On Friday he woke early and prepared for, then went to, the job he had chosen at sixteen when he picked subjects in school before he had ever been in love.
Afterwords the friend he was sometimes envious of texted him again, asking him to go out, and he usually didn’t but tonight his internet was inexplicably down.
So he ate dinner and prepared for the night that pricked his stomach-lining with anxious barbs and wondered if he should even bother, wondered it all the way there in the taxi. He met his friend who always smiled and nodded at the names of the other noisy people, and all together they started to converse in bars. Moving on after drinking, and joking, and sometimes he laughed too.
Then they went to the club where the music hurt his ears and the lights confused him, and he stood at the bar between clustered shoulders, whilst his smiling friend and the rest danced, some with girls they had only just met. He had drunk more than usual and felt sincerely sorry that the internet was down, wondering if he had tried hard enough to make it work again.
He heard her first when she ordered a drink- a nonsense word to him, a magic word delivered in a pristine accent that made the back of his neck sweat. Her bare shoulder brushed his forearm and that made him look, dead at her, point-blank range and saw her elfin ears, the way her eyes glittered with a secret he wished he knew. He wanted something, wanted her he supposed, but more than that as well, except for the inevitable worry that clung to his stomach-lining and made him believe the truth:
That, he would say something stupid first, something boring like ‘Hello.’ or something creepy like ‘Wow, you’re beautiful.’ and she would laugh or frown, or ignore him completely. That he would try that one line his smiling friend kept telling him to use, just to begin with, and he would load his mouth with the words, yet stutter or gasp then die like a fish looking up at her beyond his reach. Instead he stared. Because what if she did in fact laugh, and listen to him as her magical drink was prepared, and then he had to think of other things to say, or to answer questions with banalities like ‘I work in I.T.’ or ask questions dull and predictable in the hopes that she will hear, in between the words, all the amazing things he actually thought. She would reject him brutally, within earshot of others, or sneer at even the fact that someone such as he could pretend not to be the sort of person that wishes dearly the internet wasn’t out, tonight. That even if it all went well, so well they went home to the same place, and later had pet names for each other and shared secret jokes, that she would betray him royally, with someone else’s smiling friend, or that she would tire of him quickly, once he stopped pretending to not be boring, and that would be far worse- letting her get so very close before she ripped away. What if she was not what he imagined right now, what if she was less than, and he was more, and not the other way around.
And yet even if everything did go wrong he knew his smiling friend would say it was well that he had at least tried, and learned or felt pain that was not as bad as he thought it would have been.
That instead it might be very different.
He was not like the others here after all, he was just a pretender and that made him special. So when he said to her “HI! Look I know you aren’t exactly pining after an I.T tech with thick black glasses and a fetish for strange online subcultures, but I was hoping you’d at least give me the chance to say something interesting, because like it or not you’re the most stunning person I’ve met tonight and I’d like to challenge you to prove me wrong.” Which was sort of the truth.
And she would say “WHAT?” Because it was way too noisy, though she would not brush him off as he looked so sheepish in an endearing way. Sort of grateful that she didn’t hear him actually, he took that opportunity to yell “IT’S REALLY NOISY AND I WANTED TO ASK YOU SOMETHING IMPORTANT WANT TO GO OVER THERE?” And she hesitated because he looked so incredibly docile and yet was so confident and thus she’ll shrug because she’s far more bored than he would believe, and they’d go to a corner, get a table together, and she asked him what the question was, and he said, “What exactly do they put in your drink? It had a really cool name.” And they somehow moved onto things he knew about, like old cartoon theme songs and math rock. They leaned in closer, allied against the dubstep, talked about how they never really do this at all- talk to strangers in clubs. There is a lull. They parted awkwardly when he made a joke that she doesn’t get and then he gets up saying: “Well, I guess, uh, good bye.” Turned and walks away, got his coat whilst his smiling friends continued to dance. Outside he looked at all the cigarette smokers and wondered if he was missing out and then he hears her voice, cracked from the strain of all the shouting inside and she’s got her number on a bent napkin. He called and she picked up and all his immediate evenings and weekends are filled with her. She introduces him to rock climbing and he inspires her to put her strange videos online. They find a stray kitten one day in an alley and shuttle it between them till a year later all three of them move in together. Spending a whole weekend either in bed or watching reruns of cartoons. Her parents die and he keeps her going. His stomach problem turns out to be cancer but they beat it anyway.
None of those things happened except in his head. He finished his drink in one stinging gulp and left without saying a word.
The weekend passed.
On Monday he woke early and prepared for, then went to, the job he had chosen at sixteen when he picked subjects in school before he had ever been in love.