There were only a few days out of the month that she allowed herself to let loose and go out to have a good time. Being a loner with very little downtime and too much work to do, it wasn’t often that she would go out to a bar just to go. As a doctoral student studying archaeology she understood that her work was important, but she also knew that her time would be up before she knew it. I’m going to be an old, child-less woman with dogs, she thought more often than not.
“Don’t you go out with your friends? You’re only 26. No need to stress yourself out this much,” said her mother.
“I don’t have any friends,” she responded on the phone earlier that afternoon. The work had been getting to her. Her lips had become chapped from frequent nervous biting. She hadn’t been out in public for two days and her friends were starting to ignore her because, well, she ignored them first.
“This isn’t right,” her best friend told her. “You need to have a life. What you study is dead and gone anyway. It’ll be there in the morning for you to pick up where you left off.”
“I’m not like you,” she responded. That conversation was two weeks ago.
She stared out her window. It was cold. It made it easier to be a hermit. She wasn’t made for cold weather.
Her phone vibrated in her pocket. She looked at it and sighed heavily. “Come out tonight,” said the manly voice. He had been trying to get her to go out for a few weeks now with him and some of her other friends. He was a colleague. He knew what it was like to be in her situation. “I’ll think about it.”
She did laundry, ate dinner. Thursday was her day off from school and research and her phone typically rang at least twice to ask if she was going out on Wednesday nights. She opened up the wooden door to her closet full of nice clothes she didn’t wear anymore. She pulled out a long, green dress; thick and made for fall. She felt the material between her thin fingers. Fine, she thought. I’m going out. One day won’t hurt.
This part becomes literally the scene from “She’s All That” when she transforms from the girl with the glasses and the ponytail into a gorgeous woman that men want to strike up a conversation with at the bar. And her friends were impressed, though this wasn’t the first time she cleaned herself up. “There’s that beauty we all know and love,” he said as he opened the taxi door for her.
The bar was already packed with people. This was normal for Ñ on a Wednesday night. The windows were steamy and the smell of cologne, perfume and sweat mixed together just right for a sense of a tropical atmosphere. She walked in and looked around, always aware of her surroundings. It didn’t matter how cold it was outside, people inside were dressed as if they lived in Miami. He took her coat for her and her friend grabbed her arm asking, “What do you want to drink?”
A young man in a dark shirt sat in the booth against the wall. The color of his long-sleeved t-shirt matched her dress. He was with a group of people, talking, laughing and just as she waited a second too long before looking away, he caught her with his eyes and again with his smile. She let her glance linger another second then turned away to speak to her friend that handed her a coconut mojito. What was THAT?! she asked herself. I’m not looking over again. I’m sticking to my friends.
The temperature in the bar was increasing steadily as more people packed in and even more decided to dance. The more they consumed the more they felt the beat of the percussionist and the electronic melodies of the DJ’s song selections. She laughed, she danced, she was having a good time.
Standing in front of the bar, she felt a strong hand on the small of her back moving her to one side. “Excuse me,” said a masculine voice behind her. As he gently moved her to one side, she turned to see that it was the man with the matching long-sleeved t-shirt. He looked straight into her eyes and she noticed his were hazel. Her face turned red. She felt the heat rise from her chest to her head along with a tiny pinch in her gut as he leaned against the bar to order a drink. People closed the gap between them and she saw him turn to look at her again. It must be the drinks, she thought. I should stop. She sipped down the last of sweet juice from between the cubes in her glass. She fought her way through a layer of bodies to place the empty glass on the bar. She slid back out from between two people and back into her spot surrounded by her friends.
In between a laugh, an arm came up from behind her and placed another coconut mojito in front of her face. Her two girlfriends raised their eyebrows and looked at each other. Her colleague was not too impressed with what he saw, but she turned around to face the long-sleeved-shirt man. “Thank you,” she said. He asked her name and where she was from. His eyes pierced into hers, as if he was reading her thoughts, or at least trying to. He was being too attentive. No one paid that close attention to what she had to say. She had nothing to offer besides the insight into research she was doing at the moment. People started yawning five minutes into their conversations with her and their eyes glazed over as her academia shone through. If they didn’t already know her, they had nothing to talk about, sadly. But this guy, he listened to every word, so intently that it made her stutter. She was nervous.
“Do you like to travel?” he asked. He looked like he did a lot of jet-setting. “No,” she said. “Being in archaeology it’s hard to believe that I don’t travel, right? But I have a fear…” The music’s volume soared and everyone screamed from excitement in the room. “I’m sorry,” he said, leaning in closer. “What did you say?”
“I have a fear of flying.”
He smiled the warmest smile a stranger could give. Then he asked a question that surprised her. She didn’t want to underestimate his intelligence, but how often does someone find a question posed like, “Would you rather visit the Lost City of Petra in Jordan or Machu Picchu in Peru?” Her jaw literally dropped as she tried to find the words to tell him that she’s been reading about the Lost City since she found out about it as a kid. She grew obsessed with Indiana Jones when she found out it was shot in Petra and it had always been her dream to get there, except for the flying part of it all. The idea of ancient civilizations inspired her to find out as much as she could about them, hence her career choice.
He followed everything she said, asked follow-up questions, bought her another drink. Her friends were lost in the crowd, dancing the night away, yet constantly glancing over and whispering among themselves about this captivating stranger. For once, her research and passion came in handy for a night out. She impressed herself.
She felt like Cinderella. The time passed swiftly as she continued her conversation with this random but not so random man she bumped into with her eyes. As the time came to leave the bar, she strangely didn’t feel the need to continue the conversation. He didn’t ask for contact information, yet neither did she.
“It was a pleasure to meet you. You’re a beautiful woman,” he said. She smiled, feeling the warmth of the rum, the heat from the dance floor and a sense of accomplishment. Her girl friends surrounded her, giddy, as he walked away and her colleague handed her her coat. In the cab, the girls said together, “So…?”
“So what?” she answered and stared out the foggy window.