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Planeo Christmas Party III

December 4th, 2010 No comments

Last night was my third and most-likely final Christmas Party with Planeo. I can’t be sure it was the last (I didn’t even expect I’d make it to two) but this time I really think it was. Unlike the first two parties, Amanda wasn’t there so it was far less fun for me—but just like the first two parties, Petra was there so there was some emotional significance.

Petra is one of the oldest women I’ve ever considered drop-dead fucking beautiful. She’s around 40, married and has kids, but her figure is still completely perfect (like…straight out of a model magazine perfect) and her face is utterly gorgeous. I was completely smitten by her at the party two years ago and while I didn’t speak to her much I let Amanda and Alan—then still with us—know about my desire. Then I didn’t see her again until last years’ party when she was all dressed up as part of the ridiculous crime-dinner thing we were doing and I also didn’t speak to her then but got drunk enough to let Tom—the only other American working for Planeo at the time—know about my desire.

So when I woke up yesterday morning I figured there was about a two-thirds chance that this would be one the of extremely rare days of my life in which I’d have a Petra sighting. I’ve been around for almost ten thousand days and will probably be around for tens of thousands more, but only three of those will ever have been days in which I see Petra. The rarity of the encounter is what makes it special to me. It’s not that I idolize her or think there’s no one more beautiful in the world (there are plenty) but she has a special place in my heart because she only comes around once a year and it’s always in a circumstance in which alcohol increases my emotional vulnerability.

I’ve recently been trying to overcome this emotional vulnerability, which I’ve characterized as a demon that turns me into a scared pussy whenever I’m around women I find attractive and which set up all of the right mental barriers so as to prevent me from speaking to them. I have no intentions towards Petra and never did and never will (I’d never in a million years try to fuck up somebody’s marriage) but I figured that if she was going to be around I’d have to at least try and speak to her in order to continue the forward-momentum I’ve been establishing since I first beat the demon several weeks ago.

The Christmas Party was in two stages. Everyone was going to meet outside a restaurant in a town called Devese on the outskirts of Hannover and then go out into the (now snow-covered) fields for a traditional German game called Boβeln involving two teams each trying to throw a ball a further distance than the other. If one team can’t get their ball past that of the other team, the other team gets a point and the losing side is supposed to drink. (Incidentally, this is what most Germans play when they go on a Grünkohlwanderung, so the one I went on last week was actually somewhat atypical.)

I had to take two busses to get there and the first one got stuck in traffic and I missed the second one, so I arrived late because I had to walk the last few kilometers of the journey. But Frank—the boss of Planeo who is generous enough to pay for these Christmas parties—told me how to find them and they weren’t too far along when I got there.

Naturally, I was hoping Petra wouldn’t be there so I wouldn’t have to deal with the demon tonight, but I spotted her right away from her hair, which is as black as a goddamn black hole and contrasts so well with her pale face, a face far too smooth for a 40-year-old mother of multiple children and which looks like a cross between two of the four major Love Interests of my life. She looked even better than I remembered her looking from last year, although the bottom half of her face was covered by a scarf so I couldn’t admire the whole thing.

It was a much smaller group of people than I expected, but it turned out that only half of the total number of people coming to the party had opted to participate the in the Boβeln game beforehand. Aside from Frank and Petra, also in attendance were the two secretaries who are both really friendly and helpful, a couple of other teachers whom I only see at meetings and/or Christmas parties, and Ron the other American who won major points with me when I first met him by revealing himself to be a huge Roger Waters fan.

So we proceeded with the game and I found myself on the team throwing the red ball, which was far superior to the team throwing the green ball (partially thanks to my strong-young-man arm). We scored about seven points and the green team only scored one (which I’m pretty sure was given to them deliberately as an act of mercy) but there was no forced drinking when one team lost a point. Frank was pulling a sled filled with mugs and Glühwein, and while a few of us drank some of that it was only at our own leisure and not related to the game at all. So technically we weren’t doing it right, and I was a little disappointed to see so few people drinking. This was a Christmas party, damn it.

As for Petra, she was one of the non-drinkers and that was just one of the many little things that made me hesitant about actually trying to speak to her. Another thing was her height—she’s slightly taller than me so I was looking up a little whenever I looked at her, and that’s just naturally intimidating. I already feel like she’s above me in terms of aesthetic beauty and that’s only augmented by the fact that she is quite literally above me in terms of height. Coupled with the age-factor, it brought about a feeling in me like I was a kid again having to tilt my head up while in the presence of a teacher or older relative. As such it felt like I’d never be able to speak to her in a smooth and confident manner.

