In the darkness and drunkenness, the bodies mingling around me faded to faceless silhouettes, the haze of booze covering us in its intoxicated fog. Except for Fran. She reclined in her chair as the center of attention, letting her long slender legs dangle from her slinky black dress, offering them up as the night’s delicacy while playing seductively with the stogie she’d received from the company CEO, waving it around or puffing on it suggestively. I wondered if she was always so uninhibited, as if her body was as powerful as the sun, something we men orbited around for heat like lifeless moons, mindless negative electrons in search of a positive core. Or was she just overcompensating for an otherwise dull life by enjoying a night of wildness, fluctuating from one extreme to another in an effort to find balance. At the time I had no idea. As the poster boy for imbalance, she was the sun to me.
Another man had made his move, stroking her thigh with his finger as she giggled with delight, unconcerned about such a public display. He was tall, well built, and aggressive. I couldn’t compete. Not even the drinks I’d had could revive my spoiled soul, so convinced, I was, of my unworthiness. All of my relationships had failed, I was stuck in a meaningless profession, I’d written nothing of value, life seemed pointless, and I was sure that if the planet as we knew it was going to come to an end from all the troubling environmental news, it would surely do so while I was on it.
Matching his assertiveness wasn’t a possibility. I’d gained some weight by then and felt like the adult version of Charlie Brown in comparison, with no confidence and a blockhead’s body. All I could do was watch as she played the big city wild woman flirting with all the boys, the exact opposite of the kind of down-to-earth woman I was attracted to.
I suspect the night ended for her in a romp with Mr. Finger – establishing a warped sense of balance, relieving life’s frustrations with a bit of pleasure despite the further decline in self-esteem. Sort of like the planet, searching through the environmental chaos for the natural balance it once enjoyed, exploding occasionally in a storm.
A year later, at the next annual Christmas party, after we’d been flown in from our home offices scattered around the country, she joined me at the makeshift bar. Apparently it was my turn.