Charles was frustrated that an empty beer glass waited on the counter in front of him. As he waited for the bartender, he watched the ring from the beer he had just finished slowly sink toward the bottom of the glass. Christopher looked over at Charles when he began tapping the side of his empty glass with his fingernails. The ticks were not audible to the bartender in the noisy bar filled with the happy hour crowd, but Christopher could hear them and he took a drink from his own half full glass of beer to keep himself from slapping his best friend’s hand. Charles picked up his glass and wiggled it at his eye level like a chemist mixing a solution in a test tube.
“Just give her a minute, Charlie,” said Christopher. He did not want the two of them to be the jerks at the bar.
“What are those shorts called?” asked Charles. He put his glass down.
“What shorts?” asked Christopher. “Who are you looking at?”
“Those shorts that girls wear,” said Charles. “They’re loose and have stripes around the leg openings and up the sides.”
“Are they for running or what?” asked Christopher.
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking,” said Charles. “They look like running shorts guys would have worn in the 70’s, but only women wear them now.”
“Where did you see them?” asked Christopher.
“Some chick on the subway was wearing them,” said Charles.
“Did you want a pair, or what?” asked Christopher.
“I’m just wondering what they’re for,” said Charles.
“They’re for attracting studs, like me,” said Christopher, “not for ogling by perverts like you.”
“How could one possibly give shorts a lecherous look? They’re just objects,” said Charles. “Speaking of ogling, you want to hear something funny? So my mind dwelled on the function of the stupid shorts and I glanced over at them hoping for a label to pop out of thin air or something. I didn’t look at the girl’s face or anything, but I got this feeling like she was looking at me. So; I glanced up at her face, and you know what? She was staring at me!”
“Like pissed off or what?” asked Christopher.
“Yeah, I guess,” said Charles. “So I looked down, all embarrassed. Aren’t women supposed to ignore you?”
“They can’t ignore me,” joked Christopher.
“So I was uncomfortable and I wanted to look around,” said Charles. “So I looked over at the map mounted on the side of the train above the seats by the door. I wanted to look like I was trying to figure out my stops. There was a guy sitting underneath it, so I glanced at him. It was just a reflex. And you know what? The dude was staring at me!”
“Like mad dogging you?” asked Christopher.
“What do you mean, mad dogging?” asked Charles.
“It’s like when someone is trying to threaten you with the way they are looking at you,” said Christopher.
“I don’t know,” said Charles, “but I looked over at the girl with the shorts and she was staring at me still.”
“Well, that’s what you get,” said Christopher.
“That’s not all I got,” said Charles. “So I was just looking down at my lap because I didn’t want any trouble with this guy. I didn’t know if he was crazy or what. Then, some lady walked over and stood by me. It wasn’t weird that someone would do that because I was sitting by the door. She was just waiting for her stop. I looked up at her real quick and…”
“She was staring at you,” said Christopher.
“Right!” exclaimed Charles. “I looked over at the guy and the girl and they were staring at me too!”
“Well, you asked for it,” said Christopher.
“Maybe from the girl in the shorts, but not the other people,” said Charles.
“Yeah, you did,” said Christopher. “Everyone responded to your predatory behavior.”
“Get outta here with that crap, Chris,” said Charles. “Like you know anything.”
“Predators stare when they stalk,” said Christopher. “You were like a creepy little lioness in the grass and they were like gazelles. You triggered their fight or flight response.”
“I don’t think I stared so much they felt threatened,” said Charles. “It was just glances.”
“Maybe it seemed that way to you,” said Christopher.
“So you’re telling me they wanted to fight?” asked Charles. “Because if they wanted flight, they would have moved or avoided looking at me.”
“Well, no. Since you are both human, the confrontation escalates before there is an actual fight,” said Christopher. “It sounds like they just wanted to dominate you.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Charles.
“Yeah, I do. Want me to show you?” asked Christopher. “There’s a guy sitting near the corner of the bar. Look at his face for a little longer than one should.” Charles had no intention of staring at a stranger, but he scanned the faces at the bar and found the man Christopher had pointed out to him. The man looked up from his drink and their eyes locked. Christopher noticed and said, “Don’t look away, Charlie.” Charles stared at the stranger.
“Thanks to you I’m going to end up fighting this guy,” said Charles without looking away.
“No, you’re not,” said Christopher. “Walk over to him and expose your neck.”
“Hello, no,” said Charles.
“Do it,” interrupted Christopher, “and I’ll pay for your tab tonight. Have you ever seen a monkey do it? It’s either your neck or your genitals.”
Charles spun around on his bar stool and stood up. He began walking toward the stranger with a confidence elevated by the alcohol in his system. The stranger at the end of the bar continued to stare at him, but did not stand. Charles removed his tie and unbuttoned his collar. He looked for a reaction from the stranger, but the stranger only turned to face him. He did not stand. When Charles was within an arm’s length of the man; he reached into his own collar, pulled it down, and exposed his neck. The stranger rose from his stool and bit Charles’s neck like a vampire. The bite left pressure marks, but did not break the skin. Then, he sat down and took a drink from his beer ignoring Charles.
Charles walked back to his seat humiliated.
“Well?” asked Christopher. Charles picked up his fresh glass of beer and took a long drink.
“I don’t think I like what I just learned,” said Charles.
“There’s a hierarchy of status among people, Charlie” said Christopher. “You’ve been asking people where they stood all along without knowing it.”
“Yeah,” said Charles, “I’m going to be the lion from now on.”
“As long as you can accept,” said Christopher, “that lions don’t live very long.”
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