Beer, Spray Cans and other Tools of Attraction
The first time she meets him, he throws a beer tumbler at her head. It's the kind of attack that should always be ignored, but when alcohol interferes with her thoughts, it suddenly seems like an ingenius option to fight back.
"Did you just throw a beer tumbler at my head?"
Her enemy is a tall boy with a lopsided smile that makes his eyes wrinkle at the corners. He points at her and shakes with silent laughter. "Yuh."
Her brain offers her several modes of counter-attack. Throw her vodka cranberry in his face, buy him a dating book, lecture him on the dangers of drinking to the point where he finds it funny to assault innocent bystanders. Even in its disordered state, her intellect deduces that it would be hypocritical to make any such call when she's holding a drink her brother forced her into consuming. She has finished high school and is well-rehearsed in the importance of resisting peer-pressure. Nobody ever taught her how to resist the emotional blackmail only a family member can employ.
"Do you want to end up alone in university?" her older brother had demanded when she had informed him she intended to snuggle up with In Her Shoes and a quantity of chocolate on Friday night. She tries to tell him that she hates going out, and this has rarely impacted on her ability to make friends before. Her brother tells her high school is different to university, and since she hasn't started the latter yet, she doesn't feel she is in a position to respond. So here she is, at her brother's favourite bar, meditating on the danger of family pressure and the perils of standing open to attack via beer tumbler from inebriated strangers.
"You're hot," decides the stranger. He stumbles towards her and she takes a step back, flinching involuntarily. Of course she's flattered, of course she realises he won't remember this conversation in the morning.
"You should be too! It's fun-n-n!" He performs a weird, twisted dance, something she is certain that until this moment, only the mirror in his bedroom has witnessed. "I'm Byron."
She bites back a smile. "So we'll go no more a roving, so late into the night?"
Byron, if that is his real name, focuses on her with some difficulty. A horrified look creeps onto his face. "You're not a nerd, are you?"
"No, I just concentrate in English."
"Oh," Byron says, his shoulders loosening. "Let's dance."
She has always prided herself on her intelligence, and she has seen the conversation heading towards this terrifying conclusion for some time. Fortunately, her brother's girlfriend, Shane discovers her and clamps onto her elbow. "There you are Saph! They're playing Mr. Brightside and I've lost your brother! I've gotta dance! This is the most orgasmic song I know!"
As usual, Shane shares too much. It had been a shock to her conservative Indian parents, when her brother, Shonar, had brought Shane home. But Shane has been blessed with the enviable trait of making everybody love her. Saphire often wishes she could master Shane's bulldozer ability to blend brutal honesty with warmth, but at the best of times she is restrained, careful, making sure she doesn't reveal too much.
"I'll see you round, Byron," Saph says. But Byron's attention is already lost- he has discovered a mate holding a bottle of VB that he isn't drinking. Saph knows she could never compete.
The second time she meets him he attacks her with a spray can. Strictly speaking, he's not attacking her, but strips of canvas he has strung up on two trees on campus. Until this moment, she has been blissfully unaware that they attend the same university. Saph reflects that it would be too much to hope that a boy called Byron with a love of beer would disappear from her life.
"Stay away from me crazy man!" she yells, upon discovering her arm to be a neon pink. Then, she screams, "In the name of all that is holy, why? WHY?" She has realised that her diary- that sacred book where she plans every day of her life- has not survived the barrage. Its black cover is now infected with a heinous pink. Byron, in a spray painting frenzy, has spun around in a circle, his finger pushing a large quantity of fluro colours onto anyone foolish enough to walk near him.
"Sorry," Byron says in his lazy way. He's not good looking by Hollywood standards, but he has a way of smiling that would have made Saph, had her arm not been neon pink, relent towards him. "Hey! I know you! Was your dance orgasmic?"
Not for the first time in her life, Saph is grateful for her milk-coffee skin that hides the blush burning across her cheeks. She digs around in her handbag for a packet of tissues, and then tries valiantly, but without much success, to rescue her diary from its pink demise.
"Sorry about that," Byron says, watching her efforts bemusedly. "Is it an important book?"
"Oh, only my diary."
"Oh, ok then. Well, I'm making an artwork." He waves vaguely in the direction of the trees behind him. Saph should have known that he would miss her sarcastic undertone.
"You go to school here?" Saph's tone is more accusatory than friendly, and her attention is still on her diary.
"Sure. Doing an Arts degree, signed up for an art class, thought I'd be post-modern."
Saph decides her diary, like the wannabe artist before her, is beyond salvation. A rubbish bin stands forlornly a few metres away from them, and after a moment's hesitation, she throws it away. It hits the bottom of the can with a resounding clang.
"What'd you do that for?" Byron puts the spray cans on the ground and wipes his hands on his jeans, and a neon trail is left behind where his fingers have been a moment before. Since these jeans are faded and ripped at the knee, Saph doesn't think it's much of a loss. Her diary- now that was a loss, she had paid thirty dollars for it- the equivalent of two hours serving snappy mothers coffee, and thanks to Byron-Pollock, she'd have to buy another one.
All at once Byron appears to be contrite. He looks over his shoulder at the bin, and then again at Saph, who is contemplating the best way to get away from him. "Let me buy you coffee."
