Short Story

“Hey, can I buy you a little drink?

Or maybe roll you a cigarette?

Maybe you need some time to think . . .

Maybe you think I have no respect.”

–    “Miss Molly” by The Hellphones, off the album “This Is How”

‘So there’s this girl, right. Red lips, short black nails, chipped, and a cigarette in her long white fingers. It’s thick, half-gone and glows each time she takes a drag. Unfiltered. A tough cookie. Her eyes are half-lidded, thick lashes caked with mascara, underlined by smudges of eyeliner. An endearing piece of glitter adorns the inner corner of each eye, and shines as she moves her head towards the bar.

You can see she’s scouting. A man more absorbed with his sexuality might think she was looking for a lover. Me, I know these kinda broads. She’s looking for some sucker to buy her a drink. I realize with a little surprise that tonight, that sucker is me. A classic line from a song pops into my head . . . “Hey, can I buy you a little drink? Or maybe roll you a cigarette?” Good rock and roll, the kind that she personifies. With her grungy demeanor, she somehow manages to still ooze vulnerability. The kinda girl who’d let you slam her into a wall passionately, kiss you hard, then slap you and stumble from the room, never to be seen again.

I lean forward on my table, trying to catch the bartender’s eye. I’m not one of those smooth guys you read about in 50’s pulp fiction. How do I know this? Well, I lean forward, placing my elbow in the puddle left by my ice cold whiskey and water, slip, knock over the remaining drink, and manage to fall off my high stool. Heck, at least I got Frankie’s attention. I also got the broad’s attention. Not initially my aim. Even if I know how clumsy I am, I still like to create the initial impression of suavity.  Courtship based on illusion, for sure, but hell, which one isn’t? I pretend to be looking for something on the floor, surreptitiously tidy myself up, right my stool, and gradually surface. By the time I’m standing, she’s crushing her smoke, swearing at her burnt fingertips and wobbling out of the bar on heels so high they look illegal. Frankie looks over at me and winks. Bastard.

I toss a fiver onto the table, leaving the asshole behind the bar a 5 cent tip. I know it’s not his fault, and my mama (wise woman that she was) always told me to be nice to my local bartender. But he knows me, and knows that tomorrow I’ll tip outrageously out of guilt.

The next night I’m back there. She’s not. I came prepared with a pack of non-filtered cigarettes, a lighter that I bought and had engraved with my initials especially for this occasion, even though I don’t smoke, as well as some loose tobacco, rolling paper, and a handy machine that rolls the damn coffin nails for you. Modern technology, it’s such a gas. I guess I’m investing a little too much in this, especially seeing as I didn’t see her look at me in any special kinda way, never mind exchange a word with me. I love crazy broads like her. Once I talk to them and find out how damaged they are, my intrigue usually fades. But at the beginning, oh man, it’s like a drug. I head over to the bar, order my usual, and start talking to Frankie.

“What she order last night, man?”

“Who, Jimmy? I got lotsa women coming in the whole night . . . You think I know when YOU were here, never mind the woman you talkin’ bout? Shit man, you underestimate the busyness of my business.”

That joke always cracks the fucker up. He thinks he’s such a comedian. I laugh, but inside I’m puking. Greasy bastard.

“You know who I mean, Frankie. Broad at the bar. Short black hair, pale skin, too much eyeliner. Smoking.”

He leans on the counter and beckons me closer, like he’s about to share a huge secret, like the cure to cancer or some shit. He says, “I hate these women that smoke, man. Yellow teeth and hands, puckered lips like an old woman’s pussy.”

“Frankie, I don’t wanna discuss the goddamn merits and drawbacks of smoking. I CERTAINLY don’t want to discuss your fucking sick knowledge of old women’s anatomy. The broad at the bar, alone, what was she drinking?”

He stands up, steps a short way away from the bar, away from me. I realize I’m leaning forward in a rather confrontational manner and back up, giving Frankie a sheepish smile. Who woulda though she would affect me this much? Broads.

Frankie says, “Yeah man, I know who you mean, don’t worry bout it. You my favourite customer, geddit? I know when you come in, when you leave, what you order, how much you drink an’ who you watching. Had your eyeballs damn near glued to her, you perve.” He gives a short, high pitched giggle.

My hands are involuntarily becoming fists. I stuff them in my pockets, eager to stay on Frankie’s good side. I make a mental note to find myself another hangout. I raise my eyebrows, prompting him to go on.

“She was drinking bourbon, man, doubles, no ice. But I know women like her . . . Wanna know what she really wanted?”

I nod tightly.

“She wants a dirty vodka martini, no ice, 3 olives and shaken.”

