Game Ends

He taught me how to read people’s eyes.

It wasn’t until our third date that I realized our intentions were different. This revelation hurt my feelings at first, but then I realized I could learn about flirting from him. Plus, I’d have a good excuse to be here studying the clientele. On our fifth night, he said “You’ll have a date by the end of the night, but not with me.”

His name was Greg. We were people-watching at Game Ends, a bar across town that has a patio out back stuffed with hydrangeas and wrought iron furniture. We’d end up here every time we got together. He was studying Behavioral Science and liked to put his knowledge to good use. Gay bars were his favorite venue.

“I don’t want to date you.”

“I know you don’t. Not anymore.”

I blushed. The truth was I had been interested. Greg had this endearing habit of jutting out his jaw after taking swigs from his drink. He tempered his confidence with quickly served self-deprecating jokes—the kind that let you know he didn’t take himself too seriously, not the kind that made you feel bad for him.

“The one wearing the Tigers cap up there just met my eyes then looked down at his feet. I think he’s my ride home tonight.” Greg raised his Zima to me. I clinked it, then searched the crowded space.

I found Tigers Cap talking to another guy wearing a backwards cap underneath ‘The Promenade’ sign at the top of the stairs. Despite the big-ass sign the owners put up a few years ago, everyone still called the complicated boardwalk around the patio ‘the Escher.’ It connected the back doors of all the businesses on this small city block making a sort of outdoor mall. The different heights of the doors required a network of ramps that seemed more and more impossible the higher you climbed.

Tigers Cap and his friend looked over at me. I waved for them to come down without Greg seeing me. I had a sudden urge to surprise him and knew he wouldn’t mind skipping a few steps in his process.

“He’s walking this way. What are you going to do?”

“I just have to sit here talking to you until I catch him looking again. Then I have to swing on the hope that he likes a guy with a gap in his teeth.”

“You’re not worried he’ll think we’re together?”

“Nope. He’s been here before; he knows we don’t leave the bar together.”

“Had your eye on him for a while now, huh? What if he hadn’t seen us before?”

“He’d be wondering. Or he might know to check our feet to see if they were pointing toward each other.” Greg was right; our feet were akimbo.

“I’m thinking most people wouldn’t know to check foot direction. Is that how you knew I’m not interested?”

“Nah. Your pupils don’t dilate when you see me anymore, and you blink less when you talk to me.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Don’t be. We’d never work anyway. We’re too much alike.”

“No, we’re not. You’re into grunge, and football, and the direction of guys’ feet. I’m into techno, and boy bands, and the definition of guys’ abs.”

“No, not like that. I mean we both notice things. There’s no way we’d get through a conversation without picking apart each other’s body language. We’d analyze the fun right out of being together.”

“Girl, I wasn’t like that till I met you,” I said in my best RuPaul voice.

“I seem to recall your opening line to me.” He threw his left shoulder back and narrowed his eyes, “‘I like a man who checks out the scene before he pounces.’ You hadn’t been out here for more than a minute before you started chatting me up.”

“I don’t say things like that.” I deadpanned, and then cracked. I was still laughing when Tigers Cap and his friend arrived at our table.

“Hi, fellas. Care to sit down?” Greg said with no surprise in his voice at all. He pulled out a heavy chair.

“Hey, what are you two laughing at?”

“Greg here was doing a really bad impression. I’m Andy, by the way,” and I reached over to shake hands. I noticed the friend’s feet were pointing straight at me. I winked at Greg, just as he was reprising his imitation.

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28 thoughts on “Game Ends

  1. I like the description of the outdoor mall and how it’s described as the Escher. What a cool idea. I loved the banter about body language going back and forth, like watching a tennis match. A fun story!

    1. Glad to know my vision of the ramps were conveyed effectively. I wrote and rewrote that paragraph the most, even after I posted it. Thanks so much for the comment, eagleaye!

  2. You are so good at dialogue, Nate. I loved the repartee between Greg and Andy. Felt like I was at the table–seeing the patio’s boardwalks, looking at Andy’s feet, checking out Tiger Cap. So beautifully done.

    1. You’re always so kind, Meg. I learned that writing in predetermined lines and ideas is very difficult for me. The Speakeasy is good at challenging my control freakishness!

  3. Oh, how I have had nights like the one you have written about. Eye contact I knew all about, but I only wish I had looked at their feet as well, just to check which direction they were pointing. Super read.

  4. I love the natural normalness of this interaction and the believable dialogue. It’s subtle and draws you in easily without being all high drama. Often when writing short fiction I feel compelled to make more happen – this shows that isn’t necessary.

  5. ““I wasn’t like that till I met you, Girl,” I said in my best RuPaul voice.”
    I could just hear that RuPaul voice. Been watching a lot of Drag Race lately. 🙂

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