But perhaps the biggest factor was that while most of us were switching between English and German she was only speaking German, and I wasn’t sure if it’s because she doesn’t speak English (Planeo teaches languages other than English) or simply doesn’t like to speak English. Plus, while her face and body looked vibrant and youthful her voice betrayed her true age. It was deep and mature and like her height, rather intimidating.

As an aside, I think I’m just going to have to stick to girls who are younger and shorter than me. I prefer younger, shorter women anyway so this isn’t a problem, but I hadn’t considered that it might actually be harder to bring myself to talk to women who actually don’t fit that preference.

So the game finished just as the last remaining brightness in the sky faded away and we all were walking back to the restaurant. I found myself trudging a few meters behind Frank and Petra who were engaged in conversation. There hadn’t been any kind of natural opening to talk to Petra yet and there wasn’t really one now, but I was already beginning to feel the inevitability of my failure to complete the night’s self-imposed task of talking to her. I felt that gnawing sensation in my stomach reminding me of what a loser I am and how fucking pathetic it is that I can’t even say two words to a beautiful woman because she’s too beautiful.

You have to understand that this is not an unpleasant feeling. It’s actually one of the most comfortable emotional states I ever experience. Because it used to be what I experienced every single day, it’s as familiar to me as an old best friend who still visits often. If it is a demon, it’s a friendly one. One that says, “Don’t worry about it. Just stay here and talk to me and we’ll ride it out together just like old times. Tonight we can go home and listen to sad music and remember all the other girls we weren’t confident enough to be with. We can think about death and what a fantastic relief it will be, taking solace in its inevitability.”

So I was already half-way down the downward spiral when we reached the restaurant. Frank handed me the box of Glühwein mugs and asked me to take it inside, and I followed Petra up the stairs and into the restaurant, the two of us being the first ones in.

If I was going to speak to her, now was the time. This was the only natural opening and depending on where we all ended up sitting at the dinner table it could easily be the last. But what to say?

“Hi, I’m Kyle. I’m from America”? No, that wouldn’t work. We’ve already been introduced even though it was two years ago and we haven’t spoken since. “How long have you been working for Planeo”? Okay, but that’s really lame. That’s the question I ask my students whenever we first meet: “How long have you been working for E.ON?”

Jeez, I have nothing in common with this woman at all. I’m a 26-year-old American who’s not only been single his whole life but is still a virgin, and she’s a 40-year-old German lady with a husband and children. Other than our employer, what the fuck kind of common ground could there possibly be with which to initiate a dialog?

We both have families from Germany…would that work? “So, where was your grandmother born? Germany? Wow, mine too!” No, that’s stupid.

We both breathe oxygen. “So, how about those trees, huh? They sure know how to convert carbon dioxide into the gas necessary for survival, don’t they?” No.

We both are residents of the Milky Way. “So, what do you think of our upcoming collision with the Andromeda galaxy in five billion years? That ought to be exciting.”

Other than that…nothing. Other than basic chemical composition and location in the universe, we have nothing in common at all.

And so the moment passes in the blink of an eye as the rest of the crowd comes in and I find myself no longer alone next to her. That had only been three seconds, which would have been enough for a normal person but I needed at least five seconds to come up with something.

Luckily for me, Tom was there when we got in which meant I’d get to talk to him this evening. When we all took our seats around the big table my first instinct was to try and sit across from Petra to give myself another opportunity, but Tom sat all the way at the end of the table and I decided that I’d rather sit by him and be comfortable than across from Petra and be radically nervous all night. This was a party. I might as well try to enjoy myself.

It was a Christmas party, but clearly not an American Christmas party. Aren’t people supposed to drink large quantities of alcohol at Christmas parties? When the waitress went around and took drink orders, half the people (Petra included) ordered non-alcoholic beverages. Lame. What the hell is the point of a Christmas party if it’s not to get drunk with your co-workers? And if we were all drinking there’d be a much higher likelihood of some kind of exchange-of-words with Petra. After all, I’ve only been able to bring myself to overcome the demon before when I’ve had some kind of buzz going.

