The acid wash glows in the black light like little veins of white across the legs of the dancers. I stand at the bar, beneath the fake grass roof, nursing my cheap beer. The last of my $5 has been spent, and there is still another hour to go before closing time. The disco music blares, and we have to shout to talk, so our conversations are carried on in head nods and eye movements. It’s not like we are discussing philosophy. Instead we are standing, surveying the girls on the dance floor, like starving men at the window of an all you can eat buffet. Sadly, we haven’t the first clue about how to change our situation, hoping against hope that someone will make eye contact with us, and give us some sort of signal that cannot be mistaken.
Around the edges of the dance floor, groups of Frat boys, and Sorority girls sit on bamboo and wicker furniture, laughing and touching. I watch them with mute jealousy and disgust. How is it possible to envy people, whose very existence you despise? I try not to think about it, because it only adds to my self-loathing. What would I give for life where I could talk freely with girls, and walk about like I owned this town? Is it worth my dignity? Is it worth becoming something that I am not? No, even in my drunk, and horny state, I can’t deny myself. Like Popeye, I am what I am. There is no changing that fact.
I think again of the stories of friends who chose other colleges, and other universities. Places where the ratio of guys and girls is 1 to 1. In my naivety I never thought that 4 guys to every girl in this town would be an issue. I had so many friends in High School I took for granted how easy it was to be alone with a girl. To talk and laugh in the back of a classroom, without the pressure of thinking you only had 5 minutes of their attention, and had better make the most of it. When did women become a rare exotic species that caused me to sit in tortured silence during a Calculus lecture, hoping against hope that the cute blond would sit in the seat next to me again. Watching as five guys tried to get her attention as she entered the room. I could be one of them, but instead I have chosen my foolish pride. Or is it fear? I’m sure it’s both, and neither one will keep me warm tonight.
The beer in my bottle gets warmer and warmer. My eyes sting from the clouds of smoke hanging in this dark low ceilinged fire trap. It may be minus ten outside, but the grass huts, and tiki furniture match the temperature inside the bar. Why don’t I just give up, empty this beer, and dig my coat out of the pile in the corner. Soon the DJ will put on Paradise by the Dashboard Light, signal to everyone that the time has come to grab a partner, like a game of musical chairs. I’m not sure I want to stick around to be the odd man out, when the lights go on, and the harsh fluorescent turns this faux Tahiti into a dilapidated Pier 1 Imports.
I say goodbye to my friends, empty the last of the flat, stale beer into my mouth, and prepare for the long walk back to campus. Stepping outside of the door, the cold air quickly dries the sweat on my face, and feels like a cool washrag on my feverish forehead. The stars are up there somewhere beyond the streetlight glow, looking down on Potsdam and a million other cities where lonely people make wishes. I turn up Market Street, hunch my shoulders against the wind, and start walking.