He was the kind of person who put others at ease. Without being conscience of it, he searched for the kind words or the right inquiry that made his companion relax. In others, these traits might have presented a sleazy kind of charm. But, his sincere steady gaze made his person instantly endearing.
He often didn’t know why others reacted to him the way they did. He was surprised that they found anything in his manner remarkable. The ease with which he interacted with the world came naturally, and he did not realize that it came so unnaturally to others. Frequently, situations would arise in which he did not know how to extract himself from people he engaged—especially women.
He enjoyed their company, bright smiles, gentle sways, and glistening hair. But some stayed too long. Prevented him from moving on to the next new acquaintance and from delivering the right words to make them smile.
The women he wanted to stay, the ones that seemed to see the world as he—as an opportunity to do what and to see what was not important just as long as there was always a chance for something new; every moment significant—those women never stayed long enough.
He was not aware that the general endearing charm he applied to the world at large made it easy for less confident women to fall in love with him. His kind attention made them feel special and special was the drug that these women craved. But the women who saw the world as all opportunity, their confidence allowed them to see immediately that he treated them as he did every other person. They were not used to being painted with the same brush as others, and therefore, dismissed his attentions as those of a man who was spoken for or gay.
Thus, he was often confused as to why he was stuck with the women he did not want to talk with as he watched the women who peaked his interest congregate with men for less charming than he. At times, he could only conclude that these women appreciated men who did not treat them well.
So here he was again. Stuck with a not quiet pretty girl across the bar from him. Her smile was a little sweet; her face dimpled and freckled. He could see something like adoration building in her eyes, and he was getting a bit worried. He did not want to build hope where there was none. Nor did he want to hurt feelings where they could be spared.
Only half paying attention to his words, he made a remark that provoked her laugh. Loud and bold, it stopped him. He narrowed his eyes at her trying to detect any affectation in that laugh that was so loud, so bubbling, so expanding. Her laugh still lingered around her eyes, and he could see that the lovely and boisterous sound was genuine. She really could put all that sincere energy and joy into a laugh and mean it.
He looked at her anew.
She was a little fluttery around the edges. He had cataloged this as evidence of a weak mind, and at first her boisterous laugh confirmed this thought. But now that he saw her—now that he was really looking at her—he saw that her flutters were due to nerves. Was he making her nervous? There was a part of him that liked the thought of that. Liked it very much. And he was surprised at himself. She was not the sort of woman he found attractive. He just felt that if he could continue to make her laugh, something—he wasn’t sure what—but something good would happen.
She was aware of his steady regard and looked down at her drink. She swallowed her doubt down. She was doing it. She was talking to this man that she had dreamed about, and she was holding her own. She was not entirely sure that there was anything more than kindness infusing his words. But she felt it was nice to have an attractive man be kind to her. Similar attempts at such conversations with other men had already caused numerous hurts. She felt that this was going well.
She asked him several questions. She believed this was the best way to show her interest. She would be the first to admit that she was not a good flirt. She had no notion of how to bat eyelashes, toss her hair, or provocatively sip her drink. And any attempts at these actions always rang false. She determined long ago that pretense, even at the beginning of an acquaintance, was not the route to take. She wanted a man to treat her with respect, or as a close friend—a close friend he couldn’t keep his hands off of, but a friend none the less. It was this desire for respect that prompted her to ask so many questions. She genuinely wanted to get to know the man across the bar from her. And more importantly, she wanted him to know her—to show an interest in anything about her. She felt sure that if he asked one question—general or specific, profound or benign—that would be the sign that he was interested in her.
As he noted the insight of her questions, he became more convinced that she was not a fluttery girl. She was really rather serious, and her seriousness gave him pause. He was accustomed to women in bars flirting with him. He was not accustomed to women in bars talking seriously with him. Talking seriously but laughing frequently. She laughed at the absurdity of some circumstances, she laughed at the good fortune of others, and she even laughed self-deprecatingly. He was astonished that she could find so much joy in the world. That there was the opportunity for so much joy.
The conversation moved easily enough often interrupted by the companions on either side of them. They would swiftly return to a topic that was light but interested them both.
It was time for her to go. Her group was leaving. She turned to him and smiled. Laughed her goodbye.
As she walked away she felt rather delighted. She had struck up a conversation with a handsome and charming man. She had not babbled. She had not blushed—at least she was pretty sure she had not blushed and she did not once stammer. In fact, she had been pretty amusing, and he had been so nice. It wasn’t until she was half way to the door that she realized he had not asked her one question. She felt that this fact was significant. Her rising spirit came to a halt. Oh well, she told herself, it all meant nothing. It was just a pleasant exchange and good practice for the time she did meet an interested man. Even as she thought this, she felt her heart ache a little.
He turned to see who remained at the bar. The small blonde woman he would like to have spoken with was gone. For a moment he was uncertain which group to join. Then the women he had just sought appeared next to him. At the moment his attention was about to focus on her, he heard a boisterous laugh bubble over from the doorway.
It was his companion of a moment ago. Her friend, sensing her low spirits, made some remark to make her laugh. As he watched her walk out the door and out of sight, something in him clenched. He thought that he might not hear her laughter again. There was something sad about that thought. He kicked himself for not even asking her name.