Tuesday, March 17, 2009

People Watching & Saving Lives - One Bar at a Time ( WAG #3)

Here is the 3rd installment of the Writing Adventure Group. Instructions: Sit somewhere that you can watch strangers passing by. Choose someone that you don’t know, but you can imagine being friends with. Describe them in concrete terms, particularly whatever it is about them you find appealing (or unappealing!) Feel free to also write what you imagine that makes you warm to them, but don’t forget to describe reality as well!

Sitting in a bar alone is never comfortable. Even if it’s a nice bar inside a nice restaurant. Even when I know I am not destined to be alone for long. Waiting for a perpetually late coworker and out of town clients caught on a delayed flight, doesn’t make my current situation palatable.

Though, the martini I am nursing might help just a little. Now that I think about it, if I have a second drink I won’t be nearly as uncomfortable as I am now. If I drink a third, I might not even notice when my dinner companions show up. But that won’t happen. Sometimes being practical and conscientious is such a pain in the ass.

I am surreptitiously indulging in my favorite pastime - people watching. This is somewhat more dangerous when done in a bar than say, outside in the park or at the grocery store. Alcohol emboldens people, including me. I’ve caught myself studying someone a little too long, forgetting the unspoken etiquette of people watching - eyes can drift slowly past, but can never appear to settle on a specific person for any period of time. And in bars, the watchee, emboldened by their own alcoholic fortification, is far more likely to stare back. Almost always unpleasant.

Taking a sip of my drink, I lower my head and place the glass back on my table. Looking up, grumbling again about the coworker who will be late for his own funeral, I stare at the door, willing it to open. It does.

My mind immediately registers that this is not my coworker or my clients. It is just a youngish, nondescript boy-man.

I should now explain that I suffer from a condition caused by being the mother of a grown son. The calendar says my grown son is a man. To me, he is still my little boy. This affliction unfortunately, extends to any young man I see that appears to be roughly the same age as my son. The world sees a man. I see a boy. It is as though a whole generation of boys will never grow to manhood in my eyes. Perpetual Peter Pans.

As I contemplate this somewhat creepy mindset, I realize my eyes are still fixed on the young man walking into the bar. Lost in thought, I haven’t really been seeing him. But if he catches me, he will think I am staring at him. About then, my eyes refocus, I take in the expression on his face and realize he has arrived at exactly that conclusion.

Feeling foolish, I quickly drop my eyes back to my drink, and lift the glass towards my mouth, willing myself to not look rattled. As I tip the glass, my eyes look up and look straight into his. We are 20 feet apart and the room is dark enough I can’t tell what color those eyes are. But from underneath their lazy lids they catch the ambient lighting perfectly and reflect all the stars in the sky. He is grinning at me. As if he knows exactly how much that will increase my discomfort.

Actually, it pisses me off. He sees this and just grins a little larger, then turns to his friends at the table and easily enters their conversation, as if the little battle of wills never occurred.
I am not that gracious. I continue to stare.

As I look, I realize my initial impression is correct, he is young, no more than five or six years older than my son. But I see nothing boyish about him. Average height and slightly built, he still exudes something inherently masculine. Short brown hair, combed back, with a hairline that has decided it would be more comfortable if it sat back just a little further on his head, a nose almost too large for his other facial features, and a mouth that looks small, but can’t be, not to grin the way it does, are the facts readily available to my perusal.

Then the waitress sets his drink down on the table and he reaches for it. That is when I notice his hands. They aren’t out of proportion with his body, but seem to be primarily composed of fingers. I am sure there are palms somewhere, but his long, thin fingers draw all attention. They are mesmerizing, especially when they move. Those hands should be insured. They must belong to a concert pianist, a surgeon or the reincarnation of Casanova. Surely he puts those fingers to good use.

Something jerks my attention away from his hands and I search for the distraction. His eyes have landed on me again. I feel emboldened. I raise my glass, tipping it in his direction. Giving me a genuinely warm smile, he does the same.

