Deflated

A tragic story by Faith

The bar was packed. It always was on Friday. This made me both happy and exhausted. I knew the tips would be good but I was pulling my second double in a row and I desperately wanted to sit down and suck down a cold drink myself. A glance at my watch-only thirty minutes left in my shift. Thank God.

I finished the pint I was filling and delivered it to a table full of raucous men. One of them leered at me, the effects of the alcohol evident on his breath.

“Serena, beautiful, when are we gonna go out?” he winked, trying to look suave and doing a poor job. The rest of the table snickered loudly.

“Rick, you know I’m seeing someone. If only you had asked a little sooner...” I trailed off, flashing a grin and a wink at the rest of the table. The guys sitting there were Friday regulars, a happy hour crowd who started pouring in around 4 and often shut the bar down. Despite Rick’s drunken overtures, they were a nice group and generous tippers.

Walking back towards the bar, he caught my eye. He always did. Self-consciously, my hand went to my hair and I felt a smile creep across my face. Damn, now she was looking at me. Now I had to smile at her too. She waved me over and I held up my finger, just a minute.

He was Preston Miller, also known as my favorite thing about Friday. He started coming in after work on Friday about 6 months ago. He always sat in the same seat and waited for his drinking buddies to show up. He caught my eye the first time he showed up and I made sure he saw me looking. Preston wasn’t exactly a pinup, his hairline receding, short brown hair usually messy, a bit of a gut forming probably from all the beer he drank. But there was something about him, something that made my heart pound and my hands tremble. If anyone would have asked, I would have denied knowing what it was that made me feel that way but truthfully, I knew exactly what it was—his glasses.

See, I’ve always kind of found glasses appealing. Sure, I’ve dated guys with and without them and my current boyfriend (yes, I have a boyfriend and I still check out other guys. So sue me.) doesn’t wear glasses but I still think he’s incredibly hot. And smart and fun and nice. So Preston may not have been able to compete with him looks- or personality-wise but he had the one thing my boyfriend didn’t—a pair of wire rimmed glasses and two thin lenses in front of his eyes that put the world in focus.

Just so you know, I’m not a terribly shallow person. Preston also happens to be a great guy, nice and funny and we’ve never done anything although once we were close enough to kiss and I have felt his foot against mine under the table a few times. And no, my boyfriend doesn’t know about that and I have no plans to tell him. I’m quite happy with him and our relationship, it’s just that my Preston-sightings happen to give me a thrill at work. Sometimes when my shift is over he and his friends invite me to sit and have a drink with them. Maybe it’s a bad choice on my part but like I said, he’s nice and funny so it’s always a good time.

When Preston first started coming to the bar, it was just him and his buddies. After about three months, a girl started showing up. I wasn’t sure the first time but by the second week she showed up, it was obvious who she was there with. She laughed at everything Preston said, leaned in close to him, touched his elbow when she was talking to him. By the third week they were kissing each other, arms all wrapped around the other’s waists.

Part of me was a little jealous, sure, but I couldn’t be too upset, after all I had a boyfriend myself. And I still caught Preston glancing in my direction, his eyes lingering on me when I took orders at his table. The smug, bitchy part of me also looked at the new girl and thought, hell, I’m way hotter than her. Ok, maybe I am shallow. But it wasn’t my imagination that her eyeliner was too thick and her stomach sometimes hung out from under her shirt. Yes, I know, how mean, but at least I’m honest about myself.

To make matters worse, I found myself going out of my way to look extra good on Friday. Spending more time on my hair, checking my makeup just before I expected Preston to show up. What can I say? Looking a certain way helps get tips although that was just an added benefit in this case.

After a few weeks, I eventually got to know “the girl”. She had a name, Leslie, and I found that she was actually quite nice although we had little in common. She was often the one who insisted that I sit down with them after work so while sometimes I had to endure her and Preston’s gross public displays of affection, I also got in quality glasses time.

I made my way back over to Preston’s table. “Serena!” Leslie shrieked. “When are you off? Come and sit with us.” She leaned over the table towards me, her hand landing on Preston’s thigh in the process.

“I’ve got about 20 minutes left, then I’ll stop by,” I smiled at her, Preston, then the rest of the table. I didn’t want to be obvious about staring at him with his girlfriend right there but out of the corner of my eye I could tell he was still looking at me. The light reflecting off his glasses gave him away.

Walking back to the bar, I realized the bar was beginning to clear out a bit. I cleaned off a few tables, counted out my tips and by that time, Eric, the manager, told me I was free. I stopped by the bathroom to change out of my stinky, beer-stained shirt and into another top, one that was tighter and V-neck. Fluffed my hair, applied some lip gloss and I was back out to Preston’s table.

