All names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
The crackers had been popped, the silly crowns worn, the food was eaten, and awkward conversation made. It was finally time to leave.
“Where are you going?” My boss, Henry, grabbed my wrist as I walked past his table.
“Back to work?” I said, uncertain.
“Oh, don't do that!” exclaimed Louise. Her paper crown had fallen askew, drooping over her right ear.
“No, you should stay out with us! Don't be like one of the boring people!” Henry seemed to have lost his ability to apply volume control to his voice.
I looked around at the faces at the table. They all stared back at me, waiting for my answer.
I realized in that moment, my acceptance by my new coworkers hinged on my answer. If I said no, I would be labeled as one of The Boring People. If I said yes, I had a chance at being brought into what I called The Cool Kids club.
“All right,” I said.
“Fantastic!” Henry jumped up from the table. “I know the first place we should go!”
Thus began the pub crawl. The first pub was tame- discussions of significant others, families, embarrassing stories from school.
The second pub was where the evening became more interesting. Bored with talking, Jack suggested playing the ice cube game.
“What's the ice cube game?” asked Henry.
“The ice cube game is this.” Jack tipped back his drink, allowing a cube to fall into his mouth. He turned to Louise, and kissed her, passing the ice cube into her mouth. Louise turned to George, passing the ice cube to him in the same manner. I watched, fascinated at this side of my coworkers. George tapped me on the shoulder, and kissed me, passing the ice cube into my mouth, more slowly than he really needed. I passed the cube on to Nick.
“I thought Americans were supposed to be uptight,” George murmured in my ear.
“Hardly,” I said. The ice cube came back to me. There was barely any left. I attempted to pass it onto George anyway. Really, it was just an excuse to kiss him. He was the best looking person in my lab.
The ice cube game continued until the bartender started glaring at us. We left. Jack and Henry decided they had enough for one evening. So I had I.
“I think you should see Whitlocks,” Louise said, when I tried to make my excuses to leave. “It's one of the oldest pubs in Leeds.”
George drunkenly waggled his eyebrows at me. “Sure. One more.”
Louise, George, and I crammed ourselves around a table. George quickly took over the conversation. He was agitated.
“NMR structures are rubbish. Complete rubbish. Crystal structures are the only good structures.”
“I'll take your word for it, George,” I said, trying to soothe him. Louise looked at me, startled.
“I need to get the bus home,” she said, making a quick exit. I gave her retreating back a dirty look.
“Look, here's an NMR structure published in Nature. Completely wrong. Look here, that's not a beta sheet, when you look at the crystal structure.” George had pulled out his cell phone, and was showing me the incorrect NMR structure.
“Uhmmm...” I checked my watch. Okay, 5 minutes. I can politely make my excuses and leave in 5 minutes.
“Look, positions 365 and 471- how can they think those are the correct amino acids?!?”
I took a swig of my beer. I nodded along with George's rant about NMR structures.
“George, how far do you have to go to get home?”
“I have to get the train to York.”
“Don't you think you should get going?”
“I can have one more.”
“Well, I can't, so I'm going to say goodnight, George.” I drained the rest of my beer, and left.
Since then, George has avoided me like the plague. I wonder if it was embarrassment over the kissing, or if it was embarrassment over the NMR ranting.