It was turning out to be quite a fun night — and I haven’t had many of those in a long time. It was crowded as usual, but I was on a happier-than-usual float and therefore in a rather forgivable mood, so I didn’t even mind the crowd. And it’s always better when Becca and I are on a happy float together, because we laugh a lot more and we’re able to prevent each other’s happy floats from turning into depression slumps — even though my happy float later turned into one big miserable, increasingly mortifying mess, complete with tears and a cigarette burn I only discovered this morning. (Note to self: empty stomach + too much pent-up anger + alcohol = disaster/social suicide not seen since college days)
He wasn’t too unfortunate-looking — or so the alcohol told me. He was tall enough so that I could actually look up at him in my stilettos, and even though he was considerably older he didn’t talk to me as if I were a child. It didn’t hurt either that he had spent a long time in London and he spoke English well, which has always won more points with me. And when he leaned in and said, “You have very pretty eyes,” the alcohol allowed me to smile a little more genuinely — as opposed to my usual raise of the left eyebrow because I’m unaccustomed to such compliments and therefore unable to respond to them — and say, “Thank you.”
He then gave an odd little smile, and said something else that was suddenly drowned out by the music — or maybe he deliberately lowered his voice midway through his sentence.
“What?” I shouted, leaning in to catch what he was saying.
He didn’t repeat himself right away; he looked as though he was going to shrug it off and say, “Never mind.” But after pausing for a few seconds, he leaned down and said into my ear, “But they’re the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen.”
If that had been a scene from a movie, the music would have died right there and everything would have started moving in extreme slow motion, and I would have walked away to the sound of a beating heart in the background. But all I could do was stand there and stare at him, swaying slightly on my feet. Even the tequila couldn’t stop his comment from hitting home.
I don’t know which bothered me the most — that a complete stranger had said something that seemed so personal, so intimate, to me, or that a complete stranger had said what people I actually know have told me before, or that even to a complete stranger I was more transparent than I thought. Whichever it was, it was enough to make me do a complete turn-around and shut him out. And after the sixth tequila shot, he didn’t exist anymore, because all I could think was, You’re not him.