(the formatting worked out better on myspace)
“Hi,” said Jeff.
* * *
Seven days earlier.
* * *
Jeff sat at the table, nursing his beer. It was Saturday night, and that meant that it was club night. He did this ever week. Him, Steve, Jackie, and her boyfriend, Scott.
“And this is pretty much how it goes every week,” Jeff thought as he looked out over the dance floor. “Scott grinding up against Jackie’s leg, and Steve hitting on a group of girls at the bar.”
It didn’t seem to be going well for Steve. “It never seems to,” Jeff reflected. And how could it, really? The music was so loud, it drowned out the talk. And what the hell song was playing, anyway? It was a pulsing beat. How could people tell when one song ended and the next one began? Jeff couldn’t remember there being a break in the thumping bass as long as he’d been there.
After some frantic back and forth gesturing between Steve and the girls, one of them got up and led him to the dance floor. Steve glanced back at the other two girls as he followed.
Jeff smirked when he saw Steve’s glance. That wasn’t the girl he had been going for.
Jeff went back to surveying the room when a girl leaned down to speak to him.
“Are these seats taken?” she asked.
“She’s cute,” he thought. “Not too made up. Obviously not overly preoccupied with clothes and makeup, but still really pretty just naturally. That’s the sort of girl I could see myself with.
He glanced at the dance floor, looking for his friends. There were all still dancing, and it didn’t look like they would be back any time soon.
“Go ahead,” he said.
“Sweet.” She smiled and sat down across from him at the table.
Jeff sipped at his beer. The girl was drinking a rum and coke, and surveying the room.
“So, are you here alone?” Jeff thought. he made sure he appeared to be casually nursing his beer and gazing at the room, just like she was.
They both sat there, sipping at their drinks and looking around aimlessly.
“Are you here alone?” thought Jeff. “Come on. Say it. Are you here alone?”
The girl got up. She had spotted her friends at a table across the club. Jeff watched her walk over to their table, sit down, and lean in to talk to them over the droning music of the club.
“What’s wrong with you?” Jeff scolded himself. “ ‘Are you here alone?’ How hard is it to say?” He watched her carrying on her conversation and continued silently scolding himself on the missed opportunity.
The group at her table finished their conversation and all sat back in their seats. Jeff’s girl glanced around at the club, in Jeff’s direction.
He quickly lowered his gaze to his beer.
“Did she notice me looking?” he wondered.
He casually looked back over the dance floor, making sure not to let himself look at the girl again.
“This is stupid,” he thought. “What’s the big deal? What if she’s looking at me now? Then I could talk to her. But no. I’m gonna just pretend that I hardly noticed her at all. ‘Staring at you? Like some common jerk? Not me! I’m just casually looking around the room. Hardly noticed you at all.’
Okay. That’s been enough time”
He let himself slowly bring his gaze back to her table. Some guy was leaning over her now.
Brett swaggered over to the table. Three girls and two guys. All of the girls were hot. The one by herself had smaller boobs than the other two, and she didn’t look as slutty, but still hot.
He leaned over her and smiled.
“Wanna dance?” he yelled over the music.
Sarah looked up at him. He was good looking. Tall, with brown hair, blue eyes, a strong jaw, and an athletic build. She shrugged.
“Sure,” she said, and got up to accompany him to the floor.
Jeff watched them leave the table together and sighed. “Oh well,” he thought. “She probably wasn’t really my type anyway. But he kept his eyes on her.
She was a good dancer, as far as he could tell. Which mostly just meant that she was able to move with some amount of rhythms. Girls always seemd like good dancers unless they were absolutely horrible at it.
They guy she was dancing with, for his part, just seemed to be standing there.
Jeff noticed Scott and Jackie making their way back to his table, and quickly started scanning the room as casually as he could manage.
Did they notice him staring at her?
“What? Staring at someone in particular? Me? Preposterous! No, I’m just looking around. Completely casual. I don’t even notice individual people.”
Scott and Jackie collapsed into the booth. Jeff leaned forward to talk to them.
“Hey, guys,” he said.
They smiled at him, catching their breath from the dancing.
Brett was feeling better about his decision to ask this girl to dance. Up close, she was much better looking than he had originally thought. And he liked the way she moved. He could feel himself getting turned on.
