“So,” Emi says as she takes my elbow in hers, leaning in close to me so our conversation can be heard in the loud arena.
“I need some advice.” I strain to keep my eyes off her chest… fortunately, her green eyes are completely captivating, her lips soft…
“Let’s say you know a girl…”
“I know many girls,” I answer.
“Right, obviously, but let’s say it’s one particular girl.”
“Is this a girl, or a woman, Emi?”
“A woman, but she hates that term.” She hates that term.
“And is this woman someone I know?”
“Okay, an irrelevant woman…”
“No,” she laughs. “Stop it. So anyway, this woman…”
“Let’s say you met her under certain circumstances… and she wanted one thing from you, but with the way things panned out, you got the distinct impression that she wanted something else.”
“Okay…” Is she talking about us? “How would this girl– this woman– go about correcting this?”
“She shouldn’t beat around the bush, and she should just come out and say it. Guys are dense, we need for you to spell things out.”
“Okay, yes, that would be the obvious answer… but what if this girl really likes this guy, and he really is just interested in her for the other thing?”
“I’m not following,” I tell her. “Dense, remember? Be plain.”
“She likes him for one thing… but he sees her differently, based on some things she… did… hypothetically…”
“Right.” What? “So you don’t think the guy and the girl want the same thing?”
“Right. Like, maybe certain circumstances caused this girl to be someone… other than the person she really is… what if the guy just likes the girl he thinks she is but not the one she really is?”
“Why wouldn’t he like the girl she really is?”
“I don’t know…”
“If the girl is you, I’m sure the guy would really like you, for you.” And if the guy is me… no, I can’t go there.
“This is all hypothetical,” she blushes. “Irrelevant girl.”
“You are never irrelevant, Emi,” I tell her. “If he didn’t like you for who you were, he wouldn’t be worth your time or trouble, Em. But why don’t you think he knows you?”
“Hypothetically?” she plays with me.
“Because she led him to believe she was someone else… that she wanted something else.”
“Well, what caused her to lead him on in the first place?”
“Poor judgment,” she sighs. “Wine and terribly poor judgment.”
“And you’re sure the guy likes the girl for this ‘something else?’”
“How can you be so sure?”
“He seemed to be enjoying himself… with her…” She blushes again, this time tucking her head into my shoulder.
“I think you’d be surprised, Emi. You should ask him.”
“Okay, no,” she shakes her head. “That would be too embarrassing. I don’t think I could do that… um, she could do that.”
“Sure you could. Try it.” Just say it.
“I’d be afraid he wouldn’t like me the same way… and then he’d be gone… probably run into the arms of someone better.” She laughs lightly under her breath.
“He wouldn’t leave you. There’s no one better.” I tuck a strand of hair that had fallen out of her pigtail back behind her ear, losing my breath in the process.
A strange look of awareness flashes through Emi’s eyes. Her lips part slightly as she stares at me.
“He’s probably on the same page as you,” I tell her, my voice hushed. “You just have to tell him, Emi, and find out.”
Her cheeks redden for the third time in the conversation as she pulls her arm from mine. “Right. I think I will. I need a drink.”
Abruptly, Emi stands up to get another drink. She trips over my feet as she crosses in front of me, falling into my lap, my hand touching her breast as she tumbles into me. Good lord…
“Maybe you don’t need another,” I suggest quietly.
“It’s the shoes, idiot,” she laughs nervously, “and your big feet.”
“Right,” I agree with her, unconvinced. Let the entertainment begin… Teresa slides into Emi’s vacant seat.
“When’s your next gig?” she asks.
“Nothing on the calendar yet,” I tell her. “But I’ll be sure to let you know.” We sit together until half-way through the second quarter when I begin to wonder where my best friend has gone. I turn around to scan the room, finding her seated at a bar in the suite talking to a man. He, too, is wearing a Knicks jersey and cap. His posture screams jock, his muscular arms further proof. She’s never been into that type. I wonder who he is, what they’re talking about.
She’s leaning into him, her back straight, chest out. She plays with her damned pigtail, twirling it coyly around her finger. I can see her pronounced dimples all the way across the room. Her laugh stands out among all the other crowd noise.
“Who’s that?” I ask, nudging Teresa.
“That’s the guy she’s been talking to… Colin, I think is his name.”
“Not exactly,” her roommate answers. “They met at a happy hour that the magazine sponsored a few weeks ago. He’s a sports writer. Apparently,” she says, her voice dramatic, “they made out in his car till the wee hours of the morning.”
“Huh.” I have no words. “Really.”
“Yeah, they’ve been texting ever since. She wasn’t sure he’d show up… I’m glad he did, for her sake.”
“Yeah…” I say, running my hand through my hair. Why am I here?
“He’s a big Knicks fan… hence the outfit tonight. It’s her cute cheerleader look.”
“I see that,” I mumble, unable to tear my eyes away from her. Were we not just talking about us? About what she wants from me?
“When are you gonna ask her out?” she asks quietly.
“What?” I look at her, startled, the confession of my feelings written all over my face.
“You heard me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lie.
“Yeah, keep it up,” she says, exasperated. I sit in silence for a few minutes, eventually turning back to the game but just seeing a blur of action in front of me, my eyes not wanting to focus.
“I could never be what she wants,” I murmur, a part of me hoping Teresa won’t hear me, an equal part wishing she would.
(C) 2011 Lori L. Otto