Legs crossed, swinging coolly from side to side on a leather-topped stool, swilling a glass of whatever drink she’d ordered to pass the time and give her what others might hopefully see as some kind of company. She hunched, elbows on the bar, trying to appear as invisible as possible. Thoughts she frantically transmitted to the bar’s patrons: “I’m not really alone, he’ll be here any minute. What does it matter anyway, can’t a person enjoy an evening out of the house alone and why not?” Who knew if they heard or understood.
These transmissions refused to acknowledge that in fact he may not really turn up at all before she could bear to stay any longer. That this was a trial optimism for a chance encounter, thought up as a tactic against time otherwise spent waiting, lusting only for his return home, still alone, but this time failing even to try. Try what? Try to see him; try to do something with her life; try to demonstrate (to who?) her independence.
“I like your choice of drink.” The barman winked over at her from the cabinet at which he was polishing his glasses. Trying to be friendly, perhaps more.
“I brought that specially over from Peru for people with good taste, like you, to enjoy.”
What to say to that? “Oh, well, thank you from us.” She smiled, not giving herself away in any direction.
“Can I offer you another?”
“Oh, no thank you…” her hurried and slightly nervous reply must have signalled something to the barman.
“On me, please. It’s not often we get beautiful women with such excellent taste and it’s nice to have someone to talk to.” At least it would give her some more minutes of acceptably-spent time in the bar. She accepted with a friendly smile.
“So, who’re you waiting for?”
“Waiting? Just passing the time,” she said teasingly.
“Fair enough, why not? Can I help you sir?” Cut off from conversation and left once again alone with her drink and time, she decided to extract herself from this reality by pondering instead on these moments with strangers. So friendly, seemingly so innocent, but he wouldn’t like it. Nonetheless, she appreciated the encounters, along with the reminder of her own merit, beauty and charm. Life before him. Nothing was lost.
“What do you think of the place, then?” He darted back into focus.
“Your bar? Oh, it’s lovely…nice atmosphere and I like the music,” she affirmed.
“Oh yeah? I’m always looking for ideas about the drinks menu – maybe you could lend me your ear, as you’re here and having demonstrated that we have the same tastes?”
“Sure,” Why not?
He reached for the heavy leather menu, opened it in the air with one hand and placed it on the bar for both of them to see. Before the long list could be seen in focus by either of them, however, the kitchen door opened.
Fingering notes between his hands, looking down and pensively counting whilst swaggering through into the bar – and then he looked up with a change of expression. At first, shock – and then the light shone from his eyes and lips as they spread into that smile that only meant love and the barman didn’t even know it. There was a beat and then,
The barman appeared lost for a moment. Then, gathering himself,
“We’ve been discussing the latest ideas for additions to the drinks menu!”
“Glad you had some company, my beauty.” They kissed, he wrapped his arm around her waist as she bid this new acquaintance a friendly goodbye and they exited the bar into the night and on their way towards home and sleep, together. Everything gained, nothing lost, not for now.