When I got there, Leslie scooted her bar stool over to make room for me and several of the guys sitting there followed suit. As usual, I ended up across from Preston. That happened a lot and without my trying–honest. For all the things I did do to make sure I had his attention from time to time, I didn’t go out of my way to be really obvious and pushy when I was seeing him socially. It seemed rude with Leslie right there and so enthusiastic anyway.

The guys at the table were in a deep conversation about NASCAR or some other type of car racing that I had little interest in, a few from the group were up playing pool and Leslie was quick to engage me in conversation. She was carrying on about something she saw on tv earlier in the week but I was only half-paying attention. Preston had pushed his glasses up and was rubbing his eyes with his finger and thumb. I felt my insides go swirly and sucked on the straw in my drink to hide my smile.

Finally, after several seconds of rubbing, he took his glasses off and laid them on the table, blinking hard and looking around. I felt a tingle across my entire body. But it was short-lived. Leslie grabbed the glasses off the table, putting them on her face.

“Omygawd Preston, you are soooo blind,” she squealed, touching the frames and looking around the bar.

I grimaced, the tingle in my body turning to an uncomfortable pang. Preston looking like I felt, his eyes blurrily scanning the table as suddenly everyone sitting there had turned to Leslie. She had taken the glasses off and passed them to Mark, one of Preston’s friends, who was sitting next to her.

“Shit man, how do you see out of these?” he looked around the table, his brows furrowed behind the glasses. “How do I look?”

In truth, I thought he looked great with Preston’s glasses; they drew attention to his hazel eyes but of course I couldn’t say so. And seeing that Preston was looking more and more uncomfortable as the weakness of his vision was becoming the topic of conversation, I changed the subject with a random interjection.

“Uh, does anyone want another drink? I think I’ll get one more.” I hadn’t had any intention of having more than one drink that night but I was desperate to change the subject both for Preston’s sake and my own. I didn’t think I could sit through a discussion on just how nearsighted he was without getting turned on beyond control.

“Yeah, I’ll have another beer,” one of the guys, Alex said.

“Me too,” said Mark who had returned Preston’s glasses.

I looked around the rest of the table but most of the rest of the group had turned towards one of the big screen televisions watching a particularly spectacular basketball highlight. Preston, though, was looking at me and smiled a shy, appreciative grin. I felt all swirly again as I smiled back and tugged at the waist of my shirt, conscious of the secret look we were sharing.

I returned from the bar with the drinks but after drinking half of it, I was done. Preston and Leslie were all huddled close, kissing and talking and I had the sudden urge to get home. Most of the rest of the guys were still watching sports highlights or playing pool so I said a quick goodbye and slipped away without much notice. I couldn’t help it, I looked back as I went out the door, just in time to see Leslie heading towards the bathroom and Preston, his gaze on me, locked eyes with me and winked. I resisted the urge to beckon him to my car.

The next week past without much fanfare, the usual mix of craziness at work, running errands on my days off and seeing my boyfriend. I don’t usually think much about Preston except on Fridays and this week hadn’t been much different. But when I woke up on Friday morning, still groggy and barely awake, my first thought was :Preston. Pushing the pillows up behind my head, I scanned my closet for the perfect shirt for work. One of the best things about working in the bar is that I could wear whatever I wanted to work, although I had learned early on and the hard way not to wear my favorite shirts. After deciding on a work-appropriate shirt, I chose a tight pink t-shirt for after work. It was supposed to be nice out, one of the first truly warm days of spring and the t-shirt was a favorite of mine, a color that looked good with my skin and hair.

My shift was busy, lots of people skipping out of work early to enjoy the good weather at the beginning of what was supposed to be a warm weekend. Mindful of the clock, around 4:00 I started keeping my eye on the door. By 4:30, my head was whipping around any time anyone entered the bar. But still no Preston.

Maybe traffic was bad, I thought to myself as I checked my hair in the mirror facing the bar. But when I looked at my watch and it was nearly 6, a dinner crowd settling in on the restaurant side opposite the bar, I conceded that Preston just wasn’t coming in that night. It was the first Friday in months that I hadn’t seen him. After my shift, instead of sticking around like I usually did, I went straight home, my cute pink t-shirt still in my purse.

Nearly a had week passed and though I had done my best to ignore the nagging feeling in my gut, I finally admitted to myself that maybe my feelings for Preston were more than just an admiration for his cute, bespectacled face. I had always dismissed my infatuation as nothing more than a crush on his glasses, a perk during what could otherwise be a very long day at work. But here I was, days after missing my Preston-dosage and it was like I was having withdraws.

