When I walked into the bar, I did a quick glance around to see if I knew anyone there. Two twenty something guys at the pool table, nope. The older couple talking to the bartender, nope. A scattering of twos and threes of various ages and genders throughout, nope, nope. The group of four women having a rowdy good time toward the back, nope.
I took my pint back to an unoccupied booth and pulled out my notebook. I was relieved there was no one I knew because that meant I could indulge myself with some beer and alone time. I had just started on my second page when loud laughter brought my head up. It was the table of women who were celebrating something, from what I could tell. They were all dressed for a night out, unlike me who’d just thrown a flannel shirt over my t-shirt before heading out the door. I let my eyes linger a bit longer than necessary, taking in the colors and fabrics and the evident joy they had in each other. I also enjoyed the diversity of styles and skin tones and flare contained in such a small group. And even though it had been a while since my carnal needs had been satisfied, I wasn’t feeling especially lecherous even though each one of them was a gorgeous representation of womanhood. Just before I returned my gaze to my notebook, one of the women looked my way. No, more specifically, she looked at me. Right at me, right in the eyes. And smiled. A warm, pleasant smile, the kind of smile that seemed to be saying, “I see you and I’m happy to see you.”
I say ‘seemed to be saying’ because I immediately began second guessing what I thought I’d felt and seen in her gaze. Maybe she thinks I’m a guy and she likes the flannel wearing unkempt hair type. Maybe she thought I was someone she knew. Maybe she wasn’t looking at me at all and instead she was smiling at the velvet Elvis painting on the wall above my head. Farthest down on the list of possibilities, in my mind, was that she saw me as a butch and was interested.
The woman who smiled at me was a brunette, in a vibrantly colored top and a pencil skirt. I know about the skirt because she stood up as I was watching and walked toward the restroom. I was watching her because after writing a paragraph in my notebook, I could feel someone looking at me. It was her and she smiled as I raised my eyes. Two affirmative signals, so I should have made my move, right?
I didn’t because she did. And I’m gonna put it right out there, I love it when she makes the move. Not only does it feel good to be the subject of that attention and desire, it also clears up the whole mystery of whether she’s smiling at me or the Elvis painting.
She walked toward the restroom then veered in my direction. Placing her hand on my arm, and apparently not thrown off by the jolt of energy that went through us when she touched me, she said “Hi, I’m Janie.. are you going to be around for a while? My girlfriends will be ready to go home soon and I won’t be. Would you mind some company in a little bit?”
She looked meaningfully at my notebook as she asked, and I guess I could have begged off for reasons of artistic necessity if I wanted to. But I didn’t want to.
I attempted to write more after she walked away to use the restroom and then rejoin her friends. I’m not even sure you could call it an attempt, I was completely faking it, trying to look the part of a writer sitting alone in a bar, completely absorbed by his work and absolutely not distracted to the point of ridiculousness by the upcoming return of the femme in the pencil skirt. I confess that I let my imagination get ahead of reality as I stared at the blank page. I’d caught a whiff of her fragrance and now I was imagining enjoying that fragrance in a much more intimate way. Did I mention it had been a while?
I felt rather more than heard the table of four get up and say their goodbyes. The three who were departing hugged Janie goodbye and moved en masse to the door. None of the three did more than glance my way. I looked back in her direction. She was gathering her coat and purse. When she looked up at me, I smiled and pushed my notebook aside. She smiled even more broadly at me as she walked over to my booth.
I extended my hand across the table, “Hi, I’m Buddy.”
“Hi, I’m Janie.” We both laughed and grinned at each other.
“I’m trying to figure out which classic line applies in this situation and isn’t too over used.” I gave her my most charming awkward smile.
“Oh, let me play!” She said brightly. Then she cocked an eyebrow at me and asked, lowering her voice,”So, do you come here often?”
More laughter. I asked her if she wanted another drink as the one she’d carried over was about a fingernail from the bottom of the glass. She agreed to let me buy her another, Maker’s Mark, neat. I gave a seated bow and got up to fetch it.
This is the part where I feel pretty comfortable, once we’ve gotten past the initial questions and uncertainty. Once I know she’s interested in getting to know me, it doesn’t matter if she’s got more on her mind, I can have a lot of fun getting to know her. My full flirtatious focus comes online and charming and silly things come out of my mouth on cue. As long as she’s laughing and seems to be enjoying herself, I feel confident and capable. I love the dance of those first few conversations, where both people are verbally probing and discovering each other. Does she respond to my self-effacing humor? Does he like it when I touch his hand as I’m speaking to him? How will she react if I throw some double-entendre in there, spice it up a bit? What will he think if I say something about his hands? And so it goes.
As we got to know each other, my mind was collecting the details I would remember later when I replayed the encounter. The way she tucked her hair behind her left ear. The subtle eyeliner and eye shadow that set off her eyes so well. Her eyes, brown and lively. Her blouse a shiny fabric in vivid green and magenta, open just enough to give me glimpses of cleavage and lace. The way her mouth quirked up at the corners when she was amused. The feeling of her hands, warm and present, on mine.
