Affinity Excerpt – Tourists

Jul 27, 2015 by

 

The following excerpt is from the piece Tourists by Jeffrey Garver. The premise alone won us over, but we also enjoyed the addition of loneliness as the precursor to a relationship.  While being lonely isn’t usually funny when in the throes of it, Jeff proves it can be pretty amusing when told with the right touch.

With all the reasons we find to attach ourselves to another person, Tourists shows us that some relationships are formed out of pure desperation.

Jeffrey is a writer living in Burbank, CA and Tourists is a tale of isolation and the modern male.

 

Tourists

“Yeah, it was weird mom. It was just like: there’s the British dude from The Nanny in an episode of Mad Men,” Harris said to his mom on a Friday night in August from his South Carolina apartment.

“You know I always liked Fran Drescher. Maybe I should watch Mad Men,” Mrs. Maynard responded.

“She’s not in the show, mom. It’s just the British father.”

“I know. I’m just saying that I like Fran Drescher.”

“I do too, Mom. You know, eh, I’ve got to go. I’ve got some stuff to do.”

“What stuff?”

“Just stuff!”

“Okay. Sure. I Love you. Bye.”

“Bye, Mom. I love you.”

Harris put down his phone and grabbed his laptop.

A month later Harris passed a balding man carrying an ice bucket and wearing his Loneliness Conference ’14 lanyard around his neck. He got the sense the man wanted to exchange pleasantries, but Harris just looked straight ahead, he needed to focus. It was an older hotel so the elevator down from the 13th floor gave Harris time to go over his first step: hit the bathroom before the earliest event, The Isolation of Modernity. He’d already gone four times that morning, but he didn’t want to be the guy who has to get up and go all the time. Obviously, going to the bathroom was normal and necessary, but to do so during the first event would make him look weak. First impressions matter even at an event that according to its website was “open to all types.”

On the seventh floor the elevator stopped and a woman wearing fancy looking jeans, a snug white sweater that accentuated tastefully sized breasts, and glasses that were just emo enough to be sexy, but not too emo to be intimidating or goofy, stepped inside. There were two options, well three actually. He could make pleasant, non-threatening eye contact with her in hopes that later she’d recognize him, which would make it easier to strike up a conversation. But how would he approach her? “Hello, I’m Harris and we looked at each other in the elevator earlier.” The second option was to talk to her now. This was dangerous. If it went well he’d have a leg up on every other lonely dude at the conference, but the more likely outcome would be that he’d say something and she’d respond and that would be it. There was also the chance that they’d get on too well and he’d get put in The Friend Zone. Dear God that was stupid, though. Worrying about getting put in The Friend Zone during a two and a half day conference-vacation-party was borderline insane. The last option, and the one the old Harris, the one he was changing, yesterday’s Harris, would most likely do was to just pull out his phone and pretend not to look at the Glasses Girl. In the end he felt that since he’d flown all the way out to L.A. for a Loneliness Conference, there was only one choice and it was the one that involved the most sweating.

“Are you here for the conference?” he asked.

“Yep. Not a tourist.”

It was off to a good start and she was looking at him.

“Yeah, me too.”

Great.

“Are you with a group or are you here by yourself?” Glasses Girl asked.

Harris’s “Yeah, me too” was more thought provoking than he’d realized.

“I’m just by myself. I can’t imagine dragging anyone to this kind of thing. I mean, how would that conversation go?”

She laughed and introduced herself. Her name was Joyce. Traditional yet intriguing, but the name itself was immaterial. The fact that she wanted Harris to know her name was what mattered. A month of impatient waiting filled with reliving past failures and ruminations on his self-hatred and a $500 conference fee was made worth-while by a simple introduction.

But silence filled the elevator and Joyce looked at her phone and soon they’d arrive at the lobby where all the other losers would see Joyce, his Joyce, and they wouldn’t be intimidated by her glasses and they’d want to know her name and would wonder about her tastefully sized breasts just as he had. He’d made a connection with a person just like him, who also happened to be attractive, and now fate needed to meet action.

“So people come to this kind of thing in a group? That kind of defeats the purpose, though, right?” he asked.

“Not really. A lot of universities pay for trips like this. Before I left academia and went into publishing – I’m an editor for a dating advice website – I went to a few similar conferences.”

“Yeah, yeah. I guess I was just –“ he trailed off as the door opened.

“See you out there, Harris. I’m going to look for an old colleague, but maybe you could save me a seat.”

She smiled at him as she strutted into a throng of smart jeans and plaid dress shirts. He was done. He closed the elevator door, got to the 13th floor, passed The Balding Man again, and went to find the Harris that accidentally booked a trip to an academic conference so he could kill him.

 

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