Thursday, January 2, 2014

Methuselah: Retirement

For other posts in the series, visit the Methuselah page on this blog. 

Source: Wallpaper Converter
Looking out from her vantage point, Agnes could see infinity. The villa was on a crest of one of the mountains that ringed the lagoon, and her lounge area was a flagstone patio. A wrought-iron railing protected from falls without impeding the view - framing it, rather. A perfectly blue sky reflected turquoise in the ocean, gentle waves strolled in with an occasional foamy caplet of white. White sands dotted with lounge chairs and umbrellas.

Agnes put down her book and took a long draw of the fruit juice. She drew a happy face in the sweat that clung to the icy glass. Even in the shade it was hot, but it felt good. She sighed and turned back to her novel.

It was hard for her to sit still, though, even with her book. She felt restless, so she got up and slipped into the pool to do a few lengths. When she got out, it was time to get ready for the meet and greet, arranged by Mate-Match, the agency that had found this retirement destination for her. After tonight's introduction the couples would do a round-robin of dates to give everyone equal opportunity of finding their "true match" as Mate-Match liked to call it.

In theory, the resort was the perfect place to meet her future husband. A number of young adults all interested in becoming parents, enjoying a leisurely vacation in a climate they all liked. That was the theory; reality could end up being wildly different, which is why she was dragging her heels. It had been decades since she'd found herself in a situation where people were intentionally looking to pair off.

How would her packaging compare to the next woman's? What if all the men were handsome assholes? What if she actually met someone she liked, but all the other women liked him too, and he didn't feel any chemistry?

She dried her hair, then pulled it into a simple braid. A touch of mascara and lip gloss brightened her face without making it look painted on. Then she slipped on a gauzy powder-blue sundress detailed with delicate embroidery, and a pair of simple sandals, and went down to the bar.

Agnes realized as she walked in that this was cocktail situation worse than ever before because, this time, it was being done without the aid of alcohol, that eternal social lubricant. Since everyone at this resort was pre-reproductive, alcohol was restricted. 

The cocktail lounge had been set up with several small round tables with different platters of canapes on them. A number of cocktails -- "virgin" versions of traditional bar drinks -- were already poured and waiting at the bar to be picked up. Forty or so people stood in clusters about the room.

Agnes picked up a large cocktail, adorned with tropical fruits, and scanned the room. Even though she knew that her ultimate objective was to meet a man, she gravitated towards a small cluster of women, where she felt more comfortable. She smiled nervously and snacked on a cheese wonton.

The women exchanged cocktail chatter about their clothes (all but one wore a dress and they all complimented each others' choices), their suites (all well appointed with just enough tropical flair to be suitable, but not so much that it was kitschy), and the weather (a little hot, but the glorious blue skies made up for the humidity). On the other side of a small cluster of tables, a small group of men spread out to fill the available space. It was like being at a high school dance!

Eventually Margot, their host, called for everyone's attention and introduced everyone to an ice breaker: to each person's back, she attached the name of a celebrity or famous person. The game was to try to find out whose name you had by asking other guests questions (with yes or no answers) about the person. It was a fun game and got everyone moving around. After 20 minutes, Margot had everyone reveal their names - to much laughter.

Next Margot had everyone sit around the cluster of tables and introduce themselves. Agnes recognized the faces and stories of some of the men whose profiles and videos she had viewed before coming on her trip. It was funny how people came across differently in real life than they did in any of the virtual forums.

Marco was one of the men she had previously found attractive, but she noticed that he had a habit of interrupting other speakers to make jokes at their expense or to highlight his exceptional achievements. She wanted to tell him to just shut up, but then she blushed a little wondering what the others were thinking about her. Another one gave the most minimalist answer possible then turned to the person next to him and effectively passed the conversational ball.

One of the women, Beth, made a point of thrusting her cleavage forward whenever she could, or of leaning so that her blouse drooped, revealing well tanned mounds. Agnes reflexively adjusted her dress so that it flattered her trim figure, but she'd never been particularly busty so didn't even try to reveal something she didn't have. She'd never approached dating as a competitive venture, but she'd never been in a rush before. Now she noticed how several of the men were jostling for positions closer to Beth. Even the women seemed to be mesmerized by the display.

Agnes couldn't help huffing at the maneuvering. Seriously? Is this what it was going to be like? Oh, dear god, would boys ever grow up?

She'd had enough. Agnes put her half-empty glass down on the nearest table and was about to leave when a man named Josh (or was it Justin?) approached her.

"Sadly predictable, isn't it?" he asked and nodded in Beth's direction.

"What? Beth?" Agnes played dumb. "Oh, well, she is attractive." A slight blush rose up Agnes' face as she felt she'd been caught out.

"To a certain type, I guess. But she doesn't exactly leave anything to be discovered, does she?"

Finally, Agnes pulled her eyes away from the mating dance across the room and looked at Josh/Justin.

"Are you into discovery?" she asked.

"I like a little mystery, it's true," he answered. "I'm James," he said and offered his hand.

"James. I'm Agnes." Nice handshake; not too firm, not limp. James, she repeated to herself. God, she wished she were better with names. King James, she hoped the mnemonic would help.

"Have you tried the chicken satay?" he invited.

She spent the next hour with James (James!) and a few others who joined them before they sat down for dinner. She tried to ignore the "popular" crowd dominated by Beth and Marco, though it was difficult to ignore the loud laughter.

She was quite content where she was with the quieter group. Maybe, just maybe, this wouldn't be so horrendous after all.

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