Sarah was feeling pretty buzzed. She was having a good time dancing with—what was his name again? Had he told her? Oh well. Doesn’t really matter. It’s just dancing.
She thrust her ass into his crotch, and felt that he was a little hard. She smiled, and grinded into him a bit.
He leaned down to her ear and yelled, “Wanna get out of here?”
She turned around to look at him.
“I don’t even know your name,” she yelled.
“It’s Brett.” He grinned at her.
He had a really nice smile. She looked him up and down quickly.
“He really is cute,” she thought. “What the hell?”
“Lemme get my stuff,” she said, and she led him back to her table.
She grabbed her purse when they got back and said “I’m gonna get out of here,” to her friends. Erica and Trish giggle at her.
“Have fun, you two,” Erica said.
Sarah rolled her eyes at her, picked up her half-full glass of rum and coke, and downed the rest. Then she and Brett made their way out of the club.
“Where’s Steve?” Jackie asked.
“Jeff pointed him out on the dance floor. Jackie nodded.
“We’re getting tired,” she said, gesturing toward herself and Scott. “You about ready to get going?”
Jeff scanned the club. He didn’t see his girl anywhere.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll go let Steve know we’re leaving.”
* * *
Sarah woke up the next morning next to Brett.
“Who is this guy?” she thought. “And where am I?”
She surveyed the room and saw her clothes in a heap at the foot of the bed. Last night started to come back to her.
What was that guy’s name again? Brian or something, right?
“Brian?” she said in a half whisper.
He didn’t answer.
“Brian?” she tried again, giving him a light shove to try to wake him.
“Oh well,” she thought as she rolled out of bed and got dressed. “I didn’t really have anything to say to him anyway.”
She glanced back at him as she opened the bedroom door to leave.
“He’s not as cute as he was last night, anyway,” she thought as she walked out.
* * *
Jeff sat on the couch, eating a bowl of cereal and watching the news. Steve’s bedroom door opened, and out walked the girl from the night before.
“Morning,” Jeff said. She gave a startled little jump.
“Oh,” she said. “Morning.” And she made a B-line for the door.
“See you around, then,” said Jeff.
“Yeah,” she said over her shoulder as she opened the door. “See ya.”
The door closed behind her, and Steve emerged from his room wearing just a pair of boxer shorts. He slumped down on the couch next to Jeff.
“So,” said Jeff. “Who was she?”
Steve shrugged. “Just some girl,” he said. “You know.
“Not really,” thought Jeff. “I don’t do ‘Just a Girl.’ I wonder what it would be like to just take Just a Girl home for a night and then shrug about her the next morning.”
But what he said was: “Yeah.” And he looked away from Steve, unable to maintain eye contact.
“How’d you do last night?” Steve asked.
“Oh,” said Jeff, keeping his gaze fixed on the television. “You know.”
He shrugged, just as Steve had done. But it wasn’t the same shrug as Steve’s, was it? Steve’s shrug had meant “Yeah, this is all commonplace for me. Some random girl for the night. Don’t even remember her name. But it’s a new day now. On to new things.”
Jeff’s shrug had meant “I sat at the table all alone all night. Again. Watching everyone else have fun, making sure no one noticed me looking at them, and trying to figure out how to go up to some girl who probably thought he was staring at her like a creep and start up a conversation with her. But I want you to think I had a fine time and am just as casual as you about it.”
“But,” Jeff thought, “maybe Steve’s shrug is closer to mine than I think. Just a Girl wasn’t The Right Girl, was she? She was just the one in the group containing The Right Girl that had been willing to go off with Steve. and more weekend than not, there isn’t even a Just a Girl for Steve, is there?”
Jeff hazarded a glance away from the television at Steve, who was eating cereal straight from the box. He looked at Jeff.
“How come you never ask a girl to dance or anything?” he asked.
Jeff felt an uncomfortable flush starting in his gut.
“I just never see anyone I like,” Jeff lied, thinking about the girl from last night.
“How would you know?” Steve asked.
“I just do,” Jeff shrugged.
This shrug meant “Drop it. Please. Please, just drop it.
The door to Scott and jackie’s room opened, and out came Jackie.
