It was like I’d never seen him before—my eyes collided into his striped button down, crisply-creased collar tucked into slightly faded grey suit pants, a slight curvature of his dad-bod tummy hanging over a worn-down, black leather belt, which I’m sure he wore over all his suit pants without exception, no judgment to the brown slacks that clearly didn’t match. He was a friend of Keira’s.
I spent the next twenty minutes casually pressing her with questions trying to determine whether they were a “thing” without giving it away—my desire to go home with him tonight, leave the next morning just in time for my Tuesday morning Intermediate Accounting Principles II class where I’d turn into the spitting image of a smart girl, dressed properly for her policy-focused internship at the National Association of Social Workers.
Keira’s sudden change in expression revealed it—she knew. Her excitement grew into hopes of a romantic getaway between us—her being a mutual friend who could take credit for the lustful love that would erupt—but I refused to get my hopes up. Instead, I settled for the pairs of lonely, unaccompanied economics and communications majors who, one after another, strutted over in their distasteful fashion to try to pick us up— “Can I get you a drink?”, they’d ask, then proceed to pester me with useless questions of my daily lifestyle—school, major— “What do you want to do with that?”
I hate those questions. There’s much more to me than the fact that I have no idea what I want to do with my double major in social work and accounting. There’s much more to me than my eighteen-hour school weeks, part-time internship, and unusual appeal to consistently participate in unlinked community service priorities. There’s much more to me. Right?
I was rude. I’d unpleasantly respond with my eyes turned towards the rim of my glass and my mouth consistently sipping at unproportionate cubes of ice. My vodka gimlet had been gone for more than fifteen minutes but I knew taking their free drink endeavor was much more than acquiring another giblet; It meant giving up slight ownership over my night, which for the meantime, I claimed was a girl’s night, in hopes that a certain boy in a crisp, striped dress shirt would change that.
“Sorry, we’re actually having a girl’s night.”
I broke the news once Avery and Keira made a fleeting escape for the girl’s bathroom. The boys were clearly disappointed, faces masked with the obvious knowledge that we—the minority, three of the only girls at the bar that night and arguably the only ones that projected an image of an inviting and seductive evening—were not interested in them.
Keira returned to her claimed wheel-around bar stool next to me to order another drink to accompany her unusually withdrawn temperament. I didn’t let it bother me. Anything could happen to her any which day and it would stay with her for the whole day. I wish she’d let things go, but I suppose it’s nice to feel needed. She loves that I listen and respond, and am there for her.
My turn for the bathroom, but not an escape this time; simply broke the seal. I presume my tolerance has gone down quite a bit. I used to be able to handle anything. In high school I’d gather around a pack of nerdy boys, who habitually engaged in daily conversations of Call of Duty and Pokémon, to spend a few hours competing in beer pong or some other game where we’d add in a strip tease with each new rule. Somehow I’d always wind up half naked drunkenly stumbling around the room, an insane smile across my face erupting with a laughter that only ever comes from discernable inebriation.
I wiped my hands on the sides of the tight black, ribbed skirt I had stolen from the shadows of my roommate’s dresser drawers, and returned to the bar-side where what my eyes saw translated to my stomach and into emotions that flooded all over my face.
He was talking to Keira.
A hasty jealousy broke out all over my buzzed facial expression, but then an empowering excitement ran over me: This was my chance. I pranced back to the bar and gracefully slid into my bar stool with a subtle twist of my waist in efforts to get just a glance. I listened to them talk with my eyes glued to his. He would do that thing where with every sentence—though I wasn’t really involved, yet—he’d give me a moment of his attention to include me. I felt special.
As he continued, I’d throw in short-lived jokes where he’d carry a smile for at least a few seconds. It reminded me of the cafeteria in high school where my dorky friends and I would play Egyptian Ratscrew, and there was always this rule where you could jump in on a sandwich or a double slap to get back in after you’d already been out. I hadn’t really been invited in, but of course Keira welcomed me, and he seemed to like my ripped tights, short skirt, and the sliver of my pale, freckled stomach that peaked out just under the white flowery crop-top I wore.
He was handsome, smart, and tall—pretty much the three things I hope for in a suitor. I’d accepted the challenge with a certain sense of vulnerability in my desire to have him.
We all made a move for the dance floor upstairs, and I nearly fell as my heels climbed up the wooden staircase, with no help from any side rails. The room was nearly empty, but none of us cared. Him and his frat-friends filled the room with humor as they swung and swayed in the style of well-known dance moves like the Charleston. The bar was playing what we’d wrongly consider “classics.” An awfully constructed remix to Twist and Shout pulsed from the speakers, and we all started to awkwardly wiggle in the formation of a circle. I tend to hate these sort of things, but at least it gives me an opportunity to take the upper hand and throw one of my friends into the circle to squirm around in embarrassment. Although, no one really cares, and it’s all in the name of fun. Plus, we’re all drunk aren’t we?
Then it happened. A firm hand extended directly towards me in invitation. Out of instinct, I quickly presented my nervous and confused hand to him. It was beautiful, impulsive, and absolutely unexpected. We smiled and laughed as I twirled and pivoted in and out of his arms. I barely noticed when the song came to a close. I was flying—a riveting, explorative high. And just as the song began to slow, and the funky bass beat that accompanied it lowered in volume, I swung in and was lifted. His strong arms were extended as he held me in the air. I could not have been more exhilarated.
The night ended with the exchange of our numbers and an awkward realization that we had met before on very different circumstances—a drunken frat house tailgate where I’d brought my fling at the time and forced him to do a dunkaroo as I recorded the hilarious event on my phone. Keira had introduced us then. He was president of ATO at the time, dressed in frat gear with a puffy vest and funny sunglasses. We’d exchanged numbers but he had never messaged me back—how embarrassing.
This was even more embarrassing. I couldn’t imagine what he might be thinking—this girl is clearly crazy.
In the face of my worry, he apologized for not having messaged me back with claims of being insanely drunk that day. I accepted it. I’d accept anything after reenacting Dirty Dancing with a tall, handsome, frat-boy.
Just as we left, he pulled me in and whispered, “I’d really like to kiss you right now.”
My eyes must have lit up, because I can’t explain the bursting, hold-your-breath emotion that consumed my chest. The vacant emptiness that lie just behind my sternum as I entered the bar that night was no longer a pressing concern.
But I didn’t want to go home with him. I wanted him to text me back. I wanted him to call me, even. I wanted to feed into the charming and alluring idea that we could be something like out of Dirty Dancing—something delicate and passionate. I wanted him so differently than I had before.
“Not yet,” I said, beaming with evident satisfaction. My next few steps were backwards as I watched his reaction—a joyful, hold-your-breath smile dressing his face as he shook his head in amusement.