leer pressure

Her hesitation flew in the face of the bold wide eyes which slammed from across the dark bar.  Wide eyes which said ‘HEY! Look at me looking at you.  Are you going to do something?’

And I wasn’t all that fussed about doing anything.  She wasn’t unattractive but it was an unorthodox tactic, if it was a tactic, if it was something she was controlling.  Her eyes sort of freaked me out.  Perhaps that was just her way, that gaping, unknowable whiteness in her eyes; that spacey vacancy.

Still, I wasn’t drawn.

I should go and talk to her, my friends told me, make an effort, go over and buy her a drink.  Go on, the two men a handful of years older than me goaded.  I felt like a vicarious medium for them, both domesticated husbands and fathers, like I was their reality show.  Go on, they gurgled excitedly, like their infants, she keeps looking over.

Fucksake.  Partly because I was tired of them, I submitted and headed towards the bar, where Wide Eyes was.   As I did so an unmissable space at the bar opened up further along the bar and I gravitated in that direction instead, quickly ordering an unnecessary extra round of drinks.  I glanced in her direction and we connected eyes again, over a few heads.  Big, spacey, empty eyes.  There was no way out.  Don’t be harsh.  Don’t pre-judge.

I smiled, politely, obviously.  Was I doing whatever I was doing out of politeness?  Or out of a misguided obligation to be the spectacle?  Because she was looking over and saying I should, and because my friends were looking over and saying I should?

It was all excruciatingly loaded now.

But hell, she was female and not unattractive.  I was drunk and ever-single.  It was late Friday night in a bar where this sort of thing happens.  There was no shame.

Or was there?  Was feeling nothing (not even phwoar lust as with the German) yet still buckling limply under other people’s expectations, was that not just a tiny bit shameful?

Hrm.  Best not think too hard.

She weaved down the bar and we began to chat.  Our dialogue didn’t exactly fizz with anything, flirty banter or pace, but it was amiable enough.  She was here, quite drunk, I was quite drunk, also here.  Our friends were looking over; things were obvious.  It felt harrowingly like a school disco.  I was still just a little too sober, too aware.  Wish I’d been like this with the German.  Then I might have remembered at least one single detail.  Other than her being German, which wasn’t that much to go on.

Name, job, EYES, part of town, details, EYES, age (the same, although I’m not sure she believed me – weirdo), details, blah blah.  Vapid, impenetrable, uninteresting.   Or pissed?  Or a little simple?  Or all of the above?  How much did I care?  Anyway, yes, I’m here now, I supposed, my conversation on autopilot, her head bobbing uncertainly close to mine like it was detached from the rest of her body, a fisherman’s float.

There was that faltering hesitance about everything in her style.  Was she just teasing me?  Playing power games like she did with her confident wide eye contact?  I can do anything I want, me.  You’re just Some Bloke.

(Later though, I wondered if the hesitance was anything to do with the huge garlic-laden steak and garlic bread I’d had a couple of hours earlier.  A mate and I had eaten in a fabulous dark and dingey old steakhouse, served by an improbably old head waiter.  I hadn’t addressed the garlic with gum but surely that had been blanketed by booze?)

We re-joined our friends and came back together again.    Would she remember any of this?

A child.  She said she had a child?  Oh ok, right.. um, cool?  What’s his name?  Look at me all sensitive and interested.

The dark bar suddenly became less dark.  Lights!  Her ferocious looking girlfriend ordered that they leave.  Diminutive, a little older and violently Welsh, her friend looked like the kind of person who takes preposterous levels of pride in telling it like it is.

On the street outside my friends, who were near neighbours on the opposite side of town from me, hailed a taxi.  They tipped me a nod and a wink as they left, doubtless feeling like they’d done a good job.  My mobile vibrated with a text I’d read later.  ‘Smash it like Andy Gray.’  Nice boys.

Another cab quickly pulled up for Wide Eyes, Violent Welsh and her party (one other nondescript guy).   I gave her my card, all self-effacingly saying I know you won’t wanna.. but just take it..  The obligation to do that was all my own making, but seasoned with half-hearted Why Not? rather than anything stronger.  She accepted it and kissed me on the cheek – aw, I was just playing with you (?) – then got in the cab.

I shuffled away in the direction of my flat, a confused and drunken string puppet.


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