In high school I was that girl who wasn’t bothered by the cliques or the gossip or really much of anything except enhancing my latest vintage dress or trying out for the drama production or reading Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or sighing over Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol singing “Chasing Cars.”
Now at 28, I’m that girl in the office who does cosplay, not only goes to Comic Con but also dresses up, and I’ve been known to LARP. I’m not like my colleagues who go to bars and have to get drunk to sing karaoke. I sing karaoke stone cold sober and get a little intense about it, which would be my major flaw if you were to ask. I love like to win karaoke contests.
Knowing all of this, you can imagine my extreme shock surprise when Colm Byrne from County Wicklow (I have no idea where that is), a visiting scientist who looks amazingly like Gary Lightbody, asks me to join the bar crew (my nickname for the office happy hour goers) on their Thursday happy hour. The bar crew guys don’t seem to care, but the girls look as though something smelly hath come their way. I, however, didn’t make it through four years of high school drama literally and figuratively to be undone by these girls, and I happily accept. I have never, ever turned down a karaoke invitation.
Colm is funny in the dry yet also slapsticky way that identifies people on the western side of the English Channel. The bar crew girls are still trying to figure out when he’s being funny or serious while I’m guffawing. Yes, I guffaw. My laugh has never been girlie girl.
His bright blue eyes sparkle. :”You know ‘Father Ted’ then?” he asks surprised.
“My mother never turns public television off. I grew up never realizing how old ‘Are You Being Served?’ was. I’ve seen the original ‘Doctor Who.’”
We order stouts while the bar crew girls order white wine and the guys the locally brewed IPAs. The girls surround Colm at the table that seats ten, but he leans diagonally and tries to continue the conversation. His attempts die when the karaoke hostess introduces herself and starts with the first song, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Thirty minutes into the evening, Colm has somehow managed to pull up a seat next to me and sits closer than I would have expected. Actually he’s invading my personal space and I am debating as to whether I mind or not. It’s not an easy debate. He smells good—I don’t even know what the scent is. He’s cute, funny, and self-deprecating. On the flip side, he’s: In. My. Personal. Space.
“Do you sing?” he asks.
His grin widens. “Are you going to, then?”
His blue eyes are amazing, it’s like looking into a kaleidoscope where the outside is a deep blue ring and the inside starbursts of Caribbean blue. His bottom teeth are slightly crooked. I am far too close to him. I lean back in my chair.
“What are you singing?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Are you going to sing?”
“U2, of course.”
“Not ‘Chasing Cars?’” I’m a little disappointed that the guy who looks like Gary Lightbody is not going to sing the song of my heart.
He raises an eyebrow at me. “You want me to?”
I shrug like it’s no big deal.
“I’ll sing that if you sing Rihanna.”
“I’ve never sung a Rihanna song in my life. Do you see me?” I ask. Rihanna girls are skinny and overtly sexy. They are the bar crew girls.
He puts his hand on the back of my chair and leans close to me. My eyes instinctively move to his lips. “Sing Adele’s version of ‘Lovesong.’”
He sits back. I gulp and then nod.
Have you watched someone capable sing your favorite song just for you and felt yourself liquefy as their eyes meet yours? Me either, until now. I’m embarrassed to watch him and yet I can’t take my eyes away from him although my face feels like it might explode from the blood pooling there.
The bar girls are mesmerized by him as well. I hear the blonde, Amber, says she’s going to do him until he cries out her name in Irish. The girls jump up and down when he’s done.
We pass each other as I take the stage. I’ve never sung the karaoke version of “Lovesong” before. It’s slower than The Cure’s and I feel the melody flow into me, my hips sway slightly. I look at Colm and grin. Amber rolls her eyes. She says something to the other girls and they snigger.
No one at the office knows about my karaoke obsession so when I begin singing their mouths fall open. Someone in the crowd recognizes me and I hear the cheer: “Kooky!”
Yes, Kooky is a nickname I acquired in college and it stuck. I guess it could be worse. I channel my inner Adele and sing to Colm. I’ve never sung to a guy before. It’s actually kind of creepy and distracting so I stop.
Back at the table, he kisses my cheek, which feels sibling-like and a little disappointing, not that I expected him to be yelling “Kooky” in Irish later.
“Kooky,” he says. “I like it. It fits you.”
“Thanks,” I say dryly.
“No, seriously. It’s sweet and funny and slightly off. Just like you. The kind of girl I could go mad for.”
I sputter into my stout as I look at him over the rim. This just goes to prove: I am so seriously not good at reading men, but I’m willing to start learning.