Last holiday season, my parents invited my brother, his wife, and me over to the house for dinner. I don’t like spending a lot of time around family, but I said I’d go. My sister-in-law brought a friend, an attractive woman about my age. She was nice enough—she went to get some beer from the fridge and asked me if I wanted any. I don’t drink—never have—so why start now? But I said yes because my brain got jumbled, as it always does in these situations. So I sat there like an idiot, taking fake swigs of beer. And the rest of the night didn’t go any better.
Why was she there, anyhow? I looked around: was everyone in on this? Were they watching me make a fool of myself? Did they bring her around for me—because they pitied me? My palms started sweating, then my back, and then chills ran up my neck and behind my ears. My face felt hot; it was probably very red.
I must have looked pathetic. I bumbled and fidgeted, my eyes resting anywhere but on her—on the ceiling, on the floor, on the beer. She only seemed to become more patient with my every awkward move. That look on her face—that look of concern bordering on pity—it just made me feel even worse. When it felt like it was getting to be too much, I put the beer down and shuffled wordlessly into the bathroom. As I closed the door behind me, I caught a glimpse of her face: she looked bewildered.
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