"No, I'm fine." Saph refuses without thinking, in a reflex born of always refusing help. Byron's grin falters, and because he looks so much like a helpless puppy she adds, "maybe some other time."
"You go here too?"
"Yeah." Byron looks at her expectantly so she continues. "I'm doing Commerce and Law."
"Oh." He lowers his eyes. Saph has the odd feeling she has disappointed him.
"Nothing! Just…it's typical I guess."
"What do you mean typical?" Saph's arms are crossed, she holds him in a glare she has learnt from her mother.
"Well, for- people like, you."
"People like me what?"
"Well!" Byron says, throwing his arms out wide. "You flip out because your diary got a bit of paint on it, you're obviously dedicated to your studies, you quote Byron at random-"
"Since when is that a character flaw?" Saph can't believe she felt sorry for this twat. So she thinks studying is important and she has her life on a planner. She's the only daughter of an immigrant Indian family- to be driven to succeed is a card that has been dealt to her before birth. Byron seems to realise he is treading on shaky ground. He folds his arms and offers his smile as reconciliation. Saph isn't buying it. "I have a lecture now."
She wishes she could have thought of a more ingenius exit line, but no one, not even Byron could have faulted its delivery.
The third time she sees him she is sure he is stalking her. Her brother has convinced their parents to allow him to throw a back-to-university bash- and though initially they had not thought it necessary, when Shonar paints a picture of Saph dying, young, beautiful and friendless unless she meets new people, her parents change their minds. Saph doesn't know why Shonar is so intent on making sure she has enough people to add on Facebook, but it makes him happy so she lets him go his merry way. That is- until she sees Byron standing in front of her, though thankfully, without a can of beer in his hand.
"Hey." Since Shane disappeared a minute ago, Saph has been sitting alone on the sofa. Byron looms over her from his impressive height. "Listen. I'm really sorry about the beer and the spray paint and the typical thing it was pretty shoddy and I should be better and saying shit like this with a name like Byron and I'm sorry but I just thought you should know since-" At this point, Saph starts laughing. Byron sighs in relief and sits beside her on the sofa. "You looked like you were going to crucify me!"
"Not crucify you, just chuck a can of beer at your head," Saph assures him.
"My kind of girl." Saph has a small, heart-melting smile of her own, and when Byron sees it, he's glad that he's braved approaching a girl who throws out diaries and quotes Byron. "So what's your name?"
"Saphire." Byron cocks an eyebrow. "Shut up Byron. It's Saph for short. You know my brother, Shonar?"
"Sure, he invited me. Good guy."
Saph meant it in a rhetorical spirit, but it seems Byron is one of the most literal people she has met. It's a shame, with a name like Byron, she would have hoped he had more metaphorical tendencies. "Yeah well Shonar means gold in Bengali. My parents have a thing with precious objects."
"That's poetic. I dig that." Byron nods in a way that makes Saph suspect he is a surfer- and when they fall into further conversation she discovers he is. He has an animated way of talking and it's not long before she has stopped listening to him- she watches him move- the way he throws his arms around, shakes his head, and strands of dark hair fall across his eyes.
"Saph?" Byron has posed the question again, and from the distant expression on her face, he realises she's thinking of the best way to turn him down. He should have known that a girl who has decided to make it into the United Nations before she's forty would never go for a guy who's life ambition is to catch a wave in Hawaii. "Saph, you don't have to dance if you don't want to."
A reckless energy has taken hold of her. She bounces to her feet, takes his hand and pulls him towards the impromptu dance floor. Shonar whizzes past her, a glass vase in his hand, and he yells "no the Ganesh! Put it down! No, it is not an elephant man you dickhead!"
Saph laughs and puts her arms around Byron's neck. He grins down at her, and she wonders how she's missed the flecks of green in his eyes. The music changes- it's Thriller and in a second, Byron undergoes a transformation. He's belting out the words, attempting a moonwalk, strutting in his imaginary jacket and hat and flailing his arms about like a madman. Saph could walk away at this point- Byron has become a one man show- but a niggling voice tells her to prove to him she isn't typical. This is the only reason she can account for her following behaviour- pulling out moves she usually reserves for her bedroom and a singing voice only her shower has heard. She cackles along with the recorded laughter that used to frighten her so much as a child, feeling lighter than she has in years. Byron's eyes light up- he grabs her hands and twirls her around, and when the song finishes she's laughing, breathless, her arm slung over his shoulder.
"Girl, you can bust a move!" Byorn's still smiling, Saph pushes her fringe from her face, and meets his gaze. They look each other steadily in the eyes- and then one of the most powerful impulses of Saph's life arrives in her brain, and before it has time to be paraylsed by reason she obeys it. She kisses him, and feels Byron smile against her lips. "I was hoping you'd do that."
When she's able to talk again, Saph says with a mischevous grin. "Well, I'm a sucker for beer tumblers."
Well, I'm not really a mushy type, but what can I say, I'm feeling sentimental at the moment. My first love-y dove-y oneshot, ever so of course I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear what you think! Incidentally- my friend got hit on like that- both with a beer tumbler and by a guy, and that's where the idea came from. Another friend also describes Mr. Brightside as the most orgasmic song ever. She's a nut, but the thought made me laugh.
If it's made you happy or smile, make me happy and smile and please do leave a review. Lurking is not for today!
Thanks very much for reading!