small hook to open. Quite a task to do when the guy sitting further away at the bar is nearly falling off his stool in an attempt to catch a glimpse under your skirt and every other male and some females included are waiting for your boobs to spring free while you are bent over.
“Whatever it is, it is just plain cruel. Anyway, do you mind if I empty that?”
He shook his head and I dumped the last handful of peanuts into my mouth. I can speak with my mouth full, no problem there.
“Do you know the only thing that helps relieve hurting feet?”
“Alcohol? Oral administration.”
“Yes, that too.”
His grin grew sly. “I can give you a foot rub if you like that.”
Ha, you wish. “No, dufus. The only thing that really helps is dancing.”
He rolled his eyes.
“No, really,” I insisted, finally freeing my feet and pulling them up on the bench as well. Wow, heaven. “It might sound illogical but it works. It’s some kind of military trick or something. Or professional dancer trick, I don’t know. If it hurts, you got to keep going. It’s getting better and it’s only called art if blood is involved.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Well, you’ll have to try it yourself.”
“I don’t dance.”
“I’m not saying you are supposed to dance all the time. It’s okay to rest, occasionally. You know, the tables are here for sitting at them although most people seem to disregard that fact. Quite rude, actually. And the owner of this club will surely praise you for raising his income by buying drinks and staying out of the way of waiters instead of sweating on the dance floor. My feet would definitely give you credit as well, if you asked them, dancing is just highly overrated and painful as such. But what do they know? They are just stupid appendices that happen to be at the end of my legs.”
He fidgeted a little in his seat and chuckled.
“So come on, this song just demands it, how can you not hear its calling? It’s yelling: fucking dance with that gorgeous girl already!” I got up and extended my hand to him. I intended to do it gallantly but whoops. Whatever had been in that drink that I had just downed, it made the room spin around, people and everything else in it included.
The back of his hand nudged the glasses up again that kept sliding back down his nose. They remained slightly askew and I tilted my head a little to match them. “Still not dancing,” he said, grinning crookedly now. “But I would buy you another one of these…” he pointed with his chin to my empty glass, “If you like.”
I hesitated but then I fell down in my seat again. Whatever. The night was long and I had never really liked that song anyway. “Okay, you get to buy me one drink but for that you have to dance with me after I finished. Deal?”
In my opinion it was a pretty generous offer but he was not a soft nut to crack. “What about that: I buy you two drinks and we keep sitting here?”
Man, I assumed he was doing that professionally. Probably he had an appointment to negotiate peace in the Middle East next week. What do you call that again?
“Preschool teaching,” he said as he scooted forward a little and then ducked down under the table. Was he searching for his bag? Maybe finally a man who did not destroy the shapes of his buttocks by wrenching a purse in his pockets. Yeah, guys, think about us girls for once.
Well, apparently he had not been searching for his purse.
I think you know the look. The deer in front of the headlights, the cow in a thunderstorm, the baby seal nose to nose with the ice bear. Well, generally cute and stupid animals confronted with imminent danger. That was me right there. Probably not all that cute and not as furry, but you get the image.
“Are you okay?” There was genuine concern in his voice, I registered that although my brain was rapidly filling with thick fog. I mean more than usually. It made me wish I had thought of bringing a navigation device with me. Some kind of master plan what to do in a situation like this. Because I was totally and utterly not prepared to deal with it.
Pilot to base. Mayday, mayday! I am losing height!
I have mentioned that I am a talkative person? That I can never shut up? That I have a mouth that is running more than the Niagara Falls? Well. There is only one type of situation that causes me to fall completely silent. That makes me draw my blinds and hide behind them, sneaking looks and hoping no one will notice me watching. This was one of them. Only this time I could not see a way out. Newbies’ mistake, really. Always make sure your back is covered and keep an eye on the exit.
He scooted to the end of the bench and placed the tip of the wooden cane that he had collected from under the bench on the sticky floor. His left hand raised to sweep his hair out of his field of vision and to push his glasses up again. Not the floppy, uncoordinated movements of a drunk, not at all. My insides churned as I repeated the motion in my head over and over again, the pieces of a puzzle falling into their places.
“You sure you shouldn’t be switching to non-alcoholics?” He was bent forward, caught somewhere in the middle of the process of standing up, studying me closely.
I shook my head, eyes transfixed on his white knuckles on the cane’s head, my tongue heavy and useless in my mouth.
“Hey?” He reached over with his left arm, managed to grab me by the shoulder and gently shook me. That probably jolted some brain cells back into their original slots. Thank god.
“Uh… I’m fine. All peachy. Really.”
Uh-huh. Totally not. “Totally, yes.” I swear, I could barely hear myself over the ringing in my ears. Or maybe it was the music. Scratch that.
“Okay…” he said, still concerned apparently but ready to believe me. He pushed on his cane and rose to stand straight. Somewhat straight. “Come on then.” He took a couple of precarious steps, using the cane for balance, swaying as he pulled one feet in front of the other with quite some practiced effort.
I blinked at him.
He had twisted his upper body to look back at me, the frown growing on his face. “Uh… two glasses and one free hand,” he said slowly. “And I am not exactly a pro at carrying liquids.”
I pried my eyes away from his legs, somehow managed to circumvent his left arm that had drawn closer to his body, bent at the elbow and managed to land on his face. Nice touchdown, captain. I saw realization dawning there, that sad, broken type. The soul crashing, shit, how could she be so oblivious, type of thing. The please do not ask, the just let me get the fuck out of here and do not let us draw this out look.
Sometimes when you are falling and you realize that you forgot to strap on your parachute, like you sometimes forget to put on make-up in the morning and only realize when you look in the mirror during pee break and wonder why you look so fucking crashed, there is no sense in fighting back. Because gravity is acting on everything and it is only natural. And sometimes you come to the realization that losing is just winning looked at from a different angle. Then all is left to do is turn your clothes into a wingsuit on the long way back to earth. Hope you got some badass sewing skills.
His eyes widened when I latched onto his left arm. Maybe I should not have drunk that much because we totally competed for the most unstable walk in that club. Minus those people who had given up on walking altogether and were slumped against a wall or on the floor, wondering how to get home, how they had managed to get here and if they had turned off the stove, if they actually owned a stove in the first place, and burning as many brain cells over those questions as Newton had over his law of gravitation. Compared to them we were totally ruling. The motherfucking masters of walking in a straight line. Doubles team.
“You know what?” I flashed a smile at him, white teeth waving the flag of surrender.
“Hm?” At least I was not the only person who had temporarily switched back to pre-language state.
“What about taking our drinks outside?”
He stopped walking. “Depends.”
“Do you always talk that much?” The corners of his lips twitched.
I squeezed his arm. “Hm… not always,” I said, winking, and took another step closer. His breath tasted of alcohol and mint.
Well okay, I admit it… there is more than one way to make me shut up.