“I just don’t get how you could have a good time sitting the table alone like that all the time,” Steve said.
“Yeah,” chimed in Jackie. “Why don’t you ever get up and ask a girl to dance?”
“He says he never sees anyone he likes,” supplied Steve.
Jeff tried the Drop It Please shrug again. Jackie rolled her eyes.
“You should, Jeff. Just go up to someone and say hi.
The flush was making its way to Jeff’s face now. he went for the Drop It Please shrug one more time and said, “Yeah. You’re probably right. I’ll try next week.
* * *
Sarah opened the door to her apartment, hoping that Trish and Erica would still be asleep in their beds. She didn’t feel like talking about her night with Brandon—or was it Brent?
No luck. there they were on the couch, drinking black coffee.
They both looked like they had had too much to drink last night. Sarah wondered if she looked that way too.
Erica and Trish looked up from their mugs when the door opened.
“Just getting in?” Erica grinned.
Sarah didn’t answer.
“So, how was he?” Trish prodded.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Sarah said.
“I don’t remember,” she thought. “But I don’t feel like hearing a lecture.” She started for the safety of her room before the inquisition really got under way.
“That bad, huh?” Erica asked.
“Yeah,” Sarah lied. “He was pretty bad.”
Erica and Trish laughed. Sarah forced a grin.
“So we shouldn’t expect to see any more of—what was his name?” Trish asked.
“Barry,” Sarah said. “And, no. Probably not.”
Trish shrugged. “Oh well,” she said. “He was pretty cute.”
“Yes, he was.” Sarah thought. “But that’s all I know about him. He was just a night of sex, and an uncomfortable conversation with the girls the next morning. In a week, I won’t even remember his name.”
She let that thought linger.
“Still,” she amended. She tried to put these thoughts out of her mind.
“Where are the boys?” she asked innocently.
“Randy’s still asleep,” Erica said.
“And Chris went to his place last night,” Trish piped in. “He has work today.”
“Alright,” she said. “Well, I’m gonna grab a shower and then take a quick nap.”
“Didn’t get much sleep last night?” Erica grinned at her. That stupid, knowing, grin of hers. “I guess he wasn’t all that bad?”
Sarah didn’t answer. She hurried off to her room to get out of these clothes and into a nice, hot, shower. The giggling of her roommates followed her.
What would they know about it anyway. They’d both been with Randy and Chris, respectively, for as long as she’d known them. All throughout college and the five years since. They think the single life is so glamorous.
“Well, sometimes it is,” she thought. “But for the most part, it’s nights hardly remembered followed by mornings like this one.”
She slipped out of her clothes, leaving them on the floor, and into the shower. She stood for a moment, just letting the warm water soak her hair and run down her shoulders.
“But,” she continued. “I don’t even remember what it feels like to be made love to.”
She stepped back from the stream of water.
“And drunk sex tastes like vomit,” she thought bitterly as she poured some shampoo into her hands.
* * *
Jeff pulled into a gas station a few days later. Saturday night was forgotten now. It was just another disappointing night at the club in a long line of disappointing nights at the club. Jackie and Steve hadn’t bugged him about it since. That conversation was just a mildly uncomfortable conversation in a long line of mildly uncomfortable conversations.
Still, Jackie’s advice had lingered a little bit.
“Just say hi,” she had said.
“Yeah,” thought Jeff. “But then what?”
He couldn’t think of anything.
He went into the station to pay for his gas. There were two people in line in front of him. An old man, buying a pack of cigarettes and behind him a very pretty girl.
“She’s cute,” Jess thought. “Not my type, but still. Really cute.”
He felt his gaze linger on her. She didn’t seem to notice him at all.
“Okay,” he thought. “She’s pretty. But don’t stare at her. Did she notice me staring? Find something else to look at.”
He picked up a magazine at random and studied the cover.
“Or,” he thought, “is it weird to not look at her at all? Will she notice me not looking at her?”
He put down the magazine. The girl glanced his way, just as he was glancing back at her.
“Shit. She noticed me staring now.”
He smiled at her.
She smiled back, then went back to paying him no attention whatsoever.
“No what is she thinking?” he wondered.” Does she think I’m creepy?”
