jdomawa © 2011* All Rights Reserved
Let’s have a thought experiment. This is a story I am writing that will be dependent upon your responses. It is fictional in all aspects, lets lay that down first. So that means IT IS NOT REAL! I know that we harbor the voyeuristic desire to see the life of others for public consumption but this is not based on reality. It’s a complete work of fiction and must be treated as such.
Here’s how it works: I write small chapters where the main hero has a predicament at the end. You comment about what you want the character to do and based on the highest votes, I’ll write the next chapter and then so on until we get to complete the story. (Race to five votes should do it). Give me time to finish the next chapters and then the voting starts again.
CHAPTER 1: The Meeting
It was a Friday night. I can remember it because I had one hell of a headache which only Fridays can give me. After my workday ended, the only thing I was looking forward to was that cold bottle of beer and the anonymity of drowning my sorrows in a small bar somewhere in the city. I’ve realized that life is not that rosy as I once pictured it to be and ten years in the cutthroat world of adult living had made me realize that life is seriously messed up.
Dreams are for young people, I surmised. To be an adult is to face facts and more often than not, the facts are brutal. I’ve stopped believing in that dream. Life may get better if I work hard for it. But let’s face it, working hard doesn’t really cut it nowadays. One can end up with a bad back and a pittance of a pension after all the hard work. I decided that I’d just go with the flow and live life by the moment: a reactive life if that’s the word for it.
And that means sacrificing some apparent milestones of life like a family. Let’s face it, when you realize that life is not going to be how you envisioned it to be, it’s a sin to drag someone else with you, much less bring innocents into this messed up world. If one has decided to surrender to life, going it alone is the responsible thing to do. It’s the sensible thing to do, the right thing to do.
So here I am, in a rundown art bar buried beneath a decrepit building. Amateur oil paintings obviously done by some nerd head dabbling with his ‘artsy’ skills were displayed on the walls. They were a motley hash of heavy brush strokes, heavy on yellow and blues, with certain lumpy areas indicative of the artist’s meager knowledge on the proper process of paint mixing. His choice of theme was also diffuse. In one corner, a small hut in the middle of a rice field glared at the eyes and on another there is this facial mosaic armed with a toothy grin and just above my chosen table a yellow sun was rising above a crude rendering of a seascape. I shrugged them off. Life is merely a collection of adults trying to pass themselves off as someone and the artist is no exception. We are a bunch of confused idiots trying to make sense of life. That’s adulthood.
I ordered my light beer with a sense of resignation. I dumped my bag cum briefcase beneath the table and kicked it as far away from my sight as possible. Spending a day with indifferent people who revel in the pain of others is enough for a person. One needs to escape, even if it’s just for an hour or so. Sleep then engage them again on the following day. That is what life is all about.
A faceless attendant dumped my beer on my table. It was topped by a triangle of a napkin, which I really don’t get. A piece of soggy tissue paper doesn’t really give any class to a bottle of beer. It’s the beverage that counts (and the price).
Getting rid of the offending paper tissue, I poured a drink on my glass, taking care to give it an inch of foam. Blame it on my watching Discovery Science on cable TV, but I have gotten the process of beer drinking to an art. One bottle would last me an hour and another two bottles will round my escape for the next three hours. That last bottle would only by 1/3 drained. Cos despite things, I don’t really like drinking, since alcohol in general is bitter. I guess I just need an excuse to hang out for a few hours away from everything else.
Halfway through my drink, I realized that the bar was getting filled up with patrons. I guess I was not able to chose an anonymous bar after all. Glancing at the new arrivals, I realized that it catered to the art people: you know, those dread locked, horn rimmed, hand crafted Tshirt and loose baggy pant wearing crowd. They loiter around the main streets of the city hawking hand-made knick - knacks and then gather around at night at some bistro getting wasted and crashing at any available flat area for their forty winks. I don’t know if they are just plain lazy or really artists. I mean there is no way to discern between both. I really don’t care, though. At least they are a much better crowd than the cheesy adolescents who really are after what’s present under the pants of their dates and the hard drinking laymen who can get really unruly when properly lubricated.
They get good dates, though, these artists, I must admit. And they get the intellectual crowd, women who know what cheesy men are after and are looking for something better, at least in terms of intellect. Even if artists in general are polygamists.
I returned to my drink and shut off the rising sounds of their conversations. My three hours would be my own three hours. I’ve mastered the process of shutting myself away. It’s a survival skill for adults. Which must be used in moderation since it borders on the precipice that leads directly into mental depression. It’s a balancing act.
I finished my first bottle and snapped out of my self-induced coma to signal for the next drink and that’s the time I realized that there were eyes on me.
People say that you can’t really feel when someone is looking at you, but believe me that feeling exists. You instinctively know when someone is checking you out. Maybe it’s psychic or something physiological in nature. But it really happens.
I raised my gaze and looked into the direction of the gaze and found myself looking into the dark brown eyes of a delicate brunette. Her mouth crinkled in a soft smile as our eyes met and the corners of her eyes creased into a pair of cute dimples. I found myself smiling back and nodding at her. My eyes were drawn to her and I felt myself studying her. Her face was beautifully fragile, a small nose perched just above full lips. Two bright smiling eyes full of intrigue capped with a dash of coyness accentuated a brilliant inquisitive face. She wore her hair short and a stray strand of hair was coquettishly anchored in her right ear.
