One Foot Out the Door – 11/2003, Short Short Story
I poured the cheap liquor into a glass and sat in front of the old man facing me. “Three- fifty,” I said, but he handed me a five and told me to keep the change. Another night of mine spent catering to the lost souls that that stagger into this shit hole. They come here drunk on their sorrows to fog their minds and drink their money away. Sometimes they share with me their stories; their reasons for living life in a blur. If only they knew that the liquor was actually drinking them; sipping away their hopes and dreams; swallowing their identities.
I watched as a man entered the bar through the only thing seperating this realm of despair from reality: the door. He was young – about my age – and he carried a black guitar case by his side. I’d never seen him around before, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit intrigued by his sudden appearance tonight. He chose a seat by the end of the bar farhest from me. He held no money out to wave me over to purchase a drink, nor did he even look my direction. Therefore my brain must have secretly signaled my legs to start walking because there I stood in front of him.
I stared at the top of his head waiting for him to feel my prescence. He had papers on the counter top onto which he jotted words, randomly. “Excuse me, can I help you?” I asked after realizing he wasn’t going to look up any time soon. He looked at me with beautiful dark green eyes, shook his head no, and returned to his papers. I wanted to smack him. Didn’t he realize that I, too, am different? I’m not one of these lifeless wanderers scattered around the bar. I’m just as interesting as he is with his stupid guitar case and…eyes.
“Kelly, my girl…looking good tonight. Give me my usual,” Jack, one of the regulars, had sqeezed his way past the object of my affection and cut right through my daydream. “Love the jeans,” he said as he looked me over. I felt my stomach twist at the ideas I imagined running through his mind. I threw a martini together as quickly as I could. “Thanks, sexy,” he said as he blew me a kiss and walked away. I returned my gaze to Green Eyes, who looked away before our eyes could meet.
I chewed the top of my pen as I watched him sit there frantically scribbling things onto his papers. That’s when his ink ran out. A sudden rush of importance surged through my body as I looked at my pen; the one thing he needed most now. As I turned my gaze back to him I watched as he reached into his pocket and took out another pen. I gave up at this point and walked down the other end of the bar to wait on a customer who had been waiving her money consistently for the past five minutes.
By the time I waited on the lady, Mr. Mysterious had left the stool and was making his way towards the door. I walked down to where he’d been sitting, and noticed he left behind his precious papers. “Hey…your papers…ya left them…” I waived them in the air as I said it, and heturned arond as he walked and smiled knowingly. I was smiling, too, and had no idea why.
It was five of two, and I told Maria I’d meet her at the after hours place about ten minutes away. I grabbed my coat from under the counter and put it on, trying to indirectly tell the one remaining customer that I was ready to go. He emptied the last drop of whiskey into his mouth and placed the glass back on the counter. “Here you go, sweetheart,” he said as he moved a ten in my direction, “I’ve been here all night taking up a seat and I know you want to get going.”
“That’s very nice of you, sir. Thanks.” I said and took the money. I watched him leave as I finished cleaning his glass. I ran the rag accross the counter one last time and tossed it in the sink. I made my way to the door and locked it, like always. As I slipped the keys into my coat pocket, my fingers grazed the twice folded papers I placed their earlier. As I walked to meet Maria, I imagined bumping into Green Eyes around every corner.
I reached the after hours spot at the same time that my hopes of running into him diminished. I walked in and looked for any sign of Maria. I spotted her after a minute or so by the bar standing next to a man with her hand on his arm, occasionally whispering something into his ear. She didn’t waste any time finding a toy for the evening tonight.
They were watching the band play on the small stage at the front of the room. When I reached them, I tapped Maria on the shoulder and asked her who her new friend was. “This is Alex. Alex, this is my friend Kelly.” Alex turned around and smiled, “Hey, Kelly. Nice to meet you.” Within the three seconds that followed, I suffered momentary heart failure, shortness of breath, and severe nausea. I asked Maria to walk me to the bathroom, and she kindly did so.
I stood at the sink splashing water on my face. “What’s wrong? You don’t look too good. Did you drink on your shift?” she asked jokingly as she entered a stall. I thought about it for a second and decided to lie.
“Yes. Yes, I did.” I replied. “So, tell me about…um…Alex?”
“God, isn’t he good looking? I think he’s interested, too…” she began. She filled me in on how he let her buy him a shot; how she thinks he’s playing hard to get; how she’s enjoying the chase. “He’s a musician,” she said, “and he’s not from around here. He’s staying with a friend about twenty minutes down-town. Did ya see his eyes?” As she babbled I clenched the papers inside my pocket tighter and tighter until it became so compacted that I could no longer squeeze.
The flushing of the toilet snapped me out of my quiet temper tantrum, and Maria exited the stall to join me by the sink. I pretended to be interested in applying lipstick as I watched her from the corner of my eye. I wondered if he really was interested, and if so, why? She wasn’t that attractive, especially with alcohol in her. Her hair was out of place a little, and the eyeliner under her left eye was slightly smeared.
“Hey, Kel, do I look alright?”
“You look great. Let’s get back out there before he wanders off.” We walked out of the bathroom in the direction of where I had first noticed Maria standing. Her pal Alex was nowhere in sight, so we decided to take a seat at one of the tables. The band finished their last song as the lights brightened and some old guy came up to the microphone. He said something that no one really heard, and then the lights lowered again.
I carefully unraveled the papers in my pocket as Maria’s eyes scanned the room for Alex. When I realized she wasn’t paying me any mind, I pulled the wrinkled papers out and decided to give them one more glance before throwing them away. I read the scattered, unorganized phrases thoroughly and folded the papers over. I actually convinced myself that these words might have meant something. Well, my little fantasy quickly met reality about fifteen minutes ago.
Loud clapping brought my attention back to the stage where Alex now stood with a guitar draped in front of him. He leaned forward and began to speak. “I have a song I’d like to play tonight. I was inspired by a woman I met not too long ago…tonight, in fact.”
Maria’s face lit up at his words and I quickly strangled the rising hope inside me. He wasn’t talking about me. He hadn’t really met me. He was being chased by Maria and her red stilettos that cost more than my rent.
“Up until now I couldn’t decide on a title for it, and so I wasn’t planning on singing it tonight.” I stared at her shoes as the anger burned a hole through my chest. I quickly rose from my seat and proceeded to the bar while Maria sat starry eyed, gazing at Alex.
I noticed a guy noticing me and inched my way over to where he was standing at the bar.
“Besides, she may leave me hanging still.”
Bar Guy handed me a beer and asked me what I was doing later.
“She has the one thing I need most right now.”
I told him I wasn’t doing anything and that he was looking good for later.
“Kelly, if you’re listening, I’m gonna need those papers.”
I turned to face the stage in shock. I forgot to breathe, but quickly remembered it was necessary. I handed Bar Guy my beer, pulled the papers from my pocket, and waived them in the air. He smiled. People clapped. I was smiling, and this time I knew why.