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I Forgot How to Talk to Women

I used to flirt with women a lot. I still flirt with a select few who sort of invite it, but my skills are not really as honed as they once were. Not that I was Mr. Suave back in the days of yore, but I was definitely good at flirting, especially the kind that leads absolutely nowhere.

Now I’m not.

I’m good with the one-liners, yes, but that’s not flirting. I’ll do that with anyone because I like to make fun of people, I’m good at it, it seems to come naturally to me. But when I get into flirt mode, I still do it; I just do it differently. I’ve got a little wink in my eye, without actually winking. I can feel it somewhere in there, this weird twinkling of my eye that says, roughly, “This joke, this is for you and me only.” And the women—they see it. I know that much.

But that, of course, is nothing. It’s nothing compared to the power of manufacturing conversation out of nothing. That’s really what flirting is all about: sustaining conversation. At least that’s what I see it as, in my evil little mind. I used to work overtime, just shooting the shit, prying shit out of them, and then storing it up to use it to my advantage sometime in the future. That’s when the flirt pays off.

But I can’t do it anymore. I’ve lost the skills, if I ever actually had them (maybe I was just delusional—I never really got (m)any dates by putting my flirting skills to use). There’s a girl in my Fiction Writing class. A very attractive girl. A very, very—well, I imagine you get the idea. I’ve never really talked to her much, and I guess I still don’t.

Today, for the first time in the history of the universe, she came in late and the seat next to me was the only one open (surprising, I know). So she sat next to me, which was kinda cool. She smells nice. Wow, that sounds stalkertastic. At any rate, I gave her some of my patented wit under my breath during the class exercises. She seemed appropriately amused.

At one point, I accidentally laughed so hard at something somebody said that a half-dissolved Altoid shot out of my mouth, ricocheted off her shoe, and fell on the floor. I had the sense not to pick it up, call “ten-second” rule, and put it back in my mouth. I just threw it away, but she didn’t seem horribly grossed out by such an act. Also, she’s hot.

After class, I shuffled on down to the library el stop to await the train that would cart me off to Quincy so I only had to walk eight blocks to get to Union Station instead of the normal fourteen. I admire the convenience of public transportation.

At any rate, standing on the platform, I was staring off to my left waiting for a train to round the corner. Then I turned my head to the right, and to my surprise she was standing there, also waiting for the train.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” she responded. I love intellectual banter. “Going to catch a train?” She meant a Metra train, as opposed to a CTA train, for which we were both obviously waiting.

“Uh-huh,” I said.

At that time, the train had pulled up, so we got on together. It was only two stops, so as usual, I stood back in the lefthand doorway. She waited in the right-side doorway; apparently she, being of a somewhat lesser girth than I, was unconcerned with blocking entering or exiting passengers. We didn’t speak at all. I kept trying to think of something to say, but I came up with nothing.

When the Quincy stop was coming up, I stood next to her in the right doorway. This got her to talk.

“So,” she said, “are you a Fiction major?”

“Nah,” I said. “Film. Scr—”

“Screenwriting,” she smiled, nodding. “Of course.” I have no idea what that meant, either.

“Yeah,” I said. A few eternal seconds passed before I realized I should continue this conversation. “You?” I continued. Damn, I’m smooth.

“Fiction,” she said. “But, I dunno, next year I might switch it to Poetry. We’ll see.”

“Ah,” I said, unaware that there was a Poetry major. I assumed it was a concentration under the Fiction umbrella, but I really didn’t know.

“This is Quincy,” Mr. Automated Announcer intoned overhead. “Transfer to Metra and Amtrak trains at Quincy.” I think I will. Thank you, sir. You’re a credit to the patched-together loudspeaker announcement industry.

We got off. Not like that, you perverts. I sort of followed her, even though she took a different route to the station that I did. I followed from behind, stalker-like. I was not exactly feeling motivated to continue the conversation after this great deal of awkwardness that had passed between us ever since she showed up at State/Van Buren (oh, didn’t I mention the awkwardness?), but if she felt compelled to stop and wait for me to catch up or perhaps engage in me in conversation, I would be there.

She didn’t. And I didn’t. We walked down to Jackson, crossed Wells, and then she wandered off into some building right at the corner. I dunno what’s in that building, except for a FedEx station jutting diagonally out of it. I assumed she was also catching a train, but maybe she wasn’t. Or maybe she had to stop off and do something before hitting the train. Not like that, you perverts.

At any rate, logic—and probably some laws—dictate that it’s improper to follow a lady who doesn’t even seem to have any real interest in talking to you into a building where you yourself have no legitimate business (other than following her, of course…), so I continued down Jackson to Union Station, somewhat rattled and somewhat baffled.

And then I started thinking on the way home of how differently I would have handled that as recently as six months ago. Flirtation isn’t rocket science; if I can do it, anyone can. But when I can’t, that’s when things start to get tricky. I’ve got a few theories as to why my flirtometer conked out, and the most logical seems to be lack of practice. I haven’t legitimately flirted with anyone in months. I didn’t really have any need to. Not seriously, anyway.

Another likely problem is that she is intimidatingly attractive. I always find it more difficult to flirt with a woman when you spend the majority of your time together fantasizing naughty things that involve her. It’s sort of distracting, and in addition to my wonderful imagination, I’ve also got that gnawing (and accurate) voice in my head cheerfully piping in, “Move on, she’s way out of your league. Unlike most of the women you date, she can actually do better.”

Or maybe I’m just psychologically not ready to leap out into the field again, so my subconscious is like, “Hey, shut down all flirting lobes. Cut off the pheromone intake and output. In fact, just turn gay. It’ll be cool. Trust me. It’s way easier to figure out guys.” I’m kind of sick of it, to be honest. I don’t date much, but man, I’ve got a way (I guess) of ending up with the absolute worst possible people when I do.

Or maybe I was never good at flirting, and I finally figured that out. Either way, I suck at it, and if I ever had a chance with this girl, I blew it tonight. Yay me!

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