She stood up against the wooden bar lit by a stale football field that shined florescent green and highlighted polyester blue like a muse of Van Gogh or Galileo. Her hair ran down the nape of her neck like a virgin waterfall and the light of the bar highlighted her sphinx like eyes as she turned and caught his eye. He stood at a small table away from the main bar with a couple of friends who were telling stories of their old college days and he, half-listening, quickly looked away, faking to scratch his eye, for he knew he had been caught looking at the back of her and she, with her women's intuition of being observed and knowing this, kept looking and he knowing the only way not to show he had been caught was to look away quickly and very obviously; like a bad actor caught dumb and silent, clueless of their next line. They blushed and shared the heat of embarrassment in their cheeks with the sounds of worn dollar bills slapping hard against the smooth wood of the bar, the bar man eyeing it angrily as cigarette smoke surrounded them and slowly drifted up like a lost soul toward the ceiling and the piano man, eyes tight shut played for everyone there when no-one cared to listen, all underneath the dim light of the bar as they strained to look away from one another, trying to find something they could put their focus upon, but, at the same time, wanting very much to look back and have their eyes meet by mistake all over again.
He focused on the design of the bathroom placards that were in the right corner of the tiny bar where you had to turn sideways and touch shoulder's with every soul inside just to get a drink. He feigned interest in the bronze design of the men's bathroom: a tiny boy looking down at his pecker as he pissed a 1/2 inch thick stream into what the man gathered to be a sunflower pot. The boy was thrusting his hips forward, both of his hands on his side, and he showed no smile, no grin of satisfaction or victory, just a stark, blank face, as if he were thinking "I am peeing in this pot. That is all." The women's bathroom sign was of a young girl with the same kind of pot the boy had been pissing in, but it was missing the sunflower and was replaced by the bum of the girl. She stared up into the sky and into the ceiling lights and was dramatically reaching for a butterfly or bird - he couldn't make out which - something with wings and made him think of a basic metaphor that this poor little girl just wants to get off the pot and be free like the birds and butterflies and clouds in the wide blue sky.
She focused on the man's shoes. She looked at the black shine and the pristine black shoe laces, all looking like everything had just been purchased that day. "There is not a single scuff on them and the way this man cuffs his pants only a single turn," she thought to herself, "Tells me he has something of a style on him". Not so run of the mill. Something special. Something of interest.* But then, she was annoyed by the cuff of the pants because she remembered that was what all the schoolboys in her prep school would do when the day was rainy or the boys rode their bikes home from school or they were nerds. The memory immediately turned her off of the man all together, but luckily, she put her gaze back on the jet-black, seemingly un-touched leather that told her success, class, and security.
The man heard a loud Cheer's!" from his table, abruptly bringing him out of his distraction. He was forced to turn and as he did, he made sure not to look up. He kept his eyes on the table and looked for the half-full beer with the worn Budweiser coaster underneath it. He could see from the his top periphery that she was still facing him but she was looking down at something toward the floor. He fumbled with his large hands for his glass and panned his eyes up slightly. The woman, seeing the movement at the table, looked up. She stared back to where she had first caught him looking at her and waited. The man felt her looking at him and in the same instant, saw the faded Budweiser coaster and reached for his beer. He picked the glass up and as the second Cheer! was yelled, he clashed his glass against all the others, all the while keeping his head not toward his friend's faces, but turned in the direction of the bar toward the girl. He smiled at her as he lowered his glass, not taking a drink. His friend slapped him on the back and told him," You gotta' drink after the cheers or its bad luck," and so he did, still staring dumbly at her as he did. She nodded at him with a self-conscious and embarrassed grin, raised her nearly gone low-ball glass of gin and tonic and tipped it toward him and turned around to face the bar.
"I"ll stand here and wait for him to come up to me," she thought, "And if he doesn't the man is a coward and a louse and not worth my time. I have looked twice now and there is some rule in some magazine that I read somewhere, that if you look twice at a man that it is sign, not a coincidence. No, it has a purpose and though I barely know what reason I want this man to look at me other then to get a drink out of him and maybe some conversation, I am certain I have looked twice, maybe even three times. Yes. I have looked at him and I have made my interest known and now I must wait for him to either come or stay with his drunken friends. They look like frat boys cheering like that. They look like drunken, silly frat boys that wouldn't know the first thing about chivalry. Hell, they probably couldn't even spell the damned word." She laughed under her breath and smiled maliciously to herself and caught her own reflection in the mirror and, for an moment, wanted to quickly look away. Her face did not frighten her, for she was a beautiful woman, not her skin, which was milky white with the faintest and gentlest dash of rouge on each cheek, nor her chocolate colored curls that bounded like boulder's down a hillside. She turned away from a look upon her eye she had not seen or had recognized in a very long time. Her eyes were frightened.
