The dressing up doesn’t take a lot of time, as much as you expect it to. Before you know it, the dress is on, you’re looking nice, but a little less nicer than your best friend, or the first girl you see at the entrance of the pub. It’s a fancy place, and like all fancy places, this too smells of a generic perfume and has lights dim enough to miss the sweat spots on your dress and bright enough to see that another girl’s bosom is curvier.
Would he prefer to be with her? – you think.
You shake the thought off as you spot your girlfriends over at the table. You smile, not only because you’re happy to see them (after, usually, not too long) but because you realise that you have dressed properly for the occasion. A relief, and now you can seat yourself graciously by the table, avoiding a seat that offers direct communication or eye-contact from the girl who really doesn’t like the same songs you do. A class difference settled between the two of you and even while it’s erasable, you want it to remain.
A general round of admiration for your dress, the cut, the earrings (which someone has definitely spotted at the same store a week, no- maybe 3 weeks ago), the weight lost and at least one other thing passes the group. Soon you’re eating, talking, reminiscing, and as the group slips back into memories that aren’t more than a year old, your eyes wander to the bar, where a man sits with a frown, rolled-up sleeves, and a furtive glance at everything about him.
You surprise yourself when you think of him as a man. The word has more sexual connotation to it than you intended it to have. He could be your age, A little older, judging by the grey in his hair. You stop looking at him, but your body has automatically aligned itself to face him, and you’re embarrassed.
The validation of your thoughts against the boy (a word oozing fondness, ease, love, dishevelled hair, home smells, the shampoo you chose for him) waiting at home makes you uneasy in your seat. You claim your love for him; protect yourself from even mentally wandering and turn to join in a conversation, now having steered to something that you can contribute to (much to your relief.) But your eyes play truant, and you keep checking at him. You strain your neck a little when a group arrives at the bar, louder than him in sound and sight- of course he’s the quiet one, you always magnetically crawl towards those.
Soon, you are irritated by the conspiracy of the world to keep you away from this man who has only perched on a bar-stool so far. This is your moment of glory. You know you look decent, and of course he’ll have an eye for the curvier ones. So you get off the place, making as much movement as possible, to visit the washroom. You make sure it is in his direction. And if it isn’t, you must ask, of all the waiters and managers waiting to help you with the directions to the desired destination, the bartender.
Leaning forward a bit, as visible to the man as can be. You act as if you can’t hear the reply, lean in closer and when you do, thank the bartender more graciously, in lesser words and with softer expressions than a new actress thanks the audience at the Academy Awards. The bartender, who has seen a hundred and more women act the way you did, smiles and gets back to business. You pass close to his stool, whispering an ‘Excuse me’ to no one obstructing your path in particular, and head to the washroom, determined to not turn back.
In the bathroom, you widen your eyes, wipe the little sheen of sweat from your face with the napkin in your purse (no human with a vagina and a brain leaves her purse back at the table even for the shortest trips) and readjust your dress, showing just a hint of cleavage, and a prominent part of your collarbone. You plan your next move as you set your hair back (not really) and expose an entire side of your neck. Who could resist such a creamy neck, you wonder. The answer is ‘everyone’, and a tinge of guilt breaks open in your gut. You wave it off, because this? It’s not serious- you know, and have read about it in reliable, well-researched and much-vouched-for scientific sources like Readers’ Digest, Thought Catalog and Cecelia Ahern books that reassurance is all a woman needs- the confidence that a man can still want her. You put your scruples off to sleep with the thought of the boy and head back outside.
He’s still there, and you smile to yourself.
Putting your clever ruse into action, you walk halfway to the table, swaying your ample bottom (ever so emphatically that people wonder is you’re beginning to slip sideways within your footwear) and then turn back, to the bar. Leaning over the counter again, a little closer this time, you ask the bartender his name. In that din, he answers you and without a smile goes about his business. You call him by his name, accentuating it (unnecessarily) and ask him to send over a round of vodka to the GIRLS AT THAT TABLE. The sudden rise in decibels makes the man on the stool look up at you and you mouth a worried ‘Sorry’ with your eyebrows knitted at him (with the sincerity of a mother with an infant crying around the sick-bed of an old, old man). He smiles at you briefly, looks at your chest, to the counter and back at his drink.
With the effort and the money for the vodka now down the drain because of the lack of interest in the conversation, you walk back naturally to the table. Disgruntled. Your closest friend follows you back with her eyes and when you sit down, leans over and asks you, in whispers to buy the man on the bar-stool a drink. You tell her about the round of vodkas that you’ve paid for and she pats your thigh with sympathy. You glide into the conversation and participate, accepting defeat. When the vodka comes you raise your glass as a friend makes a toast to how well the group as stuck over 18 months and how some friendships last forever and graciously accept the thanks for the shots. At the back of your head, you say- Thank that guy sitting there and oestrogen.
Soon the party is over and the ladies at the table disperse after long-drawn farewells. Outside, you stand with your friend, hailing a cab, when she lightly nudges you and indicates to the man on the stool waiting for a cab too, as aloofly as he sat inside. You marvel at how aloofly is even a word and smile broadly to yourself, hoping he’ll catch your eye in that moment. An adolescent theory of always bumping into an attractive man a second time after the first comes back to mind and you grin harder. Your friend is about to usher you in the cab she successfully stopped on its tracks when he turns and your eyes meet. You shoot what can only be described as a ghost of a smile at him and get into the cab, partially annoyed at your friend for her inexplicable rush to get home at only 11.45 PM. You smile through the journey home, and by the end of it, you have forgotten his face, his shirt and everything physical about him. The residue of the evening is high spirits and a general smile.
The boy opens the door and goes back to TV. You suddenly like his arse a little more and want to reach out to it. He’s plonked himself on the couch by then, and is listening with rapt attention to how leopards kill their prey. When he asks you how the evening was, with his eyes on the TV, you tell him it was ‘nice’. The food, the company, the place, the stories- all while you slip into a t-shirt and shorts and wash the light make-up from your face. You join him on the sofa, and within 10 minutes all your weight is on him. You pucker your un-coloured lips for a brief kiss that turns into a long one. His arm wraps itself around you and with your head on his stomach- rounder than what it was before- well, before any of this, you drift to sleep.
When he wakes you up to move to the bedroom, you are glad to be home.