She was with a group of friends and the man before her was engaging her in a conversation but her eyes darted away from the man and lingered with mine which remained glued at her, I suddenly realize. I dropped my gaze when that fact entered my mind, out of surprise more than anything else. I know beauty when I see one and I would be lying if I said that I don’t give a double take when I see a gorgeous woman come my way, much less look my way. I’m a man, after all.
Yet, the thought came to me as I digested the fact that she was looking my way, I have put myself in a position where I don’t really entertain a relationship with the opposite sex. My current lifestyle dictated that I must live a solitary existence in order for me to get any semblance of normalcy in my life. To mess with it is foolishness.
Yet I couldn’t bring myself to ignore her. I found my eyes looking at her direction and there she was, our eyes inexplicably meeting again. I really don’t believe in love at first sight, but if it exists, this is probably what poets envision it to be. One cannot deny that there is a connection there which just materializes in thin air. It’s not physical or mental, just a hazy emotion that makes you tingle. Unexplainable and vague. But painfully real. As real the cold beer that gurgled in my stomach and the waitress blocking my vision.
I welcomed the intrusion as the waitress delivered my drink. It allowed my mind to work out. On one hand, there is that tantalizing possibility that it might lead into something great down the road (the images of her on a caftan standing by a window with a mug of steaming coffee in her hand while she sported a smile was the most vivid) and the more probable scenario of a nightmare (her dressed in a dirty apron struggling with a messy saucepan while a baby bawled in the background. This time, she ain’t smiling instead there is this look of dejection in her face, a silent look of resignation and regret on her once peaceful face). I knew the greater probability. Or maybe I’m just a coward trying to rationalize something that hasn’t even started yet.
Whatever the truth is, by the time the waitress left, my mind was tempered by the play of visions in my mind’s eye. Our eyes met again and I gave her a painful smile. This time she was the one surprised. She changed her gaze and I could see her mind trying to make sense of it. I smiled as the irony of it hit me. She was probably having the same visions with just different settings playing in her mind’s eye. Just my kind of woman. Not a moron who thought with a limited scope but a woman who knew the gray areas of life and dealt with it.
This is how men like me and women like her flirted. Wordless, non contact mental exercises which others would find funny. Life is not a jock’s world filled with one liner’s and puffing your chest in front of womenfolk. There is that small area where men and women struggle with cerebral courtships.
Contrary to what people may say, you can actually get a sense of what a person’s station in life is just by looking at his or her outward appearance. A sloppily dressed man with a messy persona indicates a sloppily dressed man with a messy persona. A woman wearing an entry level corporate uniform beneath her blazer which is a designer knock off is just that. Economics plays the greatest part in the dating game and love, or what passes as love is an afterthought that is better left to lusty young people in heat. They are the only people who know what love is, with the rare exception of childhood friends and high school sweethearts.
She probably came to the same conclusion. It really was not hard. I’m the picture of a spent man looking into a dreary existence. Haphazard, mismatched attire, empty beer bottles in front, a weeklong growth of unshaved beard beneath unkempt hair. It’s easy to see the greater picture.
I looked at her waiting for that same pained expression to be returned. She sighed. A good sign of surrender. It’ll all just end with the next meeting of eyes. We’ll smile it off and go into our own existences.
She looked at me.
I was wrong.
And that gave my heart a lurch. She saw the same picture yet the expression she wore was that of hope. Her face said it all.
It just might work.
I dropped my gaze, stymied by the unexpected response. And the terrifying thing is that it just might work. And the thrill of savoring that possibility was tantalizingly real. I mean, looking down at the road, all it takes is a bit of effort and a bit of luck and things like that picture of her in a caftan might just become possible. (Despite the image of her in that apron interspersed itself with that image).
I returned my gaze at her. There was a question in her eyes.
The one good thing about our social dating skills is this. Despite the advances of morals and changes in culture, men are still expected to make the first move. Women who respect themselves would not perform that first action. That falls upon the man. Like now, all I have to do to initiate that path is to walk up to her and drop her a cheesy one liner or buy her a drink, or just raise my beer bottle in her direction if I am not up to the first two options. She’d come over and then we’ll start small talk, realize that we are going in the right direction, we’ll share a drink and swap basic information. I’ll feign a bit of inebriation and ask if I could ask her out. We’ll text for the next few days. I’ll invite her for dinner and the next thing we know, we are a couple. That’s how fast dating is for adults. Not like young kids who have all the time in the world to mess relationships up. Marriage will inevitably follow, then the dreaded normalcy of family life settles. That can be a tragedy or a dream fulfilled. That’s my greatest fear: to fail, not just me but her as well. I couldn’t take that risk.
All I have to do is raise my beer bottle and invite her over.
Yet I hesitate.
She knows. I saw her drop her gaze, disappointment written all over her face. I know I can still rescue it. All I have to do is get up from my chair and walk over to her. A simple thing . . .