I want a good stiff drink and to disappear. From my hiding spot in the corner, I watch the motley collection of people out late on a Thursday, in a smoky bar, playing decade old music. College kids and old hippies, people in dress pants and shiny black shoes, no one seems to fit the other and it seems a good place to hide.
“Remember me?” A young man slips into the empty seat in front of me. “Oliver, from Elm Village.”
I take a rather large sip of what is indeed a good stiff drink and nod. It had only been a few days ago that I had hugged him a good minute longer than is socially acceptable and then kissed him full on the mouth. His hair is the color of balsa wood and even in the low light of the bar his eyes are like the liquid flow and pool of the river’s edge, at both times green and blue, murky and translucent.
“You’re name’s Nina,” he says, shifting around in the seat until he appears much more comfortable than I am.
“Yes it is,” I reply and try not to look him in the face again.
“I knew that,” he says. “You know, then.”
The parking lot.
“I’m glad,” I say, fidgeting, endlessly fidgeting. “It makes that whole scene slightly less desperate. Don’t you think?”
“Don’t give yourself a hard time,” Oliver says and dips his head a bit so that he looks me in the eye. “It’s part of my job to comfort people.”
“Yes,” I say, “but do most people cling to you and smell your hair. And then kiss you on the mouth like they’re not a total stranger?”
He shifts again, sitting unencumbered in his seat, back and tilted. The bar walls tighten in and the voices around us grow unintelligible.
“I get that a lot, actually,” he says. “And you weren’t a total stranger.”
“That happens to you often?” I say and finally look at him again.
“Oh yeah,” he says, smiling at himself. “It’s the scrubs. Women go crazy for them in the grocery store. They think I’m a doctor.”
“You don’t tell them any different?” I say, amused and distracted.
“You kidding?” he says and leans forward to take a sip of his drink. He’s drinking a dark beer in a cold glass and I’m relieved that he’s at least of the age of legal intoxication. “Buys me some time. Much better than what I really do.”
“What you really do is commendable,” I say. “Most people wouldn’t be able to face all that every day.”
“Maybe I ought to stick with the truth.” he says. He leans in closer, puts his arms on the table, levels his eyes to mine.
“Truth is relative,” I say. I know he’s flirting. I know I am too. “Besides,” I say, “I kiss everybody. I just kissed that guy over there.”
I point at the oldest, ugliest man I can find. Oliver laughs out loud. I should pull away from this, but the distraction is intoxicating. We both seem very aware of the electricity between us.
“I don’t even know you,” I say to him, trying to pull myself out of this bubble of frivolity.
“Doesn’t that make it easier?” he asks.
He looks different in plain clothes. I’m too close to forty for comfort. If he’s twenty-five I’d be amazed.
OMG-am sitting in a bar with a gorgeous younger man- thinking about to do something really rash.
Do it girlfriend
Send us pictures
How young are we talking?
Oliver and I sit for a few moments in that uncomfortable sort of silence that’s created by the want of saying something but having nothing safe to say. We watch each other sip at our drinks.
“It was a good funeral,” he says when his beer is done. “I hope it’s alright that I went.”
“Of course,” I say. “I’m sorry I didn’t see you. Not that I would have had the nerve to speak.”
He smiles at me and waves the comment off.
“So how was the family mourning vigil?” he asks. “I hate that part. What the hell are you suppose to say to all those people? How many times can you take someone telling you what a terrible loss it is? No shit, huh. Thanks for forcing me to talk about it over and over to every unearthed aunt and uncle within a day’s drive.”
I laugh. A real deep laugh. One that almost makes me cry, but pushes through into more laughter. I need this release from grief and the weight of mouring. I've been holding onto my sadness like he's an old friend, like I'm showing him around town for the weekend, pointing out all the tourist traps and scenic views. I need to send him home.
“It was fantastic,” I say in answer to Oliver’s question.
“Glad to hear it,” he says and the corners of his mouth turn up.
I feel an urge to press my lips to his again. I’m like the last of the tulip now. I feel my petals pulling backwards, bending toward something I don’t recognize.
I drink the rest of my beverage and smile at him.
Oliver signals for the barkeep and in about sixty seconds I’m beginning the first Jack and Coke of what will probably be one Jack and Coke too many. This was my Jack’s drink. He thought it was humorous. The irony is not lost on me. I feel yanked back in time to a place much less burdened with responsibility and the knowledge of life’s cruel pranks.
Ok sadness, I say to myself—you sit over there for a while—I need a break.
The longer Oliver and I stay, the closer we get and by the time our drinks are empty again we’re pressed together against the back wall of the ugliest bar in town with no more room between us than the space a heartbeat takes.
I look back once at my sadness. He’s ordered a drink and is talking to the lady at the next table. Just a few more minutes, I signal to him and he nods an ok.
I turn my focus back to Oliver. This isn’t like the parking lot, where I was too caught up in my own grief to notice what being close to Oliver feels like. His lips press against my collar bone and I release a breath I didn’t know I was holding. When he kisses me, I’m aware of nothing but his mouth on mine, warm and unfamiliar. His hands on me feel like coming up out of the water, air hitting wet skin piece by piece, making me aware of the nape of my neck, the small of my back, the curve of my waist as it gives way to hip and thigh. This time it feels like waking up.