Best of Times
by Gustavo Bondoni
Ironically enough, I always feel best when at my worst. I wish it weren’t so, and consciously try to avoid it, but deep down inside I know it’s a lost cause. At my age, I’ve done all the growing up I’m likely to do for one lifetime, so I guess I’ll just have to deal with any immaturity I haven’t eradicated as it comes up. C’est la vie.
Big deal. As I mentioned, this is what makes me happy. Let others criticize me or shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes, it won’t change the fact that I need to be the center of attention at all times. I see myself as the romantic hero, the knight in shining armor or the villain in the black hat, and like that entire breed, I walk my own path, unencumbered by excessive respect for the opinions of anybody else.
The way I was endeavoring to make myself the center of attention this time was to spice up the conversation with an anecdote or two selected with the aim of showing a small group of my friends that I was just that little bit less structured than they were, just that little bit more adventurous, and just that tiny bit smarter. Not enough to make them think that I’m a complete idiot, but enough to stand out just that fraction.
This time, as on most occasions, I was doing it for the benefit of precisely one member of my audience.
For some reason, they invariably tend to be pretty, with long, shiny dark hair and with a certain level of professional achievement. They are smart, and they are from the right schools.
I looked her in the eye, and she looked right back without uncertainty or emotion. A coolly evaluating look that made me feel like I was being weighed by someone who considered herself at least my equal—if not one heck of a whole lot more.
Why do I always choose the ones that everyone else considers impossible? The snow queens who aren’t beautiful because they smile only among inexistent equals? My friends roll their eyes—they know that, sometimes, I’ll get what I want. They also know that, in the end, I’d be one hell of a lot better off with a nice little roly-poly girl with a great sense of humor. That my dreams are, in this case, china in my hands.
But they don’t talk about it, they just shake their heads, thinking that I’ll learn in my own time, and that it would be easier to change the schedule of the tides than to change my ways.
The pre-work was soon done. I had quickly established that I’d gone to the right schools, knew the right people, made more than the right amount of money. And the brilliant part of it all is that it had been done subtly. At no point did I speak directly to her. At no point did I become the jerk that monopolizes the conversation. No. The names had been dropped casually, in response to the general flow of the dialogue, and the places had only been inserted where they were unlikely to cause much notice.
Except that I knew she would notice; she was that type. Soon, the conversation turned to general topics, and, happily, and without any intervention on my part, turned to how social networks were eating up all productive time at the office. You’re on Facebook? What a coincidence, so am I!
Bingo. No need to talk any further. Credentials have been established, and there are other, more private forums to continue this chat. You’ll be getting your friend request tomorrow.
And, as I left the party with the same smiling, friendly woman I walked in with, I reflected on the fact that sometimes I really, really hated having a girlfriend.
But it does keep me from falling into the self-destructive clutches of my darker side.
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Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer with over a hundred stories published in fourteen countries, in seven languages, and a winner in the National Space Society’s “Return to Luna” Contest as well as the SF Reader short fiction contest (2014) and the Marooned Award for Flash Fiction (2008). His short fiction has also appeared in Pearson’s Texas STAAR English Test cycle, The Rose & Thorn, Albedo One, The Best of Every Day Fiction, The Flash Fiction Press, and many others. His latest book, Siege, is a science fiction novel published in December 2016 and his ebook novella entitled Branch was published in 2014. He has also published two reprint collections, Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011, Dark Quest Books). The Curse of El Bastardo 2010 is a short fantasy novel. His website is at www.gustavobondoni.com.