I ordered us drink after drink
she talked about her pets and about her job and smelled
like perfume, cold air and cigarettes
and it occurred to me there that she could have had
any man on earth, but there was something there, also,
something that didn’t quite line up with her image.
Not that I cared, I lived in a town where image was everything
the more fucking junked out or weak a man looked
the more women he got
But I sat there anyway, tall and big and out of the
dating loop, but she saw something there, maybe the
total lack of concern on a damaging level, but
sparks flew and my blood ran hot and I sat there
She tapped her fingernail on the table,
“See? I don’t really smoke that much. Didn’t even bring my pack tonight.”
She talked and laughed, blushing, smiling and reaching across the table
to squeeze my hand
I sat and listened, watched her lips and her long fingers
while she punctuated the subject of herself with an occasional
question about me:
“Do you watch much television?”
“Not much, no. How about you?”
“Certain things. I just recorded a special about mortuaries. I have a thing for mortuaries, oh, and serial killers.”
She nodded, “Not that I’m a fan, just fascinated. You know?”
“I understand. Of course.”
She laughed. Outside I watched
two skinheads standing at a red light.
Boots, uniforms, the whole deal.
I watched them and thought
she reached over and squeezed my hand,
“But I’m not into sitcoms and shit.”
we drank there for a couple of hours. The bill was 90 dollars. I handed the
barmaid my card and the girl stood to go to the bathroom
I watched her reflection walk to the back doors and all the
necks crane out of their booths to watch
it move. The sun had just fallen, and I looked at my hands then
out to the freeway. All the years and dirt. The running of sweat
and the frost of fear across the clock, the taming of youth and the
death of will had missed me for once. A drink arrived on my table
I looked at the barmaid,
“I’m sorry, doll. I just needed the bill.”
She touched my shoulder and pointed to the bar, at two men sitting together,
“It’s on them.”
She walked away. I lifted the drink and nodded to them,
She sat back down.
“Who are they?”
“Two men don’t send another man a drink unless they’re fags.”
The barmaid appeared with a drink for her.
“Same thing,” she smiled.
The girl smiled at them, sipped the drink and ate the cherry.
“Fags rule,” I said.
One of them walked over. He was a good one, drunk and forgotten there
a bit on the depressed side, but also momentarily sedated
and almost happy looking.
The town was full of them.
I remembered his face from some promotion, some reading
one of those weird nights on my new job. He smiled to her and leaned down
into the triangle of my ear and shoulder. He smelled like vodka and body odor,
“We’re taking off,” he said, “I wanted to come here and tell you that I love your shit, man. I know you probably get that a lot, but I don’t care, I love your shit.”
He put his hand out. I shook it,
“Goddamn, man. Thank you.”
He slapped me across the back and walked off. I watched them walk across the parking lot, past my car, a 1989 Honda hatchback, mostly rust. I laughed. I couldn’t help it.
She looked at me and smiled,
“What’s that like?”
“It’s fucking awesome.”
She laughed wildly. Partly because she was hammered, but also I think
it was relief that I didn’t go on with some
bullshit artsy answer.
She got up and sat next to me, put her head on my shoulder,
She laughed, “I love that word. So sweet and cool sounding, so much better than calling someone a drunk.”
The barmaid slid the bill and a pen over beneath my card and two mints,
“Looks like you’re ready.”
She smiled and walked off. I tipped her a twenty
and signed the receipt.
I drove us to a pancake house on Powell
where we sat across from each other so drunk that the night circled us in tracers.
It was just after 8 pm. I went to the counter and ordered some eggs and toast.
I looked back
to see what she wanted but she was passed out in her seat.
The cook looked at me and laughed. I waited for the food
and carried it over. The place was dead empty.
I ate and watched her hair,
fallen over the booth seat, her body fetal, her fingertips
touching the floor, while she coughed and the vomit hit the tiles.
I took my long sleeve off and reached over the table
moved her hair above her face and
wiped her mouth and nose clean
“I’m on my period. But it’s your call.”
I removed her shoes and covered her lower body
and placed her hair back over her eyes.
The cook was in the back watching television
I sat there and drank my coffee and watched the traffic on Powell.
It was a good night there
it really was.