Perhaps there was something to this, I thought, considering all of the things I liked about Preston, myopic eyes aside. He was nice. And funny. And cute. But guilt came crashing down on me moments later as I thought first about my boyfriend, and then about Preston and Leslie and how she was always so nice to me. Still, my longing for enjoying his glasses had been strong for half a year—surely I couldn’t attribute all of that to one little pair of glasses could I?

It was Friday again and I was back at work, determined not to spend the shift watching the clock and the door. If Preston showed up, great, if not, I was not going to dwell on it, I promised myself. It was another busy Friday, people eager for the weekend and I was doing a good job of keeping my promise to myself but I was conscious of my hair and my lips, which I had taken extra time to gloss when I went to get more lemon slices for the bar.

It must have been when I was getting the lemons when they came in, a little earlier than usual. For the first time ever, I noticed Leslie first. She was sitting, facing towards me but her eyes scanning a menu. Even if she had made eye contact with me, I wouldn’t have noticed, I was too busy looking at the guy sitting across from her. It certainly looked like Preston from behind but something seemed to be missing. And when he moved his head, turning slightly to glance at the tv above Leslie’s head, it was obvious what was missing—his glasses.

Contacts, I thought to myself, watching for a blink, a rub of the eye, something, anything that indicated that the spring pollen and the smoke in the bar were irritating the tiny discs on his eyes. But nothing. I was really staring at him, still waiting for one of those contact lens giveaways when Leslie saw me, her arm shooting up in the air.

“Serena! Hi! How are you?” She waved me over, a grin on her face.

I approached the table, Preston turning to look at me and for the first time, focusing on me without his glasses. His eyes looked different, almost buggy. He smiled at me but my insides didn’t flip like they always did before. Still, I smiled back.

“How are you guys? Do you want drinks?” I leaned on the table, trying to look at Preston’s eyes without staring too much. I couldn’t look long enough to see anything.

“We’re gooood,” she drew out the word, making it two syllables. Preston didn’t say anything, just continued to look at me.

“I missed you guys last week,” I said, then instantly regretted it. That probably sounded desperate the weird. But it didn’t matter, Leslie opened her mouth, and out came the worst possible reason she could have offered.

“Oh, yeah, well, Preston had laser eye surgery last Friday so we couldn’t make it,” she chirped offhandedly.

I felt the blood rush from my face. I opened my mouth to say something but all that came out was a gurgling sound. What? Laser surgery? Ugh. Did this mean what I thought it meant? No more Friday glasses sightings? No more flirting with Preston in his cute wire rims?

“Yeah, and doesn’t he look great?” Leslie was ecstatic and I thought I was going to vomit. Look great? No! He looked great before, with glasses.

“Uh, um, yeah,” was all I could muster. Preston still hadn’t spoken, nor had he taken his eyes off of me. I felt sick.

Leslie was oblivious. “I think we still need a minute to order but then you should come and visit,” she said, still smiling.

“Er, ok, I’ll be back in a few minutes,” I stammered, unsure of what to say. I wandered back behind the bar, my head foggy. Laser surgery? Why?

Fortunately, the bar was still crowded and by the time I looked back up, another server was at Preston and Leslie’s table. I didn’t think I could stomach going back to the table just yet.

The night stayed busy and I was never so grateful. I was only able to make it back to visit with them once during my shift although I kept catching Preston looking my way. Somehow, it didn’t do a damn thing for me. In fact, I felt sort of bad. If ever I had questioned my feelings about men in glasses, this certainly confirmed it. Without them, Preston was average at best. I avoided making eye contact. It just didn’t seem right.

When my shift was over, I just wanted to leave but it would be rude. And obvious. Besides, I had caught Preston looking my way three or four times in the last half hour. He knew I was almost off. So I wandered over, not bothering to change my work shirt or even run my fingers through my hair.

“Are you going to sit down?” One of the guys who’s name I could never remember asked, pulling up a stool.

“Mmm, no, not tonight. I have a headache.”It was the truth. A dull pain had settled over my eyes and I just wanted to go home.

“Oh, are you sure?” Leslie asked.

I nodded. “I’ll see you guys next week I guess.”

I didn’t bother looking back when I got to the door. I drove straight to my boyfriend’s house where he was watching sports highlights with two of his friends. He smiled when he opened the door, his perfect, 20/20 eyes lighting up when he saw me. I smiled back, my headache suddenly fading and a swirly feeling I used to associate with Preston tingling in my stomach. One day, I thought to myself, one day he’ll have glasses.

Copyright Faith 2004

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