If I can't get laid tonight, I should give up. Getting laid on Valentine's day is a fucking institution. If you're in a couple, you fuck because it would be awkward if you didn't. If you're single, you fuck to feel less lonely. Isn't that kind of beautiful? One night a year when everyone gets what they want. One night a year when losers can be lonely, in bed, together.
The university is holding a Lonely Hearts night tonight. A kind-hearted, pitying gesture. Everyone sitting in the food-hall-turned-bar has one thought on their mind. Men sit alone, girls sit in groups. Entirely defeating the point. It'd be funny if it wasn't so sad. I sit at the end of the bar. It's okay to be alone if you're sitting at the bar, wearing a blazer and drinking expensive wine.
A couple of girls sit to my right, two brunettes. One has brown eyes, the other blue. Brown-eyes is wearing an impressively short skirt, blue-eyes has opted for tight jeans. They're too tight around her waist. Actually, you could say her waist is too tight around her jeans. She's pretty though, in a plain way. Pleasant enough to look at, but not a face you'd remember. Brown-eyes, on the other hand, is downright gorgeous. Model-class. And you'd remember more than her face.
I move to get off the bar-stool but it overbalances. I throw out my arm to stop myself from falling and manage to stay on my feet, but the stool clatters to the floor. Then I hear a scream. A split-second later I realise that I've knocked brown-eyes' drink straight into her lap.
"Fuck! I'm so sorry! Fuck!"
There's sticky, smelly beer all over her skirt and long, smooth legs. Everyone is looking at us. Sound has been sucked out of the room. I go and fetch her some napkins, my face burning. She takes a handful and tries to wipe herself down.
"I'm so sorry!" I repeat.
She gives me a dirty look and says: "It's okay, accidents happen." She turns away from me and talks to blue-eyes. "Listen, Megan, I'm gonna go home and clean myself up. I'll meet you guys at the club, okay?"
"Do you want me to come with?" blue-eyes asks.
"No it's cool," brown-eyes replies. "The others will be here in about half an hour, you might as well wait for them. No point in ruining your night too."
She leaves. Now's my chance. I sidle over to blue-eyes, who's just pulling out her phone.
"God, I feel like such a dork. Sorry for ruining your night. Can I at least buy you a refill?"
Blue-eyes looks at me hesitantly.
"Oh no, you don't have to do that."
"I insist," I say, smiling at her. My face is still a little red from my earlier embarrassment. It does the trick.
"Sure... if you really want to. I'll have what you're having."
I'm in! With half an hour to play with.
"You're Megan right? I think I recognise you from one of my classes."
"Oh! Psychology, maybe? It still amazes me that we can fill up the main auditorium."
"Yeah, that's the one! What's your major?"
"Double major, actually," she says, apologetically. "English Literature and Psychology."
"So you read people like a book?" I ask, teasing.
She laughs. The ice is broken. "Not really. It's more just reading loads of books about people, and then writing about what those books tell us."
"Too much time in the library, not enough in bars?"
She spreads her arms wide, the wine I bought her in one hand. "Well, evidently. I didn't catch your name, by the way."
"Harry." I say. I haven't been Harry for a while. "I'm just a single major - cognitive psychology. I know how it is, I don't get out as much as I should. I feel out of practice. Prone to knocking things over when I get too close to beautiful women."
"Is that right?" she says, blushing and leaning towards me a little.
"I meant your friend." Megan's jaw drops. "Kidding!" I say.
"You'd better be," she says, pretending to be angry. "Otherwise I'd start drink-spilling too, all over your white shirt."
"Oh come on, you don't seem the drink-throwing kind of girl. Besides, it'd be ungrateful."
"The way I see it, it wouldn't be my money I'd be wasting."
I think we're both still just pretending to be angry, but there's an edge to our conversation I need to defuse.
"Shall we drink to social incompetence?" I ask, smiling and raising my glass.
Megan keeps her glass where it is.
"I really was kidding. You're way prettier than your friend."
She doesn't look satisfied; she's giving me the same dumb look all the other girls give me. The one that makes me feel undeserving. Like I should just crawl back to the rock I've been living under, never to emerge.
Before she can say anything, her phone rings. Her friends asking for directions. Megan stands up and moves a few steps away to talk privately.
I'm not going to let her slip through my fingers. Not after all the effort I've made. I won't let her judge me, pigeonhole me. I deserve a fair chance. And if she won't give me that, I'll have to adjust the odds a little. I have just the thing for that.
I reach into my pocket and place my hand over our drinks, in one smooth motion. I only do this when I have to. When all else fails. It helps when our drinks are close toge-
A woman laughs loudly right behind me, startling me. I glance over my shoulder and see the back of Megan's head starting to turn around. Shit. I need to hurry. With a stab of panic I realise our drinks are in a line, one in front of the other. I've forgotten which one's mine. Shit. My mind's gone blank.
I look at Megan again and she catches my eye. She walks over to me and grabs a glass.
"Harry, I have to go. See you in class sometime." She raises her glass at me. Fuck! I can't even tell her that's my glass because I don't know if it is.
My heart pounds. I grab the remaining glass and clink it against hers. She drinks. I don't. If she starts feeling sick I'll walk her home. No big deal. I can save this.
She looks at me. "You've got to drink too! You know what they say: if you don't drink to a toast, you'll have bad sex for the rest of your life!"
That bitch. I drink. I think I'm okay. She leaves in a rush of colour and perfume. The room starts to bleed.
I've got to get to the bathro-