Earl stood awkwardly against the wall. He was wishing he hadn’t let Adam talk him into this. A “Completely Free” social mixer wasn’t his idea of a nice evening. It was too much like high school, and as far as Earl was concerned, high school was proof that the Catholics were right. There is a purgatory.
An attractive woman approached. Earl cringed in anticipation of what was to come. Her name tag said ‘Hi, my name is Lucy’.
“Hi, Earl. Having a good time?” she asked confidently.
“Fine,” he said, rocking his whole body back and forth. She kept looking at him as though she were expecting to say more.
“Are you, you know, having a good time?” he finally asked.
“Nice. It’s really…” she paused and stared at the wall, “nice,” she said. Apparently, awkwardness is contagious.
“What do you do?” she asked.
“I’m a scientist,” he said.
“Really,” Lucy said. She appeared rather keen.
“I study ice worms in Denali National Park.”
Earl shrugged apologetically. “I know, it’s not that interesting. Actually, my friend dragged me tonight. He researches the life cycles of amphibious animals. Most people it’s way more interesting than glacial invertibrates. I think it’s because people prefer eyes.”
“No, yours sounds fascinating. Really. Worms in ice,” she said
A slow dance, along with the requisite rotating disco ball, started on the dance floor. The flashing mirrors made Earl dizzy. Much to his surprise, Lucy didn’t leave.
“What do you do?” Earl finally asked.
“I’m a financial secretary,” she said. “It’s not as exciting as…”
“It sounds interesting,” he said. He lied.
“I’m sorry,” said Earl. “I’m not really a ‘Completely Free’ kind of guy. It seems more like ‘lowered expectations’. I just came as a favor to my friend.”
“Are you suggesting I’m desperate?” said Lucy. The rotating mirrors of the disco ball accentuated her flaring eyes.
“No, it’s not you. I mean, I was talking about the others here.”
“What do you think you can say to make this any less insulting.”
Earl dropped his head in shame. “Nothing. I’m sorry.”
A smile grew across Lucy’s face. “A guy with a real job who apologizes. How about that? You want to go for coffee sometime?”