“Oh, this is one of my favorite songs.”
He aimed a half-smile toward his pint glass. He hoped she would find it charming or even coy. It actually reflected his disgust at the song, which at least distracted him from his ambivalence over the preceding minutes of small talk.
Once upon a time, he had thought of The Killers as talented and interesting. They had certainly made some songs that he liked. And then they made that . . . well, he didn’t exactly know what word to assign to “Are we human, or are we dancers?” (He suspected that the song had another name — but he couldn’t have cared less what it was.)
“Insipid,” was the word he was looking for. He was trying to resist the dictates of the Commutative Property of Music, which would have forced him to assign the same word to her.
“Do you like The Killers?” She was cute. Plenty of eye contact, and he liked her smile. Not insipid, anyway. Maybe the bad small talk was just from nerves, or maybe she was intimidated by talking to someone who thought for a living and who was — well, a few years older.
“I like some of their stuff, sure.”
“What kind of music do you like?”
He skipped over his first several answers: early Black Sabbath, 1970s Willie Nelson, The Dead Weather, Jane’s Addiction, Fugazi, Girl Talk, . . . he guessed that the relatively small difference in their ages and the large difference in their tastes meant that they would like few of the same things. This was not a club he would have chosen to have drinks in.
“I like all kinds.” He tried to turn up the wattage on his smile as he swirled the remaining beer in his glass. She was drinking Corona Light out of a bottle, even though the bar had 30 good beers on tap.
She started talking about the bands she liked, the shows she’d seen. He smiled when she mentioned Jimmy Buffett, not because he was a fan, but because he was amused by the image of her getting high with a bunch of sunburned tokers twice her age.
She was sweet and earnest — and sexy almost despite herself.
It was funny: he reviled his hipster friends and his grad-student friends for being too knowing. They had overly informed opinions on Moliere and the Kashmir problem and Joy Division. And here was the girl next door with her perky smile, no interest in politics, a liking for Rihanna, and, probably, a complete ignorance of The Wu-Tang Clan or Cormac McCarthy.
He cracked a little joke about the cocktail waitress, who obviously had a crush on the scruffy Lothario at the next table. She giggled into her Corona Light.
Damn, but she was cute.
“My friends got tickets to the Black Eyed Peas show. It’s sold out.”
“Do you like them?”
“Uh, sure — I like some of their stuff.”
She giggled. “It’s always ‘some of their stuff’ with you.” (What was he going to say? That they were a glorified cover band?) “Is there a band that you like *all* of their stuff?”
He went back to the half-smile. There was a contest going on here, a small one, and he didn’t want to exacerbate it. She wasn’t as clueless as she looked. “Led Zeppelin.”
Now she really laughed, but not at his expense. Her eyes lit up. “They’re like a million years old!”
“But they were really good.”
She smiled at him and poked him on the shoulder. “I know you’re a *few* years older, but you’re not 50 or something. You’ve got to like something younger.”
He smiled and acted like he was really thinking about it. She was obviously enjoying herself. “The Dead Weather.”
“Ooh! ‘Die by the Drop’ — my roommate loves that song!”
It was something, at least.
She took a sip from the bottle and looked down as she spoke. “Do you think you’d like to go to the Black Eyed Peas?”
“I thought you said it was sold out.”
“It is. But my friends have an extra ticket.”
He knew what she was getting at, but he played dumb so he could hear her say it. He smiled and shrugged. “I don’t know your friends.” He looked down at his glass and swirled that last ounce of beer.
She poked him in the shoulder, harder this time, and laughed. “You’d be going with me, silly.” She cracked that smile again.
He smiled back and savored the words before he said them. “That would be great.”
She put her hand on his arm. “But you have to pretend you like all of their songs, because my friends are huge fans.”
“I can do that.” He leaned in toward her.
She held his gaze, then gave him a more measured smile. “It’s a date, then.”
She was definitely not as clueless as he had thought. In that moment, he enjoyed the private joke that it took a lot to make him look forward to a Black Eyed Peas concert — but she had managed it.
“All the single ladies! (All the single ladies!) All the single ladies!–”
“Oh, this is my favorite! Come dance with me!” She grabbed his arm as he was draining his beer. He gulped and snorted, and they both laughed as they fought through the press to the dance floor.
He didn’t think of himself as much of a dancer, but it was easy to put a hand on her waist and start moving. He was the furthest thing from a Beyonce fan — although she was better than Rihanna — but if her music made the girl next door move like this . . .
(He thought, for half of a second, about the next-to-the-last conversation he’d ever had with his fiancée. “Why do you always have to think so much? Why do you always have to be right?” had been her refrain.)
. . . he’d take it.