Eric Barry Writes: I Used To Know How To Talk To Women
Eric Barry Writes (coming up with that title took me 10 months alone) is a new podcast featuring pieces of writing, from poetry to short stories and all the bizarre-in-between, all presented in audio form. Think of it like short-form audiobooks with some flare.
In the podcast’s inaugural episode—inspired by a post in which a woman discussed her discomfort with a man talking to her on the train—I write about a man who sees a woman at a bar and struggles with how to approach her.
You can listen to the episode below, followed by the piece’s text:
I USED TO KNOW HOW TO TALK TO WOMEN
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I don’t know how to talk to women.
I used to. Know how to talk to women.
I don’t know how to talk.
A girl swirls her drink, black straw in a cauldron of amber and ice. I can’t see her face but I know it’s there. Brown hair masks my view, but I’m pretty sure I can see it all. Judging from the look on the bartender , I’m pretty sure she’s seen it all too.
She’s wearing a red shell top, her arms enshrining her drink like a temple.
I think of things I might be able to say to her, like “Hi. Hey. Hello.”
I don’t want to be a bother to her. I don’t want to bother anyone.
Trapped in my head. Be confident. Be assertive. Do women ever talk to men?
I don’t want to bother. To be a blog post, a whisper, a tweet.
Her annoyed, abused, a victim.
I used to know how to talk to women.
I move closer to the bar and I can’t tell if I’m hovering but I’m worried that I might be, not just a threat but a looming one.
I reach for my pocket and I feel defeat in myself as I pull out the black mirror to illuminate my face to prove that I have some business being there, that a friend is on her way, or maybe a friend request, that I am choosing to be there alone, and I am choosing not to talk to her, in fact the notion hasn’t even occurred to me to talk to her, I go out by myself because I am self-actualized and self-assured, and self-employed, and you need to be seen by some faces other than yourself sometimes.
My hand goes back into my pocket and I turn my shoulders to the bar, I could use another drink anyhow, and the bartender asks if I want more of the same, and I say no, no I’m sick of the same, but I guess it’s better than nothing, so an India Pale Ale it is and she throws in a glass of water on the side to mix it up.
I only have cash and it’s a cash-only bar, so maybe life is working out, and I have been working out, So why not just put it all out, and out it comes.
“Hi,” I say, but Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” has started playing and bumping and she probably didn’t hear me even though she probably did.
“Hey,” I say. It’s a better song when you hear it 20 years later, and so much time has gone by, and I’ve never been more convinced that she’s ignoring me but also probably didn’t hear me, and shouldn’t a guy just take a clue, but she didn’t even see me, so how does she know she doesn’t want to need me, what am I talking about, women know, know they have powers right, divine power’s might, and such beauty such beauty like flowers, right? Desired without imposed upon, admired but defended, inspired not befriended, defer defer defer but do not treat differently, there is deference not difference but there is and that makes all the difference.
I wash down another moment and let it settle as it coats my throat, desperately ready to give it one more go.
And so out it comes, “Hello.”
She turns her head towards me, that brunette bang dangling, that moment left strangling until her two big eyes turn, green, and I see that they see me and I can’t believe it really so I freeze and feel silly.
“I’m thinking,” she says.
“About what,” I ask?
“A lot,” she says.
“Me too,” I say.
She looks away at this and bobs her head down to sip from her straw, red, her brown bang falling back into place to shield her face like the show’s over, curtain’s closed.
“You shouldn’t talk to a woman at a bar.” And suddenly there’s an encore presentation.
“Why’s that?” I ask.
“Because maybe that woman’s busy.”
“Busy doing what?”
“My apologies,” I say. “I guess you didn’t look busy.”
“These days a woman can’t afford not to be busy,” She says.
“A man can’t afford to keep a woman busy, these days.” I respond.
She looks at me. “He can when she wants him to.”
“That’s a dangerous game to play,” I say.
“Dangerous for who?” she asks.
I look at her. “Depends on who’s playing.”
“Why don’t you go bother another woman on a bus, on the street, on the job.”
“I don’t want to be a bother.”
She stirs the cauldron.
“But here we are.”
“So what? It’s all mind reading and swiping right? Is that what we’ve become?”
“I’d love to continue this conversation—”
I cut her off, “Would you?”
She continues, “—but as you can see, I’m busy. ”
She opens a pocketbook and puts pen to paper, then paper to hand.
I look at her,“You don’t see phone numbers being given out these days.”
“You don’t either.”
I look down. Instagram.
“Add me,” she adds.
I quip, “I guess love isn’t dead.”
She looks into me. “It’s digitized.”
“I used to know how to talk to women.” I tell her.
“More of the same?”
I lookup at the bartender. I turn to my side and see her seat, empty, like my glass.
I used to know how to talk to women.
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