It seemed to Claire that tonight, there were fairies dancing in the treetops. As she stood leaning against the railing of the club house's second floor terrace, the manicured green lawns spread out like dark linen table cloths in front her. The fireflies had already risen from the blades of grass, from a veil of low lying evening fog. They collected near the tree trunks and rose up into the branches, heavy with green foliage, as they looked for lovers. The twinkling lights transported Claire away from the insipid dance music playing in the background. She was, for the moment, wherever magic lives in the lights at night: a small town's big summer bizarre, the electric light parades of her childhood, or beneath the lit scarlet lanterns strung between the cherry trees and drinking sake at Hanami.
But, the spell broke. She was back at someone else's alumni party, having been invited by some boy she didn't really like that much, hanging out with people she wasn't really friends with, all because it was something to do while she was back in her smallish town on the very fringes of East Coast Virginian suburbia. Where the hills begin to plunge and roll like a river as it reaches the fall line. Where the subdivisions give way to sprawling green pastures with horses and cows and the wind smells like life itself. She had wandered away from an endless succession of four-on-the-floor dance beats, the obnoxious commentary of the DJ and the screams of hysterical girls who "love this song". If Geoff were here, he would be making fun of all this and demanding they both straight go home to write their own dance music so that next time nobody could even claim they'd heard the song before.
Being back home for the summer was inspiring in its own way, when compared to the swamps of southeastern Virginia, but even the music that longed to escape from Claire's soul felt stifled by the oppressive heat and humidity of the evening. She probably should have found an appropriate internship to fill up the time between semesters, but tonight she didn't feel like she was missing out on anything. There was a sense of stillness in the air, and Claire felt at home in it. Eventually, even the fireflies grew exhausted of their glittered waltz in the trees and dimmed, so Claire meandered back inside to find another drink and her date for the evening.
Sometimes Geoff felt like his life was guided by an invisible hand. No, not guided. It was more like whatever path he chose was cleared for him. He was used to getting his way by now, but it still somehow came as a surprise, which had saved him from the acrid stench of self-entitlement. Being clever, moderately attractive and extremely witty had not served Geoff well in the end, however, because once the great party that is University had ended, he was completely lost. He was a dingy in an ocean of possibilities and everyone had set sail a long time earlier. Things might be better if he knew what he wanted, but even that seemed to have floated away some time ago while he was busy having a good time.
"Maybe it's because everyone moved away to new and great careers in new cities, and I went home," he said to Claire over the phone, "I spend all day being a clerk for some asshole congressman, and I'm never going to get a better job than this. There are thousands of fresh graduates from Harvard or Princeton waving around their fluffed up resumes and their daddy's fat donation checks who keep rushing right past me."
"Geoff, you still haven't told me what you want to do when you get wherever it is you're going," Claire asked from the other end.
"I don't know," said Geoff exacerbated, "I don't know!"
He continued, "I'm not even sure I want to be a politician. It just seemed interesting at the time."
"I seem to recall a conversation during sophomore year where you chastised me for choosing an impractical major like music instead of something more useful like Polysci," responded Claire, a with more than a hint of pleasure behind her voice.
"I know. I'm an idiot. You were right, but you're not helping. What do I do now?"
Geoff paused from pacing the floor of his nearly empty bedroom. There was nothing on the walls except for a print of an art deco absinthe advertisement he had up in his dorm room.
"Know yourself. You don't know what you want. Stick with the job, and do something that will help you work out what it is you really want from your life. Go swimming. Meditate. Do you still go to church?"
"No. Sunday mornings seem like the only time I have left to myself anymore. I don't want to go anywhere."
"Well then lock yourself in your bedroom for a few hours in the morning and really make an effort to think about what it is you want to do. Be by yourself for a while with no distractions and see what comes out."
"I want a family. I want to date someone who isn't crazy or already married or completely incompatible with me. I've managed to find great friends, but I can't seem to find anyone who wants to date me who is as cool as you."
Claire felt a shot run up and back down her spine, but she suppressed the pressure growing in her chest and pressed on.
"You're not going to find a good girl to date until you discover your heart, Geoffrey Stark."
She continued, "You've got one in a pretty glass display case for everyone to see and we all know it's a big fat lie you've constructed because you're too afraid to feel anything more than the warmth of a couple shots of whiskey on a Friday night."
"Ouch. Claire that's harsh."
"Sorry, but it's the the truth. You're not going to find out what you want from your career and you're sure as hell not going to find a good girlfriend until you've broken down those walls and let you discover yourself. Any woman with half a brain will steer clear of a man who hides himself behind a facade. It comes off as either juvenile or creepy. I'm really sorry for being so mean, but I want you to be happy, Geoff, and you're not going to cut it in the real world by just fudging and schmoozing your way through your whole life!"
"Grow up, Geoff! It's time to stop whining about how things aren't perfect for yourself and to do some soul searching."
Geoff hung up the phone on Claire. The sense of betrayal stung inside and he felt a rush of emotions welling up inside him. His anger towards Claire was more than enough to stem the tide, however. It was easier to be angry than it was to admit he failed himself.