A guy around the same ag as Jeff entered the station and got in line.
“She probably isn’t even thinking about me at all,” Jeff thought.
“Hey,” the new guy said, quietly. “She with you?” He nodded toward the girl.
Jeff shook his head.
The new guy tapped the girl on the shoulder. She turned around and he asked “How old are you?”
“How old are you?” Jeff thought. “Really? That’s what you’re going with?”
“Seventeen,” she answered.
The new guy seemed disappointed.
“Oh,” he said, taking a step back. “You look older.”
“I’m not,” the girl said, and turned back to the teller.
“Well, thought Jeff. “That’s that.”
The new guy stepped forward again.
“Hey,” he said, and the girl faced him again. “Can I get your number anyway?”
“Seriously?!” thought Jeff.
“No,” the girl said.
“Alright,” Said the new guy, a big shit-eating grin on his face. “I had to ask, you know? I can’t help it. I’m a dog.”
The girl took her change from the teller and left the station. Jeff stepped up to take his turn.
“Fill up pump three,” he said, handing forty dollars across the counter.
“Man, she was really hot,” the new guy confided to Jeff, still wearing that grin.
Jeff nodded, forced a smile, and went out to his car.
“Seriously?” he thought again. “How old are you? I can’t help it, I’m a dog?”
He started pumping gas into his car.
“However creepy she might have thought I was, at least I wasn’t him.”
He clicked the autopump into place and leaned on the side of the car, watching the dollars tick upwards.
“Still,” he thought. “That approach must have worked for him at least once. ‘Can I have your number anyway.’ I would never let myself be that guy.”
* * *
It was Saturday night. Again. Back at the club.
Jackie and Scott were already on the dance floor. Steve was wandering around, seemingly aimlessly, mingling. Jeff took up his post at the table.
The girls didn’t want to come out tonight. They were making tonight a Blockbuster night. Nice and quiet, at home, cuddled up with their boyfriends.
Sarah was not in the mood to be a fifth wheel. Tonight, for her, would be about getting drunk. She entered the club and headed straight for the bar.
Jeff saw her walk in the door. He had been gazing around the club, avoiding eye contact, like usual. When she came in, he recognized her as the girl from last week and let his gaze linger.
“She came here alone tonight,” he thought as he watched her make her way over to the bar and order a drink.
Sarah finished her rum and coke and signaled the barman for another. She sat facing the bar, not looking around. Oblivous to the club atmosphere going on behind her.
Tonight isn’t about being out,” she thought bitterly. “It’s about not being home.”
“Okay,” thought jeff. “Just get up now, and go over there. You can ask her how old she is.” He snorted derisively at the absurdity.
he sat back in resignation. He knew he wasn’t going to go over there and talk to her. He was just torturing himself by trying to make himself do something that, inevitably, he would fail to do and then just be upset later at his own failure.
“Just say hi.”
He remembered Jackie’s advice from earlier that week, and sat forward again.
“Yeah, he thought. “I can manage that much. Just go over there, and say hi.”
He imagined the scenario. He was standing there, right in front of her.
“Hi, he said.”
“Hello,” she responded sweetly. Then
He leaned back again, dejected. He tore his gaze from her to find his friends in the crowd. Scott and Jackie were still out there dancing. And there was Steve, trying to coax a girl away from her group of friends and off to the dance floor with him.
And that was it!
Jeff sat bolt upright with the realization. “Would you like to dance?” That’s what would come after Hi!
“Okay, legs,” he said out loud. “Time to take me over there. I’m going for it.”
And, to his surprise, they responded and he was making his way towards the bar. Towards her.
Sarah was on her fifth rum and coke. This wasn’t working.
She thought about the girls at home, cozy on the couch in the flickering light of the television, wrapped in loving embraces.
“That’s what I want,” she thought. “I want someone to hold me and love me. A partner. Not just for the night.”
She finished off the last of her drink, and glanced quickly around the club. The pounding bass was giving her a headache.
“I’m not going to find that here, she thought.
The night about being not at home was over. t had failed.
New plan for the night: Go home, get in bed, and sleep it off.
She turned around on the barstool to leave, and almost collided with some guy who had been hovering right behind her.
“Hi,” said Jeff.