Suck it up. Be a man. You’re lucky she even looked at you. Just shrug it off and move to the next person. Peter thought to himself as he carried his beer with him away from the bar. He felt humiliated. All he wanted to do was to start a conversation with the girl waiting for a drink next to him. It was something he was trying to work on. His social anxiety made it hard for him to even talk to anyone… let alone women.
He took a huge gulp of liquid courage and continued through the crowd. His therapist suggested that he should do this at least once a week to get more acclimated in social situations. She gave him a list of topics to talk about with strangers.
The first topic he tried?
“What happened with the Orioles last night… am I right?”
“What?” She gave Peter a weirded out look, “They won last night against the Rays.”
“Oh… yeah, I know that’s what I mean! They’ve been doing pretty shitty lately… am I right?”
“Yeah…” the woman walked away without ordering a drink.
Peter kicked himself about that conversation. He knew talking about sports was a bad idea. He wasn’t really into sports… having social anxiety and all… it wasn’t a good idea for him to attend sport games on the regular.
He scanned his eyes for his next experiment. He liked to call them experiments because he wasn’t really into doing this for pleasure. It was more of an assignment for a sociology class.
A group of men his age were hanging out around the pool table and he felt that they seemed okay enough to approach. One was smoking a cigar and talking with a funny northern accent.
“Ah! You shanked it, sir! My turn.” The cigar man spoke as he grabbed the cue ball from one of the pockets and placed it on the table. Except, he was placing the ball on the wrong side and Peter knew this.
Peter knew all the rules to play billiards because it was the only thing he played on his computer.
“You’re supposed to put the ball on the other side of the table. That wasn’t a free for all foul.” Peter chirped softly. The cigar guy stopped before hitting the cue ball and looked at Peter.
Peter wasn’t a really tiny guy. He was average high, medium build, with a little weight on him. He regularly exercised at home on his free time, so on the outside he didn’t seem like someone you can easily push over. The cigar guy seemed to like Peter’s presence and moved the cue ball to the right part of the table.
“Hey thanks for that, man. We didn’t know how the rules worked.” The cigar guy said as he was setting up for the hit. “Want to play winner and you can show us how to really play?”
Peter wanted to vomit. This group of guys was actually accepting him and he didn’t use any of the talking points his therapist gave him.
“Sure,” Peter mustered out. He was terrified but he kept telling himself that he needed to do this to get better.
The rest of the group introduced themselves; the cigar guy was actually named Mitch. Then there was Bobby, Hank, and Sean. They were all drinking beers and playing darts and billiards.
Peter didn’t know what to do while he waited for his turn. He stood awkwardly as Mitch and Hank played out their game.
“Is it true that if you hit someone else’s ball without hitting yours you forfeit the turn?” Hank asked as he sank his striped ball in.
“Yup.” Peter said curtly.
“See! I told you!” Hank pointed his stick at Bobby he was aiming up for a throw. Bobby threw his dart that missed the target completely and turned to Hank.
“Hey man! I thought all balls were fair game!”
“You suck at pool, just like suck at darts.”
Peter chuckled was this what it felt like to have friends?
Peter felt that sensation of vomiting again and he knew that he had to leave. It was terrible timing because he was just about to start playing against Mitch.
“I’m sorry, guys, I uh… didn’t realize the time. I have to get going.”
“Ah! You got a girl at home, waiting?” Sean asked as Peter tried to walk away.
“No, I have an early day tomorrow. See you around. Thanks for letting me watch.” Peter said quickly and took off before anyone could say anything else.
He did it. He could tell his therapist that he had a successful night. He was hoping she would stop assigning those tasks, but he knew it wasn’t going to be like that. Peter was in therapy for his social anxiety and to help him overcome that anxiety… he needed to be social.
As he lay on the bed, Peter wondered if he’d see those guys again. They seemed pretty cool. They were at least nice enough to let him join their fun. He felt a little ashamed that he had to bail before he could play with them.
His therapist was a little annoyed he didn’t get their contact information to possibly connect again in the future. Peter hadn’t even thought of that.
After the session he sat at home, beating himself up mentally over the fact that he didn’t get those guys numbers. He asked his therapist if that was an okay thing to do, since he wasn’t asking to go on a date with them or anything. His therapist smiled a little, trying to stifle a chuckle before telling him that it’s perfectly normal to ask for someone’s number.
Peter couldn’t tell if she was going to laugh at him or just at the situation. He hated not understanding social cues. That made him feel very upset, but he didn’t mention that to his therapist. He didn’t want to upset her as well. After all, she was doing her best to help him.
His homework assignment was to do go and attend a social setting and exchange contact information with at least two people. His therapist told Peter that if he didn’t have to use the conversation starters they came up with if he didn’t feel comfortable. She told him to be himself… as much of himself as he can to be social.
So, the next weekend, Peter set out to check off the boxes on his to do list. He returned to the same bar as he went the week before. He secretly hoped he would run into those guys again so that way his contact information exchange would be easier for him.
Unfortunately, he didn’t see Mitch, Bobby, Hank or Sean. Peter walked around awkwardly by the pool table, waiting for those guys to show up. After two hours of standing around, Peter told himself to get out and start mingling. He needed to get two different people’s contact information or his therapist would think he wasn’t trying.
The thought of talking to total strangers again was terrifying. Peter’s heart started racing as he looked around for someone to approach. He wondered what he looked like on the outside. Did he look as freaked out as he felt on the inside?
Somehow, Peter made his way to the bar counter and sat. He really didn’t want to go through with this assignment. It was embarrassing enough to have to stammer through introductions.
The bartender walked over to Peter. She smiled at him gently as she placed another beer in front of him.
“Oh, I didn’t order one.”
“It’s okay, it’s on me. You look like you could use some more courage.”
A/N: I always have a hard time trying to find the right spots to end the excerpt!! I hope you guys enjoyed this one as much as I did writing it. Social anxiety sucks! Especially when you’re trying to make a conversation to have a connection with someone and it goes nowhere.
If you want to know if Peter can get it together enough to make friends, subscribe to my patreon and be the first to read the full the story when it’s posted in an undetermined amount of time.