Suddenly, my clients appear by my side. I'm so distracted I didn’t see them arrive, even with the door directly in my sight. Europeans, so no handshakes, instead the prerequisite three cheek kisses that always seems so familiar to me. But I like these two men, we are old friends. I am quickly caught up in their apologies for being late and the story of their flight from hell.

As I slide back into work mode, my mind releases the mental rope connecting me to the young man across the bar. Over the course of the next twenty minutes, I occasionally feel my senses being tweaked and realize he is glancing my way.

When I can sneak a peek without looking obvious or rude to my companions, I do the same. In one of these peeks, my mind, which has been rapidly thumbing through my internal thesaurus since the moment he walked in the door, comes up with the word that captures his essence. Sensual. Not sexual, not hot, not handsome. Sensual. An adjective I rarely apply to a man.

Finally, my late coworker arrives. As usual, he is so energetic and so good humored, despite my best effort, I feel my frustration towards him ebb.

I barely notice the young woman he is holding the door for, allowing her to enter before him. She doesn’t register in my mind until I realize she is heading towards the table of my young sensualist. As soon as I am aware of her destination she demands my full attention. Petite, very thin, you can tell she is a woman but has the body of a barely teenage girl. Pretty auburn hair, pleasant but somewhat bland features. She’s well dressed but stood rigidly uncomfortable, uptight.

Somehow, just looking at her I realize she has no imagination or joy inside of her. What comes next is inevitable, but I am still loathe to accept it. Young Mr. Sensuality puts his arm around her waist, pulls her close and kisses her. It looks like he intended to get her mouth, but settled for her cheek. She stood, unbending and distant.

“What a waste” I said to myself. He deserves a pretty young thing, Gatsby’s Daisy, a lithe ballerina dancing attendance and basking in his sensual glow.

And then I am caught up in my coworker’s completely outlandish and always hysterical reason for his delay in arriving. The conversation swerves towards industry gossip, our European friends’ itinerary and an upcoming conference. My mind is engaged and the young man who occupied my thoughts so fully is now pushed completely out.

Finally we begin to gather our belongings to head into the restaurant for dinner. I look up just as he passes by. His arm still around her waist, as they pass he turns back and catches my eye. I raise my eyebrow skeptically in the direction of his companion. He grins broadly, shrugs his shoulders and slightly shakes his head.

Good, I think. He realizes his mistake. I have saved another total stranger from a partnership fate worse than death. My work here is done and suddenly I am starving.


Nixy Valentine said...

I really like this! I love how you have so many things going on, and yet it's an honest, simple situation.

Well written!

Iain Martin said...

Nicely done, Lulu; an easy flowing description of your meeting. I liked your inclusion of how you lowered your head...a dead give away for being uncomfortable. I take it that this "sensualist" would pass muster for being a friend, is that right?

Lulu said...

Thanks to both of you. Ian, I thought about the friend issue. This happened about 3 weeks ago,but I didn't have a chance to people watch this week. Probably not a friend, but amusing to know. An incorrigible and indiscriminate flirt. Plus I am curious to see if he finds a young woman more appropriate for him. That is probably the maternal instinct kicking in.

J. M. Strother said...

I absolutely loved this piece. The scene setting. The interaction though no words are spoken. This was great.

Cora Zane said...

I can picture this as if I'm standing over your shoulder watching the whole thing. Very nice!

jesse said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Poor man. I hope you have saved him...;-)

Marsha said...

Awesome! Poor guy.

Good idea - people watching in a bar. Alcohol certainly does make things more interesting (to watch, anyway!).

Jackie said...

Ah, the magic of body language! The way you and the boy-man could communicate without ever saying a word. Loved it! Have you ever watched the show "Lie to me"? Very interesting stuff about our expressions and body language... about how we speak the truth without using words.

Nancy J. Parra said...

I agree- this was fabulous! Since my son is a boy//man as well, I had a secret laugh that I have felt the same thing. A generation of Peter Pans! Fabulous!

Lulu said...

Thank you all for the kind words. This was such a weirdly surreal experience for me. Stuff like this never happens. It has stuck with me for almost a month now and showed up in this post and the theme also popped up in a short story. Hopefully I can now put the issue to bed and get back to my normal,mundane routine.