"Frightened?" she wondered.
The man put his beer glass on the table on top of the coaster. The foam rested at the bottom of the cup like the thin layer of ice that blows over a frozen lake, barely there at all passing with the wind. He stared at her back and liked how she leaned on her right hip and put the toe of her left high-heel to the ground, rocking the nose of the shoe back and forth like she was thinking about something playfully frivolous. Behind him, the noise of his friends became a hollow echo, drowned out by the draw of this woman. She swung her left heel back and forth like a pendulum trying to hypnotize him. Someone touched his shoulder but he shrugged the hand away as in this echo chamber he could only hear the music change tracks on the juke box. The song had changed to an old Ottis Redding song and there was nothing else in the world that he wanted to listen to in that moment. As he watched her, leaning into the bar seemingly all alone, no boyfriend or girlfriend in sight, he saw her raise her glass to the barman and knew she had something by the gentle nod of the back of her head. He then saw her point with her left finger and tap the rim of the glass. Her drink was empty. She wanted another drink. He would buy her another drink.
"There is nothing in this world that a man is more responsible for than getting a woman like this a drink," he nodded, thinking to himself and trying to pick up his courage,"One that plays with my heart like a kitten would a spool of yarn, and yet also like a vulture who would peck out the eyes of a dead man in the desert. This is nothing more then that obligation. A rule passed down from man to man, from age to age, where chivalry was not for the base reason to lay with the woman, but to honor them, praise them lightly as the rain from a heavy mist and show them to the pedestal every woman, whether they wish to admit it or not, do wish for, sincerely do at least once in there life." He readjusted his belt and realigned his shirt that had gotten crooked after the celebratory cheer and thought some more,"I'm not going to do that here, this pedestal stuff. This is more like a step toward that pedestal. Yes. A step toward the shrine she wants to trust she deserves and will one day end up on. And this shrine is all cast and painted in the blurry french film noir of dream, is it not? Aren't dreams the only thing we hope to one day come true? How often - when and if they do come true - they can sometimes disappoint and eventually turn sour like a bad orange. I hope she is drinking and that wasn't just a tonic water. If this woman doesn't drink I don't think any of this will be worth anything at all."
She stood there serene and angelic, the hand that held her drink now resting on the base of the bar. Behind the man, he heard the chatter of his friends and the drone of football scores and player updates coming from the ten or more televisions that hung from the ceiling. Someone reached out to touch his shoulder but missed him as he left the table. His name then echoed behind him but soon the sound evaporated as dew does that rests on blades of grass in a summer morning to a summer afternoon. There was only her and her smell that had drifted to his table and shrouded him with the scent of white chocolate and smoke and her delicate, porcelain hand that had held up the drink shyly but not weakly, in passing demand without that demanding quality drunk people can get like at bars sometimes. He approached her, hovered behind her, but she did not turn, and then came up to the bar to lean into. He did not turn to look at her, though he wanted to very badly, but looked down at her low-ball glass with two half-melted ice cubes and a used lime. The smell of gin came from the glass and the man smiled to himself and put his hand up to signal the bartender.
"If this man orders his drink first and walks back to that table with all of his drunken friends, I am giving up men all together," the woman thought to herself," * Tonight and forever! If he can put his hand up and not even turn to look at me, as I was doing, I thought, to be very flirtatious but gentle, then I see no reason at all to keep going with men. They are barbarians that only want to eat, drink, sleep, and fornicate with women that are easy and provide no real challenge at all in their life. If he wants it easy, he can have it as easy as he wants, but not with me. No sir. Not with me ever. Not with me for a night, an hour, a minute, or even a second."
The bartender, a stout slightly overweight man that was a little over forty with streaks of grey in his thin, short-cut hair, looking very much like he should be home reading with a nice cup of tea by his side rather than in the bar serving drinks to stranger's, approached the man and asked him what he would like.
"Two gin and tonics please," the man said, "With a slice of lime and four ice-cubes in each."