But at least all of these thoughts quieted down once the meal commenced. Most of the people had Grühnkohl but because they cooked it in the juice from the pork and sausages you’re supposed to eat with it, I opted for the vegetarian meal of noodles and vegetable sauce instead (which was actually quite good). After the meal I chatted with Tom about politics and we explained to the Germans around us why Barack Obama is so pathetically weak and how Sarah Palin could realistically be the next president. As most Germans are still under the impression that Barack Obama is the greatest-guy-ever, this fascinated them to hear. As Tom admitted, there are few things American expatriates enjoy more than bashing our former country to outsiders.

After the meal I stepped out for a cigarette with a few people including Frank and Sue, who had organized last years’ crime-dinner and whom I’d told it was a stupid idea before discovering that the idea was hers. I’m not sure how much she still holds that against me because she’s a very friendly person on the surface and I can’t tell what she’s really feeling. But ironically I’d been thinking that I actually enjoyed the crime-dinner more than this. I was feeling awkward and out-of-place either way, but at least last year I had a lot of fun making snide sarcastic comments to Amanda and Tom the whole night.

Petra walked by on her way the bathroom while we were smoking. No opportunity there. If only she were a smoker as well. But she apparently has no vices whatsoever. (Unless you count eating the pork—the one solitary thing I could hold against her).

Back at the table, Ron joined Tom and I and the conversation shifted to Pink Floyd. Ron is a Roger Waters fan but Tom (who is himself an experimental musician) is a Syd Barrett fan who prefers the early Floyd stuff. It was agreed that I was the biggest fan out of all of them because I appreciate their whole career. We asked the Germans if they also liked Pink Floyd, and much to their credit they all did, although most admitted that they haven’t listened to them since their youth. Tom says he has 16 CDs worth of Pink Floyd bootlegs that he could copy for me and I say I was absolutely interested.

All this kept me nice and distracted from Petra’s presence way down the table. Throughout the evening I’d glance at her and do my whole “appreciation without desire” thing but it really wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t torturing myself over not having spoken to her. I was disappointed in myself but I knew it was all in my head. She’s married. She has kids. There was no reason to speak to her other than to score points against my imaginary demon. So the demon was to come out ahead tonight. You win some, you lose some.

Tom was leaving early because his girlfriend was having a visitor from China back at their apartment, and I wanted to get the hell out of there myself so I said I’d go with him. As he got up to go, however, I thought I might just try and ride it out and see where the night went. But Petra got up to leave at the exact same time, which reduced my reasons for being there to zero.

I got up to say thank you and goodbye to Frank, and Petra walked by me on her way out and said “tschüss” to which I replied “tschüss” and then she was gone. I had to smile internally at that. So we did speak to each other in the end…in the most superficial way possible. I suppose it’s appropriate that the last thing I’ll ever say to her—the only word we exchanged the whole time—was “bye”.

And so Tom and I began our journey back to our respective locations, sharing our frustrations about the downfall of America along the way. I bid him goodbye just one bus-stop before my own, then got in just shortly after 8:00 p.m. It honestly felt more like 2 a.m.

Even though I attempted to distract myself from my emotions by watching a couple episodes of Dexter, I was still feeling extremely low. I checked my e-mail later in the night and found a significant one from Corey who seemed to be feeling just as low as I was. So for the first time in many months I gave him a call and we ended up talking for almost an hour and had a really enjoyable conversation. He’s going through his own bullshit with women, and at one point expressed to me how he wished it could just be easy.

I said that we wouldn’t want it if it were easy. We had to make it a challenge or we wouldn’t appreciate it if we got it. If beautiful women just threw themselves at all us the time, we wouldn’t want them. He pointed out how fucked up that is and how it just goes to show that the human race is almost certainly doomed to extinction if this is the way our brains work. We both had a good laugh over the idea that even several hundred thousand years ago there must have been a caveman with the same thought, not wanting the woman he had but instead wanting the woman that the other caveman had and thinking of his species: “Yeah, this probably isn’t gonna work out.”

That’s our common ancestor.

Anyway, that’s the latest in my ongoing saga of the demon. It won the day yesterday and I’m feeling the negative emotional consequences of it. Today the sun is out, reflecting beautifully off the snow-covered rooftops and I just wish it would fucking go away. Not today, Mr. Sun. I obviously have to go outside and appreciate it a little bit, and there are going to be all these happy families out and about, parents pulling their cute little kids on sleighs everywhere I go. I probably wouldn’t even want a family if I didn’t feel like I’ll probably never be able to have one.

Yeah, this human race thing probably isn’t gonna work out, is it?