Brief Love: part two
I yank open the door to the bathroom and instantly regret the action. Momentum propels me forward into the invisible fog of stench resulting from too little cleanings and no proper ventilation system. I cough up a bit of the bile in the back of my throat and my hand flies up to cover my mouth and nose. I pivot as quickly as my limbs allow and hastily vacate the bathroom. Time to get some more wine, just not at the bar Heath occupies.
As I consider my strategy to avoid Heath, I round the corner and run headfirst into the mystery man in the cramped hallway, bouncing off him like a trampoline. My joints tighten and all I can do is stare. He smiles at me and my body warms, releasing my bones into a limp mass. "Excuse me," I manage. My voice is foreign to me; it sounds sick and pathetically weak.
"No, my fault," the man replies. His voice isn't deep but it isn't childish. Instead there is a hint of confidence hidden in the soothing tones that sound like warm milk as they flow through my ears down into my veins. Three words and I already love his voice. I wonder what it sounds like in the dark.
I bite my bottom lip. It's a stupid habit, but I do it anyway because if I don't I will say something I will surely regret later as I lie alone in my bed. I move to the side to go around him and he moves to the same side. I try the other side and so does he. We stop trying to go around each other and laugh.
"I'm going that way," he says and points to his left. Then he points to his right. "You go that way."
I nod like an idiot because I am not allowed to talk like one. Not to this man.
"Unless of course you'd like to join me that way," he jokes with another smile and a sly wink.
Oh, he is killing me. Slowly, surely, and thoroughly killing me. I want to scream at him not to smile at me, not to talk to me, not to encourage my immature infatuation with him a second longer. If he does my head and heart might both explode right here in this tiny bar hallway, and I don't think I'll stand a chance with him after that happens. Not that I have any chance with him now, but it's nice to hold onto little wisps of hope.
I point to his right and say, "I'm okay this way, thanks."
He smiles again and walks around me toward the men's restroom. I continue past the stage and into the main bar area. My mother must have dropped me on my head several times when I was a child causing irreparable damage to the part of my brain that dictates how to act around an attractive person of the opposite sex. That's the only explanation for my words to him. Why am I cursed with this inability to flirt back? That's assuming, of course, that he was flirting with me. If he was, I'm sure he rapidly decided against any future flirting. I should have just let myself explode all over the walls in the hallway and saved myself this embarrassment.
I squeeze my way in between a couple of young girls out partying on daddy's trust fund and flag down the bartender. Brian is a pretty cool guy and he remembers me from the many other nights I've paid rent on one of his barstools.
"Sorry, lady," he yells in my direction. "No bourbon for you tonight."
"Yeah, what's up with that?" I scream back.
"They knew you were coming." He jokes and cracks an adorable smile. Truth be told, Brian's a guy you look forward to seeing but you can't quite explain why. Too bad I don't know him better. His girlfriend is very lucky, I think. "What will you have?" he asks me.
I answer, "White wine."
"What kind?" he probes, ever the patient and attentive bartender.
"Does it really matter?"
Brian simply nods and turns around to grab a wine glass. I stare at him while he artfully pours the wine, as I'm sure there is a proper way to do this and he's doing a damn fine job. He hands me the glass and I toss a couple of ones on the bar for him to keep. All the wine was paid for by our gracious host, but Brian still has to earn a living.
I clutch the stem in my hand and deliberately swirl the wine. The cyclone of liquid transfixes me, my eyes following the tiny sea in the bottom of the glass as I wonder what is happening in the molecules of this drink that causes some to follow it as a religion. I peek around at others at the bar to see if they are swirling their glasses, just to make sure I’m doing it right. My hand stutters and the wine splashes dangerously toward the rim. I’m sure that someone is watching me closely, ready to point me out to the rest of the crowd. Seasoned wine drinkers know when someone is faking it and tonight I'm sure they'd assume me a fraud. I certainly feel like one, swirling wine I hate around a pretentious glass while wearing this hundred-dollar top trying to pretend I fit in with this bunch.
I stop the rush of liquid in the glass and take a much needed drink. My taste buds revolt against the unwelcome flavor and I fight my instincts to bunch up my face in disgust. I catch a glimpse of myself in the bar mirror and shudder at the sight of a girl who is not me. I’ll return the top tomorrow and buy something more sensible, I decide. I lift the glass back to my lips and turn around to see if I can catch a glimpse of Molly.
I almost choke on the sip of wine. Mystery man is standing right behind me. I didn't hear him approach, didn't feel his presence. He's just suddenly there, an apparition of perfection that floated into my life, twice now. His smile is large and he is peering directly into my soul.
"I wondered where you had disappeared to," his magical voice says to me.
Where the wine failed to silence me his words succeed. He had been looking for me. Not Molly, not daddy's trust fund girls, but me. My heart goes into roller coaster mode, hitting four upside-down loops in a row. That, of course, awakens the butterflies in my stomach and arouses the woman in me. With my internal organs in permanent disarray, a single neuron is somehow still firing away in my brain. "What are you drinking?" I ask, and my confidence spikes. Usually a line left for a guy to say, I regard the words that came from nowhere as a suave thing for me to utter at one of my historically worst moments.