I am not who she thinks I am. This much is clear. I am seated alone at the middle of the bar. My friends, who
had joined me here, have both left. They are both married, but not to each other. She walked in as they
walked out. Luckily, I was not quite ready to go.
This is a mid-town spot with a Euro motif that is hard to discern because the room is crazy dark. Dozens of
votives provide the only light. This is plenty. The room is smoky from the steady burn of incense. A driving
bass, like the smoke, is constant. I will have a headache in the light of the morning.
It is two times evident that she believes she knows me. She is certain I am a friend. Her glazed over eyes,
which are hazel, could mean that she simply cannot see straight. But, she seems so sure.
She taps a slender, moisturized, manicured index finger on her nose and says, “If you want, you can have a
bump. I’ll let you know when my guy gets here.”
Liquor and pussy aside, I haven’t touched a drug in years.
Before this offer, she is even more definitively mistaken. She greets me with, “Hey, Mark. Oh my God. I was
just thinking about you. I mean, this is really unbelievable. How are you?”
As she steps toward me with outstretched arms, I take her in. She has a symmetrical, pretty, waspy face. She
flips her lightened hair, which falls around her shoulders before instantly returning to its previous place. She
smiles and it’s an orthodontist’s fantasy. Straight, white, even. She is toned, no doubt from pilates and
undereating. When she hugs me, she feels tight. Whenever I hug a woman, I take note of breasts. Hers are
right. She is a study in the elimination of flaws. Except, my name is not Mark. Not before tonight, anyway.
She begins the dance of catching up.
“So, my God, I haven’t seen you in ages,” she says.
“I know. It has been awhile.”
“Are you still deejaying?” she asks me.
“Yeah, here and there. I’ve cut back recently though.” I say this without a blink. She presses on.
“Well, thank you again for working my house warming. People are still talking about it.”
“Absolutely,” she says, so enthusiastic. “And then, how you helped me clean up afterward, so thoughtful.”
“It was nothing,” I say. “Really.”
We pause. She looks toward the door. I think of pretending to step out for a smoke, only to take my ass
home. But, I don’t know if Mark smokes or not.
“So I guess you’re wondering why you haven’t seen me for a while,” she says.
“You must’ve read my mind.”
“I’ve been away.”
“Away?” I ask. Then I wave to order a round.
“Yeah, away, in a facility, a hospital... I was in a mental hospital.”
Because maybe Mark would be stunned by this, but then again, maybe not, I simply nod.
“Fucking restraints,” she says, making an angry face.
The bartender puts down her cosmo, my stout. The angry face is gone.
“Well, cheers anyway,” she says.
We toast to freedom.
“So I suppose you want to know why I was locked away.”
I desperately want to know.
“Only if you feel like telling me,” I say.
“Sure, I mean, I trust you, right?”
“Well, you remember my dad was having those problems?”
“Vaguely,” I say.
“He shot himself, last year. Put a shotgun to his chest.”
“Oh my god,” I say. “I’m so sorry.”
I mean this.
“Don’t be,” she says, defiant. “I’m done blaming myself.”
“Well, that’s good.”
“I realized there’s nothing I could have really done to help him, you know. I mean he was the parent.”
I nod again. She drinks half the cosmo in one sip, then looks to the door again. She’s wearing a sparkling
necklace. With the nose pointing finger, she plays with its stones. All I can think about is what fucking her
would be like. Desperate, I imagine.
“That’s a pretty necklace,” I say. She touches it with more certainty.
“Oh, thank you. It’s from my new line. By the way, how do your girls like their bracelets?”
Thankfully, the bass has grown louder. “I’m sorry, what?”
“The bracelets, the ones I made for you. How do they like them?”
“Oh, the bracelets,” I say. “They were very happy with those bracelets.”
“And, how are things there? With your girl?”
This is veering away from where I want it to go.
“You know, the same. Ups and downs.”
“Well, your daughter is absolutely gorgeous.”
“Thank you.” I say, pretending she means my own daughter.
I am now pissed at Mark. I thought he knew this woman biblically, not neighborly. Perhaps she is friends with
the mother of Mark’s daughter. Terrific.
“Fucking Bryan cheated on me while I was away.”
“Now, that doesn’t surprise me,” I say, hoping this flies.
“I know, right? Everyone told me. Now I’m just a fucking divorce statistic.”
“Maybe it’s for the best.” Here, I am sure to look her in the eye.
“Definitely,” she says, looking right back, killing the cosmo. I have barely dented my stout. I am questioning
where I am with her. Or rather, where Mark is.
Her guy comes in. I know this because she walks away from me mid-sentence. He is diesel, chiseled, Asian. I
don’t see his face for that long. I watch them. They don’t speak. They walk down the bar’s dark corridor,
which leads to a darker stairwell. The bathrooms are downstairs. It occurs to me that this place is perfectly laid
out for down low moves. They descend. In a minute, her guy comes back. I try to see him better, make eye
contact. He has none of it. In another minute, she returns.
“Okay,” she says. “Okay.”
“Everything alright?” I ask.
“So listen, it’s a little crowded in here, right?”
“I’m gonna go. It was great seeing you.” She kisses my cheek. The brush of her skin is like softened butter.
“Thank you for listening to all my drama,” she says.
“You are welcome to join me, you know.”
“I’ll walk you,” I say.
She turns to go. I place money on the bar and stand. With half steps and my hand approaching the small of
her back, we move toward the narrow exit.
Eric McKinley is a Philadelphian. He is a former public defender in the former most dangerous city in
America, Camden, New Jersey. Now, he is an MFA in Fiction Candidate at Rosemont College, slightly
reducing the likelihood that he’ll get stabbed. He writes a story every now and again. He has also
appeared in The Aurelian Literary Journal and apt literary journal. His novel, "The Blessed Sons", is in search
of a home. Somebody hook a brother up. http://mckinleykaizen.blogspot.com/