Hide Out From the Love Police

They were after me. I see the gleam in their eyes as they sweep over the Christmas party in search of their prey. They lay in wait in the large banquet hall, that's inhabitants so innocently entered thinking they were attending a black tie holiday party. You wouldn't know the love police at first glance. In fact by their demeanor you would take them for average citizens before ever suspecting their more sinister plot. They wear no uniforms; in fact, sometimes they even disguise themselves as your friends. There is no official headquarters for the agents of love, and I have no idea where they get their training from. However, all these details are miniscule right now. I have been spotted.

From my hiding spot, just across from the entrance of the hall, crouched just behind the potted plants in the corner, I spy my college roommate, and close friend Jennifer sweeping down upon me, weapon in hand. I never would have suspected her; she was so innocent, so kind, I thought she was my friend. As I see her moving towards me I consider making a run for it, but how many agents are out there? Would I make it to the door in time? I decide to try, after all their goal is not to kill, hurt, or maim, but to play Cupid. To make parties awkward and create silences between people that otherwise could have gotten along with one another quite well.

I'm sure that you have at one time been caught. They use phrases like "Oh, there is someone you just have to meet." or "You two have so much in common I just had to introduce you." The most horrendous line is usually uttered by the one person you thought you could trust, your mother: "You two would just have the cutest babies." Once these lines are uttered any normal conversation that could have occurred flees your lips and you find yourself wondering if any jury would convict you.

I creep toward the bathroom. It's a mere 15 feet away, but in this battlefield it feels like miles. Jennifer is tugging some poor unsuspecting man in my direction. He looks like a child who was just caught doing something bad and now has to go see the principal, who also specializes in torture. I feel for him, but I can't save him. The only way I can help us both is if I make a clean getaway. I have spent too much time looking behind me. I almost run into a waiter, who cheerfully offers me hors d'oeuvres. I shake my head and Jennifer is then practically at my back. She calls out.

"Samantha!" I feel my heart freeze in my chest. Oh god, she's got me. I turn to face her.

Just then the waiter sweeps in to rescue me, like an angel sent from God. He temporarily distracts Jennifer and her hostage by dangling the tray of goodies in front of their noses. It appears to work, but I know the effect is temporary. I'm going to have to move fast. The goal of my mission is now about five feet from me and just when I am about to take a mad dash the bathroom door swings opens and the smell of my mother's trademark perfume pours out the door. She steps out oozing confidence as she sweeps her hair back from her face, this motion sets her gaze on me and I now know that all hope is lost. It appears I am trapped on both sides. If I go forward my mother will sweep me up and take me to Single Land, but a painful and forced meeting with Jennifer's prey is behind me.

I'm sure those of you that have been in relationships for a good majority of your lives have no idea what I am talking about. And for that you are truly blessed. But for those who have constantly been in and out of relationships you know the horror that awaits me. Single Land is easy to spot at any party, particularly at a Christmas Party. Single Land is where all the available bachelors are. They are friends of the family, divorcees, perverts, and any single girls' mission is to avoid them.

My most recent memory of Single Land, is something I try to suppress daily. Thanksgiving this year, my mother had swept my sister and me away to Single Land to meet the newest addition, a recent divorcee Mark Treblem. His breath reeked of liquor and when I shook his hand his gaze when directly down my dress. When the music started up my sister, had tried to free me from my terrible fate as his dancing partner, but when the Rolling Stones came on the speakers there was no hope. Despite her effort to pull us away to the bathroom, I was dragged onto the dance floor, for public humiliation and fondling. Mark did not even bother sliding his hand down my back to my butt, he went straight there and gave it a painful squeeze. I shot my sister panicked and pained looks throughout the entire dance and when Mark, in his drunken stupor stepped on my foot my sister took the chance to take me away so we could 'inspect the damage'.

Single Land is usually located in the corner and marked by the high squealing voices of all the mothers of single daughters in the room wailing about their offspring's finer attributes. Any given conversation there starts with the words "This is my daughter (insert poor souls name here)" and ends with "I'll just leave you two alone to get to know each other better". It is my own personal version of hell. During the party, mothers parade their daughters through Single Land and whatever lucky bachelors are holding court that night takes their pick. In my opinion it's a modern day version of an arranged marriage, because once you have been chosen you are forced to talk to your partner for the rest of the night. Today, the bachelors are hitting the rum hard. I know this because for the past hour that I have been here there has been a steady stream of waitresses bringing them drinks and fleeing from them as soon as they have the next order. I fear a game of grab ass could begin at any moment.

I lock eyes with my mother and she smiles at me, like a lion that has just spotted a wildebeest separated from its pack.

"Sam-" she begins but I don't let her finish. I dash wildly towards my left. I run blindly past couples and family members. There are couples everywhere and some give me strange looks. Their eyes accuse and judge. An older woman directly to my left looks down at me in my loaned state with a look of pity. When we make eye contact she turns away and I feel the disapproving waves flowing over of her. I move past her and receive a sympathetic nod of camaraderie from my cousin who motions behind me to my mother and mouths the words 'run'. She has become one of the single girls already tricked into talking with some unsuspecting bachelor or worse someone from Single Land. I mouth 'thank you' back to her and hurry on. Lost in the crowd I slow my pace to fast walk. So far tonight I have been lucky. I am two for two. I hear a familiar voice, but this time it is not someone calling out. My sister can be heard to my right. I peek over an older man's shoulder to get a better look.