I had finished my beer, she’d finished her bourbon and we were still talking, telling the stories of our lives in a Swiss cheese kind of way, the way you do with strangers who you’d like to know better but still don’t know well. I glanced at my watch and she made the slightest pouty face.
“You don’t have to go already do you?” And she gave me that look, the one that pins you in place and gets your head working on justifications for giving her exactly what she wants. I didn’t want to go and I didn’t have to but my stomach was beginning to give me some clear signals that I should make a gastronomic offering soon.
Her hand was resting on mine, her fingers very lightly squeezing it. I reached over with my other hand and held hers in both of mine, leaning over the table a little, I said, “No, no, I don’t have to go home, but I was considering taking a short walk to the diner for a piece of pie. Will you join me?”
And so we made our way down the sidewalk a few blocks to a diner populated by a variety of late night inhabitants. There were the hipsters desperately trying to maintain their aloofness while digging into a pile of tater tots covered in chili and cheese (there really isn’t anything hip or aloof about chili cheese tots). There was a couple sitting close sharing a milkshake and making eyes at each other and another sitting on the same side of the booth, not talking to each other, attention absorbed by their phones. On the way in, I caught a look at us in reflection. A stocky guy in faded flannel with almost threadbare elbows inexplicably strolling in with a gorgeous, long legged woman, dressed for a night on the town. I forced myself to look away and concentrate on the fact that the gorgeous woman was on my arm, voluntarily and didn’t seem at all put off by our wardrobe mismatch.
We sat in a booth on the slightly darker side of the cafe. I waited for her to slide in and then asked, “Do you mind if I sit on this side?”
She said yes and gave me a brilliant smile and I slid in, not pressing against her, not quite touching thighs, but close. Close enough to let her know that I wanted to be close.
We looked at the menu. I told her that I was particularly interested in pie and would be happy to share a slice or get her one of her own. I told her my favorites and she told me hers, there were several overlaps and we decided to share a slice of key lime.
While waiting for the waitress to appear, we continued to get to know each other. She’d been telling me about her childhood back in Nebraska.
“There was this girl, very butch, though I didn’t know that word at the time, I was fourteen or fifteen. She was so cute and I fell head over heels for her. I knew it wasn’t something I could tell anyone, but I would follow her around like a puppy dog, trying to figure out what to say to her. She was a little older. I guess I must have been 15 because it was high school.” She got a faraway look in her eyes as the memories came back. Just then the waitress appeared.
“We’d like a piece of key lime to split and I’d like a cup of coffee, would you like anything to drink?” I looked at her. She asked for a cup of tea.
“Earl gray, hot?” I suggested reflexively and she laughed, “Yes, if they’ve got it, you can call me Picard.”
Well, if you’re a geek like me, you’ll know that was an important moment. The gap between us had closed, even though I hadn’t moved. And then her hand was on my thigh, warm and electric and much closer to my pocket than my knee. I smiled at her and flexed my thigh slightly. The pie came and we alternated bites with stories about our earliest memories of queer attraction. Conversation was easy, being together was easy, her hand on my thigh was easy and so good. I lifted my arm and put it across her shoulders, she exhaled and settled into my side.
The Cafe was starting to get busier, the post bar crowd was careening in loudly, and we both checked our watches. “Time to say goodnight?” I asked, allowing my voice to carry the feeling that I wasn’t happy about it but accepted it as something that would happen eventually.
“Yes, I’m afraid so. As it is, I’ll be dragging in the morning” Her smile contradicted any remorse her words attempted to communicate. “However, I might have an easier time of it if I know I’ll be able to see you again?”
“I would like that a lot. Let me give you my number.” She entered it into her phone and I stood up, extending my hand to her. I loved the way her hand fit into mine as she stood. “May I walk you to your car?”
We walked the few blocks back to where we started, arm in arm, dodging packs of disgorged drinkers and guitar wielding buskers. Standing at her car, she turned to me.
“I’m going to text you in the morning, to see how you’re doing. You look as tired as I feel.”
“Thank you, pretty lady, that would be quite revitalizing” I gave a little bow and she laughed. “I would really like to see you again.”
“You will, handsome, you definitely will” She slipped a hand behind my neck and guided me to her lips. They were firm but yielded perfectly and for a few moments there was no long day or tomorrow morning. “Mmmmmm.. yes, you definitely will see me again, I’m going to want more of your kisses.”
She drove off and I gave her a little wave and watched until I couldn’t see her car anymore. She was heading the opposite way I’d have to drive to get home.
I was plugging my phone into its charger when it buzzed at me. It was a text, from Janie, “I didn’t want to wait until morning to tell you that I had a wonderful time getting to know you tonight. And, also, I should confess that I’ve been watching you from afar for a couple of months now. You won’t believe me, but I’m very shy. Seeing you tonight at the bar, alone… I knew it was my chance.”
I’d like to say I slept soundly and had excellent dreams, but the truth of it is, I hardly slept at all.
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