It worked every time – he didn’t even have to try anymore. Will strode confidently into a Farringdon pub at the tail end of Friday happy hour; he didn’t need the stumbling desperation of one am to convince someone to come home with him. He sat at the end of the bar, ordered a brown ale, and scanned the scene. Some nights he had to wait thirty, forty minutes for an approachable woman to show up; tonight, he spotted her within ten.
She sat at the opposite end of the bar and started scrolling through her phone, looking a bit bored and sipping on a cider. She was wearing a fitted grey suit, and her hair was tied into a knot at the nape of her neck. He walked around the edge of the bar so he could approach from behind, then walked up to the bar and sat next to her. He ordered a double scotch, neat, and took out his phone. Scrolling through old messages, he sighed loudly. The woman next to him looked over and asked if he’d had a hard day at work. “Everything feels hard some days, even when it’s not that bad – know what I mean?” he replied. She did. He continued: “Sometimes I think about how easy everything seemed when I was young and the only thing I had to stress about was losing a game or looking stupid in front of a girl.” She laughed and said she agreed with him; she was having one of those weeks, too.
He continued, feeling the hook slide in, the line go taut. “What did you do for fun when you were young?” he asked. “Oh, I suppose we just played normal kid’s games – bulldog, Mr. Wolf, oranges and lemons, -” “The one where someone’s head is chopped off?!” he laughed. “That’s terrible!” “We loved it!” she said, and laughed even harder. “What about you?” “I played thumb war with my brother a lot,” he answered. “Oh, and I was a staring contest master.” “Oh?” she asked, arching an eyebrow. “Yeah,” he continued. “No one could beat me at a staring contest. Even when my older brother was beating me at every other game, I always had him in a staring contest.” “Let’s have it, then,” she said. “I don’t know,” he replied – “are you in the mood to be heavily defeated after the week you’ve had?” She grinned and said she thought she could handle it.
Her eyes almost matched her suit – grey, but a bit darker. “Loser buys the next round,” she said, determined to win. They turned in to face each other, their knees touching. “Three,” he counted; she closed her eyes tight. “Two…” She blinked rapidly. “One!” She opened her eyes wide and stared into his. He never knew what was going through their minds at the time; he counted in his head to make sure that enough time passed to make it seem like he was making a concerted effort, but little enough time that it seemed plausible that he would blink. If he was closing in on a minute, that’s when he would graciously lose.
He remembered them all by their eyes: Carla was the one with the deep brown deer eyes. Meg was the one with the hazel eyes, a refractory of color. Sara, the one with violet lenses. A dozen other women whose names he’d forgotten, but whose irises were imprinted on his brain. He’d started this years ago when he’d heard that you could make anyone fall in love with you via a series of intimate questions and four minutes of eye contact; while he sure wasn’t looking for love, he thought they might be onto something with the eye contact. He was right.
“Argh!” he exclaimed, blinking almost imperceptibly. “Really, I swear – I’m good at this.” “Aww,” she said sympathetically. “How will you ever live this down?” “Please don’t tell anyone,” he replied. “My reputation will be ruined.” She laughed. He started pulling the line. “What will you have, then?” he asked. “I don’t need another drink,” she said – “I just needed a good laugh.” “In that case, may I suggest we take a walk? It’s a remarkably nice evening, and I can work on my stand-up routine.” She hesitated for a moment, but then said, “Why not? It’s Friday, after all.” “That it is,” he agreed, and stood up, gesturing toward the door. “After you, miss,” he said. He saw her dangling now, shiny and dripping with water – a real beauty. She smiled at him and walked toward the door, sashaying her hips a bit as she walked. It worked every time.