She stands as stiff as a rod. She is talking to a shorter balding man who I recognize as a man we called cousin Bob as children. He isn't actually our cousin. In fact, he's fifteen years older than us and in order to deal with his premature balding at age 25 he asked us to start calling him cousin Bob. He is one that fits all three descriptions of a man from Single Land. He's a friend of the family, a divorcee, and a pervert. My sister holds a martini in her hand and I notice that every sentence that cousin Bob utters is followed by her taking a huge gulp. I want to help her but fear that I too will be drawn into polite small talk with a man who is eye level with my chest and makes no move to meet my eyes, keeps me frozen in place.

Luckily for my sister the last sentence cousin Bob has said has allowed her to finish off her martini and she executes the quick and cunning move to go refill her own drink.

"I can get it," she says and hurries to the open bar. Cousin Bob stands awkwardly for a second, but it is obvious that he was not fast enough to keep his prey from getting away. He retreats to Single Land where he is greeted with a pat on the back from another bachelor and an increased level of wailing from the mothers. As my sister smiles at the young, tall, handsome bartender and begins to chat, he smiles back encouraging. She takes a seat and it appears that her conversation with another man has given her safety, for now.

Behind me the familiar click of my mothers Ann Taylor high heels reminds me that I have stayed too long. The hunt is still on and I have two of the Love Police's best agents on my tail. A cool breeze caresses my cheek as I see doors leading to the open balcony in front of me. A white curtain flaps in the wind and the air feels fresh and uplifting. I exit the party to the marble balcony. There are several potted trees that give the familiar scent of pine. It takes me back to my childhood where the only Land I worried about involved candy. It's a long way down from the fifty-fourth floor of this hotel and I gaze out at the skyline of the city longing to be anywhere but forced into this social hell hole. At that moment the wind picks up and I shiver.

"Cold?" comes a voice from my left. Surprised I turn towards it; I had thought I was alone. In the corner of the balcony behind a fern hides a man leaning on the railing. He holds a beer bottle in his left hand clearly having rejected the cup that is usually forced upon you at this kind of gathering. His bowtie is undone and flapping in the wind. I also notice that his ring finger has no band, no shadow of a band, nothing. I wonder briefly if this is a set up or an ambush; maybe my mother and Jennifer drove me towards the balcony as an elaborate ruse. I shake that thought away however, when I remember they are working for separate goals. My mother wants me married by New Years; Jennifer wants to see me drunkenly make out with someone at the party so that the buzz from her flashing the crowd at last year's Christmas party can finally die down. There was a reason why we had a DJ this year and not a live band. No stage.

I relax.

"A little." I reply. My new companion straightens up off the balcony. I can see his broad shoulders contract and his short brown hair now in the wind looks soft and touchable. He shrugs off his jacket. My fear of him being a pervert from Single Land subsides he hands me his jacket instead of trying to put it on my shoulders. I had previously had a bachelor from Single Land hand me his jacket and he grazed my chest twice. That was right after Jennifer flashed the crowd at last years Christmas party and I had fled outside hoping the cold air would burn the memory off my retinas.

"Thank you." I say and he smiles. It looks like he is about to respond when another voice joins us.

I had forgotten that not even the cold could stop the Love Police. My mother has arrived.

"Samantha," she sighs. "There you are. Why did you run away like that, darling? There is someone I would like you to meet." Jennifer then also arrives on the scene; her hostage is still in tow.

"Sam!" she exclaims smiling. "There you are!"

I can't help myself. I take a step back, their eyes gleam with the sight of me cornered and I wonder now how I never knew. I look behind me at the railing.

'I'll jump,' I think. 'Don't come any closer.' My mother shivers and hugs herself with one arm while holding out the other to me.

"Sweetheart, it's cold out here. Why don't you come on inside?" She then notices the jacket on my shoulders. "Whose jacket is that?'

"Actually it's mine," My companion chimes in as he steps up beside me.

"Oh, Joshua! There you are. Your mother was telling me all about your job." My mother says happily. She turns to me still smiling. "He's a surgeon."

It is then in this moment that I realize that I have been outsmarted again. Despite my every attempt to avoid the Love Police their cunning has defeated me. My shoulders slump slightly and my eyes fall to the floor. I sigh and then turn dejectedly and extend my hand to Joshua.

"Samantha," I say. He takes my hand and smiles.

"Joshua, pleasure to meet you." His handshake is firm and the smells of spices tease my nose at our close proximity. His smile lights up his handsome face and I can't help but giving one in return. There is no gleam in his eyes and I feel myself relax. I suppose if I am caught it wouldn't be so bad to be trapped by him. After all, he does drink his beer out of a bottle.

Jennifer, obviously frustrated at being defeated, sighs and looks up to her hostage a smile.

"Sorry, Paul. But it looks like Joshua beat us to her." Paul looks relieved by this news smiles and mentions that he would like to go get a drink then. He gently maneuvers himself out of Jennifer's grasp who begrudgingly heads back into the party to find her boyfriend. Unfortunately for Paul, however, my mother latches on to his other arm as he heads back inside. I hear her talking about my sister who just so happens to be at the bar, and how my mom thinks they would have the cutest babies together. After all, my sister has great legs and he has such a good bone structure.

As they walk away I wince and pray that my sister has the sense to run while she still can. I just hope she doesn't come out here. I'm deep in conversation and I don't want to be disturbed.