The Night I Met You (Short Fiction)

The night I met you comes to mind often. It was Halloween and you were wearing— well, I can’t for the life of me remember what costume you were wearing. I do know that you were with two girls, one that was dressed as a unicorn— sequins and glitter attached precisely by hand— and the other was covered in a frilled display of a lion fish. But you— what were you?

I wish that I could remember it all clearly. It’s become a rather fuzzy mental photograph, and as the days that separated us now slowly turned to months, and then years, the image quality worsened along with it.

Even so, that day was the sort of day that I was convinced would change the trajectory of my life forever. One of those days a person never forgets, a turning point of sorts. In some ways it was that and more, but in other ways it never quite materialized into what I hoped it’d be. But still, here I am, some 8 years later, and this season of falling leaves and crisp winter weather can’t seem to pass by without my thoughts lingering upon that day, and that moment that I first met you.

What am I doing here? I remember thinking to myself, swaying in the back of the dimly lit dive-bar, holding a beer that my 19-year-old self didn’t intend to drink. As I watched a collective horde of costumed dancers move their figures in ways that seemed dizzying, I realized that this was the sort of place that I didn’t belong.

I was shy and reserved then. I hugged the wall as if it were a life preserver lost in the midst of the great ocean of the dance floor, afraid to be pulled away from its safety, and drowned by my own insecurity. The mass of people before me overwhelmed my senses, and I felt the room closing in, and my breath became heavy and labored.

I remembered being a child with my neon green goggles, wading in the cool water of my grandmother’s swimming pool. I was fearful then too, choosing to remain safely planted in the shallow side, while my sister mocked me from the deep end. Ignoring her, and attempting to escape her taunting, I’d hold my breath tightly, and sink under the water into the peaceful silence below. As I did this, sometimes I’d catch a dreadful glimpse of what was in front of me. That terrible darkened abyss of the deep stared at me cruelly, and if I looked at it for too long, it would beckon me to come nearer and nearer. My anxiety would finally climax, and I would close my eyes, avoiding the feelings of loneliness and isolation that it forced upon me. This dirty bar and its hostile crowded dance floor was just the same. The crashing of bodies before me reminded me how small and fearful I still was. And so, with the anxiety pressing me firmly, I avoided those feelings too, and stayed safely in the shallow.

The girl I was with returned and commented on my still full beer.

“You still haven’t finished that one?” she asked playfully, smiling with accusing eyes that made me feel embarrassed that I didn’t like its taste.

“I actually got another one while you were in the bathroom,” I lied, pointing to a crumpled can on the floor, hoping that she’d believe that it was my first one.

“You should have gotten me another one, you ass,” she said with a slight bitterness to her voice.

I offered half of an apology, and then made some comment about the assortment of costumes in front of us. She surveyed the scene with amusement, and then became clearly interested in the confident girl dressed as the unicorn.

“She looks like she’s having fun,” the girl told me with an obvious envy in her eye. I assumed that she was hinting that we join the fray, but the darkness of the deep came back to mind, an affirming reminder that I didn’t belong here.

She pressed the subject and I asked, “Can I finish my drink first?” hoping to at least delay the inevitable.

“Sure, but hurry up, I like this song.”

I grew up in a family that did not drink, and if I remember the conversation from the second time we met correctly, so did you. The evils of alcohol had been preached to me from as far back as I could remember, and when anyone made mention of even sipping a glass of wine for dinner, my parents would lash out, and remind me how harmful it was. This rigid stance on drinking— which people in my hometown referred to as being a “T-total-er”— left me with a fearful disenchantment of the stuff, that took years to fully overcome. With all of this in the forefront of my mind, I fought against those parental-enforced reservations, hoping that, at the very least, the myths of alcohol “loosening” people up were true.

I downed the beer in one quick motion, despising its taste all the way down, and then nodded to the girl that I was ready. She looked at me, mentioned that she was impressed, and grabbed my hand, pulling me into the thick of my fear.

The girl was kind, and still to this day, she’s a great friend of mine. Before that night though, I was unsure of where we stood. Was this platonic? Was this a date that she asked me on? Would this lead to something more? I couldn’t be sure. She held me in limbo, halfway between subtle attraction, and deeply appreciated friendship. I tried not to assume too much, and instead tried to enjoy only the fact that I was not alone on Halloween.

I danced awkwardly, but she pulled me in close, and assured me that a quick glance around would affirm that I was not the only one. In fact, it seemed that the more those whirling spinning figures drank, the more careless their movements became, and the more careless they became, the more fun they appeared to be having. Eventually, the drink I had downed gave me a vague feeling of lightness. I felt my skin tingle and prick with sensations that started at my scalp and slowly inched its way down like the slow creep of cracked egg running toward the soles of my feet.

“You’re tipsy, aren’t you?” the girl asked, smiling amusedly at me. I returned her question with nothing more than an elated grin, confirming her suspicion.

“Put your hand here,” she said, placing my hand just above her hip, and then moving it toward me, guiding me in my pursuit of the rhythm of the music. “There you go,” she added proudly, as I moved my own hips stiffly, but right along with the beat.

We danced this way for some time, me growing more comfortable all the while, and her laughing and enjoying the band that she had come to see. Eventually she announced that she needed another drink. Smiling warmly, she asked me to go get her one.

