[Originally written Spring, 1998]
I was in the Lionheart with Kate when I decided to get some air. Stepped outside to the beat of the traffic and wished I was going somewhere. I stopped in the corner store for some smokes and a hard candy. Again I touched the air with my pale skin as I peeled the cellophane away from the new pack. Tore the foil out to reveal 20 freshly stacked brown filters. As I plucked one from its cavity, the scent reminded me how much nicer things smell before they burn.
An orange flame lit the perfectly cut end of the white stick and filled me with reassurance.
I bent to pet a Great Dane on the sidewalk and attempted conversation with her master. She wagged her tail and kept on.
The night was warm and young, so I took the opportunity to pretend. Closed my eyes and thought of sand and birds and water and a thin, tan body. It's mine.
I felt someone nearing so I snapped my eyes open to return to reality. "Excuse me," I stuttered as a young woman and her suitor brushed past me. They were a bit drunk, I assumed, by their giggles and disregard for my existence. Another drag of the cigarette filled my lungs, and once again I exhale longer than considered normal.
I stepped back into the pub to find Kate, reluctantly but consistently holding conversation with a meaty young gent. I returned to my three-quarter full cider and drank languidly.
"Why do I always drink this?", I think. "I don't even like it." I'm a slave to pop culture and microbrews.
The bartender gives me a smile and asks "Can I get you something else?"
"How long do ya got?" I sheepishly blurted out. Kate looked over and asked if anything was wrong. I gave her the same answer, and she returned to her torture.
I looked at the other end of the bar at a late-forties looking man drinking a pale ale alone. Thought of dad. Saw a girl sidling up to a "less than her" guy. Thought of mom.
Looked at both. Saw myself. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
"Excuse me, sorry," a male voice whispered in my ear. With hope-filled eyes I turned on my "cute" face and slowly swung my head around to see who uttered the words. It's a beautiful person, dressed to kill with a stare that could do the same.
"Oh sure, sorry".
He reaches past my left shoulder with a crumpled twenty in his fist, and flags down the bartender with the dapper sophistication of Fred Estaire. I sip my drink carefully, hoping I won't choke and cough all over this miracle.
"What are you drinking?" he asks. Is he asking ME? Yea, he is. Go with it. I point to the crafted woodchuck tap and nod. He orders one for me and a Sam Adams for himself.
"God I wish I was stoned," I think. "How the hell am I gonna do THIS?"
"Thanks," I blurt out. WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR??? Only speak when spoken to....or some shit like that.
The drinks arrive in a foamy mess and he tipped well. "Okay, go with this, Laura. Be yourself, but for the love of God don't say anything!"
I open my mouth as I tell my brain to shut up.
"Honey thanks, I'm going to talk to one of my friends for a sec and I'll be right back. Then do you wanna go home?" a voice said. Oh my god, was it MINE? What have I DONE?
A lovely young lady had wrapped her long, thin arm around my suitor, and as he gazed at her perfectly manicured fingers draped over his shoulder, he nodded to her. He then smiled sympathetically at me, and joined his amigos at the pool table.
Kate's done with the conversation...apparently the guy likes Nintendo too much and smokes a pack and a half a day. I light another cigarette and we catch a cab home.
"Same time tomorrow?"
I wince and agree.