“Screwdriver? That’s a faggot’s drink, buddy.”
A boring statement, at a boring bar, in this boring worker’s settlement. I glance at the source: a towering man, holding a can of beer and eyeing my booze with suspicion.
I consider pointing out that the glass I’m sipping actually contains Fanta and rum. Instead I raise it and say flatly, “Cheers to you too.”
He takes my sneer for a smile and chuckles amiably. A hand is extended. “Hank, ironwork.”
Drinking taste clashes aren’t a socially acceptable excuse to leave someone hanging. I shake the hand. “James, electricity.”
That’s all the invitation he needs to sit at the counter besides me. A bit too close. I doubt he’s heard of ‘personal space’.
“You don’t have the hands of an electrician, man.”
Direct yet subtle. Still, in that nonchalant tone of his, it might mean nothing. No, I know what I’ve heard: men don’t randomly comment on other men’s hands. Well… maybe this one does. I’d better be sure: making the wrong pass at a bar back home would be awkward; here it might be fatal.
I’m suddenly very aware of him, who looks ahead, at nothing. He swallows a large gulp of his beer, follows with a self-indulgent “ahhhh”, and spreads on the seat, relaxed, secure. As the silence stretches, I grow increasingly fidgety.
At last, I offer an answer of sorts: “I do data, mostly fiber, I don’t do power.”
“Delicate work, uh?,” he says, facing me with the slightest of winks. “Takes more brain than brawn. Bet you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, man.”
I feel the blush on my cheeks. His smile widens. I choose to nod and be quiet.
We now just tend to our drinks. He finishes first and props himself up on his hands, crushing noisily, as he stands, the empty beer can with one flat palm.
He clears his throat, I look at his face. For the first time, he seems hesitant, searching for words. After a moment, he crouches besides me.
“I’m having some fiber trouble back at the camp… in my room,” his mouth is now level to my ear, his voice not quite a whisper.
I slowly turn to face him. He’s trying to look serious, but a smile plays with his eyes.
What the hell, this is what I came for. I bite.
“Why don’t I go take a look?”