Without much thought, and held tightly in the haze of my previous drink, I quickly said, “I don’t have a fake ID, remember?”

As if she knew exactly what I would say, she snapped back coldly and said, “Then how did you buy a second beer earlier?”

I looked up at her face, foolishly caught in my lie. She didn’t seem angry, instead she looked satisfied with the results of her well laid trap.

Before I could come up with another flimsy excuse she said plainly, “Don’t lie to me. If you don’t want to drink something, okay, but don’t lie to me.” Then she turned around and walked toward the bar, but spotting an old friend from college halfway to her destination, and paused to catch up with her.

With her now out of sight, my old reservations returned and I began to fade, once again, into the background, searching for the comfort of that wall, safely away from the dance floor. As I was working my way through the waves of people, someone caught my attention, and it appeared that she was overtly staring at me.

Just across the room, some eight or nine feet away, there stood a girl with vibrant green eyes and warm auburn hair. Those eyes, had fallen upon me, and they grabbed me tightly, refusing to let go. That girl, of course, was you, and your eye contact held me in place, daring me not to move, daring me not to give you any reason at all to look away from me.

I’m not sure what it was about you in the moment that struck me. As I admitted from the beginning of this letter, I have no idea what your costume even was, but something in your face—the face that would launch a thousand of my poems and stories— made me feel things that were as foreign to me as the taste of beer, and with the same euphoric result.

After an eternity of being caught up by you, you showed me mercy, and offered an inviting smile, motioning me to join you. I started toward you, forgetting where I was, who I had been with, and what I was even doing at place like this. All I knew in those early moments was that you wanted me closer, and I couldn’t bring myself to denying you that.

As I walked slowly toward you, my friend came back, and noticed you. “Hey, that girl is really giving you the eyes. You better go dance with her, she’s pretty.”

I looked back at her, and she offered a generous smile, confirming without a doubt that the friendship was, and always had been, platonic. I nodded a gesture of gratitude to her, and then turned back to you, nearly afraid that the beautiful person that called me closer was nothing but an alcohol-induced apparition. To my great relief, you were still there, just between the unicorn and the lion fish, glowing in the gleaming light from the stage.

The rush of anxiety, fear, and excitement nearly caused me to throw up. The pulsing relentless thud of the bass quivered up and pounded the back of my throat, causing me to feel somewhat disoriented in my approach.

As I reached you, and prepared to introduce myself, you held up a long delicate finger and pressed it gently to my lips. With a subtle shake of your head, you commanded me to remain silent, hinting that things like introductions were unnecessary for a moment like this. I bit my tongue, daring not to ruin the exhilarating tension of the moment.

After a soft smile, you took your hand away from my mouth, and pulled me close, firmly pressing your hot, curving figure into me. We danced together for what felt like hours, sweating profusely under the harsh lights and made worse by the friction of our skin against one another. Our movements were ritualistic, and your occasional looks up at me felt spiritual, convincing me that we were intertwined in much more than a dance, but an act of carnal worship. When you moved it was effortless. You shifted, stepped, and glided in ways that convinced me that you were suspended in space, a goddess hovering, and I your faithful servant, sacrificing my soul to you.

When you grabbed me —which you did often— your touch felt purposeful and passionate, and I caved beneath the lust of the moment, knowing finally that I did belong in a place like this, a place where fantasies were realized and love stories were written. I belonged here, but only if you were here too, and only if you kept touching me.

When the hours betrayed us and the music faded, you leaned in and kissed me, completing the sacrament of love and lust between us.

That moment, the moment your lips connected with mine, is one that I wish I could describe with more adequacy. Although my job as a writer is to depict things such as that in articulate and poetic ways, that moment is one that is impossible to render correctly. Perhaps it’s my fault— which I’d gladly accept to be the case— but more likely than that, I believe that the failure is of language itself. After years of study and searching through dictionaries, thesauruses, poems, and stories from the greats, it seems to me that there is just no correct vocabulary to do that moment the justice that it so rightfully deserves. My hope, however, is that you somehow understand this dilemma completely. Maybe you even still feel those same feelings as vividly as I do. If so, I hope it leads you to forgiving me for my verbal failings.

After our lips separated, and the tension of the moment broke, you smiled and left quickly without a word. I stood in the middle of the deep, the waves settling down around, feeling for once no real fear of anything in the world other than not seeing you again.

Eventually my friend took my hand, and led me out of the bar and into the cold October air. You were gone and I was here, exhausted, feeling simultaneously lost and found, hopeful and hopeless.

At the time, I had no idea what your name was, your silencing finger at my first approach held my tongue and effectively destroyed any possibility of a future meeting, unless fate intervened. And so I drove toward my friend’s house with the strangest mixture of happiness and misery, feeling as if I had finally found my way home, only to discover that the door was locked and I had no way of getting into the warmth offered there.

My friend knew that I was troubled and told me that we should try and find you, but then admitted that we really had no solid information to go on. So, instead, she offered me the most encouragement she could, and said that I should remember the moment, and enjoy it for what it was.

“How cool is that, though?” she said, as I drove silently. “You were able to experience a movie script moment in life. Enjoy it, cherish it, and be thankful for it, and who knows, maybe you run into her again.”

I nodded, without looking at her, and reluctantly promised to think of it that way, but I admit to you now, some ten years later, remaining hopeful those years between our first and second meeting was not an easy feat.

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