Sitting at the corner bar, satisfying the urge for a beer and relieving the boredom jitters, I’m tormented by indiscriminate shouting of barflies and distant diners lining the walls of the dark, decor of seafaring ships, anchors and fish. Sea legs. Clearly this place lacks intelligent acoustic design, much to the chagrin of the owners who honestly tried to reduce the clamor crawling the high ceilings, especially with a yoga studio above it. I once heard the story, sitting at this bar with M many months before.
My girlfriend’s already signed off for the night, so I am unconcerned about my phone’s rings, dings and buzzes. I am wherever for whatever. Thinking about the last time we met at the hotel for a quick grope and a tickle, sneaking a hurried sigh and a fierce kiss, my mind smiles, my face impassive.
The pretend-lover is off somewhere in the night, leaving town for the week tomorrow, as the story goes still smoldering in the musk stains left in my hair, emitted in the toss of my head as I spy the inhabitants of this sultry Thursday crowd. At least we got to do the fuck-and-lie before the morning’s 8 a.m. departure. What’s the weather like in the Southeast?
Often it’s the simplest moment that lingers on the tongue of my thoughts, savored in sensorial bites: a shy side glance of the twenty-something deeply brown-eyed half of the pair sitting on the stools next to me sends static up my spine, an imperceptible eye-twitch, my senses on electricity. What does it mean?
I crave quiet corners most of the time, am in love with intimate spaces with or without another. In an unsuspecting moment, memory flashes the scent of heat rushing from a wall heater mixed with bleach and sweat in a dark room in mid-afternoon while we nap, your arm dead over my hips and belly.
Though the time is so little, so simple, it stays. Maybe that’s the draw, the beauty of it, it’s simplicity and freedom to be whatever we need it to be, something of our own creation without the stress of trying to make it be too much, like living and planning and being together, which is complicated and full of friction. Our island is tiny and sporadic, though well-timed. Maybe it’s the island that is the draw more so than I.
His wife hates him as much as she loves him, that’s what the bar fly kitty corner to me yells over the blaring music to his companions. I wonder why. Perhaps she cannot stand the way he mispronounces the names of her favorite artist, or his snoring, explosive anger, criticism, taken-for-granted use of her body for his release coupled with the inability to fulfill her because she never figured out how that could be, relied on him to figure it out, but could not relax enough to let him, guide him or even try.
Nat King Cole croons “Unforgettable.”
Filling out a daily diary of calories in my phone app is tedious, a task I assigned myself as consciousness raising more than dieting but it has, like so many other healthy exercises enthusiastically commenced, deteriorated to an obsession.
The same guy three stools down shouting over the next song, a 70s favorite I recognize but will have to focus on more if I want to remember the artist and title, whinnying really in a high tinny voice, about his divorce and how his wife regrets the divorce being the way it was. Also, his daughter and plans for spring break to be with her and her friends, Abbey her name, is really shaping up. Oh, so a divorce has permanently taken up residence in his conversation. The ex hates and loves him.
The divorce story’s addressees are a big bald dude and his Asian-looking companion, petite and smartly dressed with discreet cleavage, smooth-skinned soft peaks demurely and tastefully displayed below a string of pearl-like gems. She speaks with an unidentifiable accent. Like her, I am only half listening. The divorce story seems to be aimed at her, a polite, captive audience, while her boyfriend baldy winks at her looking away from the divorce tale-teller. Divorce guy wants to be heard. Baldy stays quiet, polite agreement here and there. He wants to be home fucking pearl girl. “That’s the way God meant it to be in some ways,” Divorce says. I missed the context of that statement.
Brings me back to a lover and his week of agony, strife with the wife, severe enough for him to act deflated, distracted passion, wildly unusual, so that I had to ask, as he collapsed away from me and sunk into the mattress, fists fretted together, face pinched in deep furrows, what was the matter. Did he expect me to sense his grief and ask? He is not as mysterious as I once thought.
In our fifth year he took up confession; home life was bad, stressful, not good for the kids, he told me, the emailed story unfolding in exclamatory bursts, philosophical resignation, religious retreat and cautionary reminders. I did nothing to provoke the last so have to conjecture: it crossed his mind, the thought of leaving, running to me, but he got scared or sober or logical. He tasted the bitterness and stinging hate of hurt and revenge, the loss of power, prestige and pleasure, time spent with his children, too soon gone.
Imagined scenarios of our making are the engine of creation, the mechanics of our story trotted out for each other to admire and merge into on cue.
Hate, vengeance and righteousness of god, fashioned to her fundamental beliefs in a church that spreads the selective word of a deity who manifested love, she believes he must be the man she wants him to be. The wont of their ilk is to toss sacred words to trump one over the other.
An ancient story repeated, their love grown in children and the grace of goods bought and sold, possession of a union, a house, a garden, two cars and a dog, they loved and rubbed each other right until it was wrong. Humans are pattern makers. God chuckles.
But he was clearly jarred, sorrowed, repentant, and seeking comfort in a resolve to improve, surrender, endure and abide, a solution time tested. Biding time is what we do. Some call it the journey. With attention, it is often referred to as presence, the fullness of time and the conjoint spirit of one. I am content.
I prefer small pockets of pleasure disturbed by the occasional deep, destructive pothole in the roads I travel. So many lovely beings reach me, their intentions like silk tendrils of touch-full caressing care and wonder like Debussy’s Bergamasque piano silently accompanying the undulating drift of bar meanderings.
“I will be unavailable to you that week of your return.” I told him that, and he let me go.
Divorce boy just informed baldy’s girl that he is going to finish his bottle of wine, though he apparently has had enough, and try his luck picking up on some girls situated elsewhere in the bar. The incongruence of girls in a bar strikes me.
I have seen divorce boy passively sitting at the bar before–beak-nosed and paunchy with a deceptively young face, not unpleasing. He tries. I am not here often–eight or nine times a year–and the last time I was here he was too. Look at us, the lonely people.
The two women to my left are pouring the remainder of their wine from their glasses back into the bottle. All neighboring eyes are turned to the task, like a netted tightrope walk to safety, the risk not too terrible but for the stains. The two young women have been sharing a small space, huddled in the corner of the bar, phones in hand illuminating the luster of their eyes and lipstick, checking social media, I presume, and speaking in tones reserved only for them.
Big baldy says, “I’d have to kill the guy.” Clearly man talk. I cannot imagine the stool mates to my left saying that kind of shit, defending their territory. Like R. He would do that, kick someone’s ass who looked at me had we been daylight lovers, out of the bedroom partners in a real life relationship. But I speculate.
How far can a fantasy stretch? What does anyone need beyond a little relief, some tenderness to ease the strain of survival? Maybe nothing. A will to bend, a neck crook for a weary head, an arm flung over a curled-up thigh and those who know your name may be the sum substantial of existence.