"And what kind of gin, sir?"
The man turned to the woman, "What label do you drink?" he asked.
"Pardon me?" she stuttered startled, her eyebrows raised.
"Your drinking gin, aren't you?" He nodded his head toward the woman's empty glass. The tiny lines of transparent lime skin floated on top of the water that had gathered from the melting ice-cubes.
"Yes, I am. I was just about to order."
"I'll get this round and you'll get the next one."
"Any gin is fine."
The man turned to the bartender," Tanqueray, please bartender."
He nodded and went to make the drinks.
"Your very perceptive," the woman said as she turned to face him.
"I saw you from across the bar, but was afraid to walk up to your table for fear of getting ambushed by all of your friends. Those are your friends, right?"
"Yes," he nodded as he looked over his shoulder at them, "Old college friends all with old stories of college that, truthfully, bring me little or no joy to even hear."
"Then why come at all?" she asked, "You seem smart enough to know that if you meet up with old anything, you'll be hearing about the old times all night."
"I was forced to come."
"Someone getting divorced?"
"No," he laughed, "The opposite. Married."
"Well, I hope it's not you or this would look very bad if your fiance walked in."
"And why's that?"
She clicked her tongue and turned to look at the shelves stocked with every kind of liquor. The bottles reflected the soft orange glow of the lights that circled the bar and the colors of the television screens. The man continued to look at the woman who had turned her back on him and caught their reflection in a bottle of Jack Daniel's. He waited for a response, but she stood there silent, knowing she was playing with him. Behind him, his friends were growing louder and a tray of shots had found its way to their table. The waitress who had brought the drinks, polite and with a smile, asked them to try and keep it down. They shouted "YES'S and screamed "YEAH'S" with moronic smiles on their faces, their heads nodding up and down like a dog playing fetch. The waitress giggled a thank and walked away shaking her head with disgust when she was out of sight.
"Well," she said,"You did just order two gin and tonics and I think if your fiance walked in with you chatting with me with the same drink in both of our hands, I think she would be a little upset. I know I would be."
"Perhaps we could act like we are old grammar school friends and just happened to run into one another?"
"Well, that would be a lie."
"Yes, that would be a lie."
"Which would mean we were hiding something from said wife."
"And what would that be?"
"That you approached me after I looked at you, perhaps the look from me wasn't flirtatious, maybe I thought you looked familiar, like I had seen you somewhere, and you came up to me and ordered me a drink and started a conversation with me, much like we are doing right now."
"What's wrong with conversation?" The bartender approached them and placed the two drinks in front of the man. The man took out his wallet without losing his gaze on the woman, took out a twenty and slid it toward the bartender. The bartender took the twenty, paused for a moment to see if the man wanted any change, but left when he saw he didn't want any by not moving.
"Conversation can lead to very dangerous things," the woman said playfully and wise.
"Your here by yourself and your not stupid; someone is going to come up to talk to you."
"And your that somebody?"
"I'm sure I'm not the first one tonight."
"I try," he said as he slid the drink over to here,"Your drink."
"What should we drink too?" She asked and raised her glass, the light above them reflecting in the ice-cubes and thick glass of the high-ball.
"Conversation," he said proudly and with a smile, "And the danger that it brings."
They clinked their glasses together, their eyes never leaving one another, and they both took a long drink.
"I'm not here with anybody and I'm not expecting anybody tonight either," the woman said.
"What's your name?"
"I want to be able to tell my friends I met a very interesting woman, but they won't believe me if I don't give them a name."
"I'm standing right here, silly. Go and tell them you met the most interesting woman in your entire life, look over at me when they ask you what my name is, then point over to me and I'll wave."
"You'll be here?"
"I'll be here."
"Go, go, go," she repeated, pushing him back toward his table, "You bought me a drink, didn't you? The least I can do is wave to your drunken college friends."
The man walked back to his table, glancing quickly over his shoulder, trying to hide it, before he reached the table. He arrived to all of them drunk, beer spilt on the table and an ashtray full of punched out cigarettes and ground up cigars. Every one of them were rocking back and forth with each other, their arms sloppily hung around their neighbor's shoulders, their eyes blood shot with their mouth half-cracked open barely breathing in the smoky, beer smelling air. The man struggled to wedge his way into the circle, and when he did, he tried to get the groups attention by screaming an