I was feeling pessimistic when I first met him. I was sat at the bar, submerged in my own self-pity as I stared into a welcoming glass of rum and coke. I knew ordering a rum and coke was a little unfledged. A glass of wine would have been more mature. Maybe a glass of whiskey to remind me when I lived in Scotland. But fuck it, I was in a bad mood and I needed a reminder of my adolescent years to lift my mood.
It did not. It made me feel worse.
I did not know at the time why I felt dispirited. Realization came a little while later.
I sighed and looked up from my miserable drink and scanned the bar. I noticed a couple of lads laughing at something funny while one of them rubbed his face in embarrassment. I wondered what was so funny. Maybe the humiliated one told an embarrassing story and that was why he was red in the face? Or maybe the others were reliving something from another day that the guy did not want brought up again for the hundredth time?
My attention then drifted to a young couple who were rarely looking at each other. Their faces were almost white from the glow of their phones that they were fixated to. I snorted as I imagined them either talking to each other via their phones instead of talking across the table, or maybe engaging in a miserable attempt at broadcasting their wonderful night out on social media.
I sighed again. This time deeply as I brought my glass up to my lips to take another sip.
As I did so, something alerted my attention. Well, more appropriately; someone. My smile fell from my face. The smile that I did not even recognize I was wearing until that moment. I realize now that that smile was not a happy smile; it was a bit of a cynical smile from imagining the previous couple having a fake good time on social media.
I noticed I had faltered ever so slightly, the glass raised to my lips but not moving any closer. His eyes only briefly glanced at me, but it was enough to send a curious shock through my body and linger dangerously.
I had not noticed him before now. I do not tend to notice people right away. My initial instinct when I am walking into a bar on my own is to find a table that is both free and far enough away from the crowd. Usually in a corner or by a wall so as to not draw too much attention to myself and so I can sit, and people watch. It is not until I have successfully got a drink and slinked my way onto the table quickly enough that I can let loose a little and look around myself.
The group with the curious and allusive embarrassing tale were initially the first people I properly noticed. The couple were the second. And he was the third.
As soon as I noticed him, however, my attention elsewhere was basically non-existent. He had a eerie air about himself that drew all attention to him the moment you noticed him. Everyone else was just background noise. Or extras in a film. There, but not important. The main characters were important. It was as if he was the main character in this film.
He was ruggedly handsome. Short dark hair, either dark brown or black, I could not tell in the poor light of the bar. A strong jaw, cleanly shaven, with a suspicious scar on his thin upper lip. He wore a crisp suit, which was also dark, it could have been black, but I was not ruling out any other dark colours.
He held himself tall while he took large gulps of a beer. He clearly did not seem bothered by the noise around him. Like he too thought it was unimportant background noise.
I found myself staring. My glass now back on the table, that sip I had been planning to take was never taken. It had lost its appeal. It was as if the welcoming liquid in the glass held no more significance to me and might as well have been stale water.
I gasped as his eyes flicked to me again. His deep endless green eyes seemingly staring straight into my soul and almost revealing my biggest weakness right before me. I was helpless. I even saw a faint flicker of a smile.
Little did I know, that was just the beginning.
I recalled reading somewhere once that most women – probably only the heterosexual women – usually go for the tall, muscular men who are confident and dominant because they want a partner who can protect them. I also remember thinking that every time I thought of my Mr. Right, he would be tall and muscular too. As well as confident enough to protect me and keep me safe. I knew no one was perfect of course, I was prepared for some flaws in my Mr. Right. But those were my main requirements.
I am not insinuating that guy at the bar was my Mr. Right. In fact, I am certain he was not. Far from it. I pictured my Mr. Right as a loving guy, with a wacky sense of humour to make me feel better on my low days, who loved me unconditionally and even enjoyed cuddling – I know, cliché much! The guy at the bar did not even strike me as that sort of guy. Even then, on that first day I met him. I could not picture him wanting to cuddle or even having any form of sense of humour. But Mr. Right was suddenly forgotten about. Especially when the Mr. Most Probably Wrong stood up and walked right over to my table.
“Have we met before?” he asked. His voice as deeply dominant as his features. The now familiar American accent I had gotten used to boomed in front of me. Even his voice sent an involuntary shiver down my spine. I should have realized then that I should not engross in any form of conversation with him. He was entrancing and it was dangerous.
But of course, I could not resist; “No,” was the only thing I could say. Unable to string a few words together to complete a sentence.
I was happy enough to know I spoke the right word; I did not know him. I was certain I would recall him if I had ever seen him before.
He watched me for a few seconds. His gaze had some sort of superpower as I noticed the hairs on my arms start to raise.
“Are you sure?” he was stern and commanding.
“Yes,” I uttered another single syllable word.
“What’s your name?” he practically ordered. It was not really a question; it was a demand.
I remember thinking that I should not answer. I should not give him my name. I did not know this man. What if he was a serial killer scouting for his next prey? But of course, my lips seemed to move on their own accord; “Jo.”
“Tell me, Jo,” he started. I was not able to read any emotion on his face or his voice. I was not sure if it was because I was currently incapable of reading people or if it was him. “Why do you look familiar to me?”
“I… I don’t know,” I stuttered. Well, at least it was better than a single syllable word.
He seemed to watch me again for a few painfully long seconds and I could feel my palms getting sweaty. He did not seem satisfied with my answer. As if it were my fault, he could not figure out why I looked familiar to him.
“Sorry,” I uttered involuntary to break the uncomfortable silence between us. The background bar noise did not even register to me by this point.
For the first time I saw his face move, other than his lips. His right eyebrow rose. “What are you sorry for?”
“For…” I paused. What was I sorry for? “For not being much help.”
“I don’t know…” Another movement, this time a microscopic smile. A smile that made you falsely believe you were in safe hands. “I still think you can.” He suddenly plopped himself down in the chair opposite me uninvited and took a swig of the beer he was holding. The beer I had only just noticed he even had.