Say what you like about Frankie, he was a good bartender. Not flashy, but he knew people, what they drank and how to make it. I trusted the greasy bastard. At least as far as drinks went, anyway.

I thank Frankie, give him a fiver for a tip and pay for my drink. I ask him how much the dirty martinis are.

“Twenny bucks, man. That’s why she wasn’t ordering any. Broad like her can afford one cheap drink a night. Then she relies on suckers like you.”

He smiles. I toss a twenty on the bar, restraining the urge to vault the bar and kick his teeth in. Like I said, he knows people.

“When she comes in, I want you to send me another of my usuals. When she’s done with her drink, give her the dirty martini and tell her I sent it over. Talk me up a little if you can find it within yourself.”
I walk to my table in the corner. Some old man is sitting there, stinking the place up. I hate these geriatrics that sit here with one cheap beer the whole evening, drifting in and out of senile sleep and sneaking sips from a bottle in a brown paper bag. Cheaper booze, plus the benefit of sitting with society. I look around the room. OK, maybe not SOCIETY per se.  I try and find a substitute table, then settle for the corner of the bar. I can see the door to my left, and the rest of the room is behind me. I can’t miss her if she comes in.

My gut tightens with excitement. By the time she walks in, I’m on my second drink, have eaten 3 bowls of peanuts and been sitting there for an hour and a half. I get warm all over, and damn if I’m not a little horny. I hardly recognized her, but when I did, I was blown away.

Gone is the rock ‘n roll child that needed a long bath, a manicure and some TLC. Tonight she looks like a 50’s pin-up. Her short black hair is in finger waves, falling across her high cheekbones and catching the light. She has black liquid liner on, making her eyes look like cat’s eyes, and the red lips again. I suddenly see how luminous her eyes are. A dark brown-green that positively glows in the dim lights of this shithole. And man, Frankie was way wrong about what smoking does to broads’ lips. Hers were full and ripe, cherry lips. She’s wearing a tight black shirt with a peek of lace beneath, a thick red belt, a black pencil skirt and red patent leather heels. Fetish shoes. She’s curvy – almost fat. Definitely a woman. She has glorious cleavage that I would love to get lost in, smooth, taut, strong calves. And those shoes . . . I don’t normally notice a broad’s shoes, don’t understand their obsession with footwear. But with her, they’re important, part of who she is. I can’t get enough guts to talk to this goddess. I sip my drink faster than usual, slop a little down my chin and onto my shirt. I start choking, coughing, spluttering. Shit, I’m such a smooth operator. She looks over at me, raises one eyebrow, and returns her attention to the bar and Frankie. I’m totally cowed by that one look.

She drinks her drink, I drink my usual that Frankie sent over when she sat down. She lights a cigarette, and I see that her nails are scarlet. I wait, holding my breath, when Frankie sets the martini down in front of her. I can’t look away. So much drama over one measly broad and what she drinks. She looks at it, looks at Frankie and raises an eyebrow. I see him talking, gesturing towards me. As she looks over to me, Frankie gives me a thumbs up. Subtle.

She just looks at me. The force of her look is incredible. Still looking at me, she lifts the toothpick out of her glass, slides one of the olives off the stick and into her mouth with her teeth, and gives me one slow wink. It’s all I need to become paralyzed with shyness. I raise one hand, give a little wave and look down, like the class dork does when the prom queen smiles in his general direction. Jesus, she’s really getting to me. I just can’t do anything. I can’t even think straight. I pay Frankie for my last drink and walk out of the bar, tripping but not falling on the way out. Like I said, I’m a smooth operator.

When I get home, I toss my coat on the couch and the stuff I bought with her in mind falls out. She lit a cigarette and I didn’t get to use my lighter. Idiot. I hit myself upside the head, and fall into bed after stripping down. IDIOT.

Somehow I manage to get my balls out of my back pocket and head over to the bar the next night. As I walk in, Frankie walks out from behind the bar, carrying a crate of something or other. It’s early, he’s just opened. He looks over at me with surprise registering in his eyes.

“I didn’t think you’d be back so soon, man. Not after you looked like such a dick last night.”

He sets the crate down, and stretches, hands on his lower back, cracking his spine, then gives me a sly grin. He imitates my wave from the night before.

“I mean, what the fuck is this, Jimmy my man? You wave at a broad like that? I mean, she looks like fucking Marilyn Monroe, minus the skinny, ditzy blonde factor. You know what she wants?”

Frankie starts pumping air, thrusting his pelvis at me. Before I know what I’m doing, my hands are around his throat and I’m pushing him backwards, stumbling over the crate he set down, falling on top of him as he loses his balance. I stop, shake my head, clear it. I’m straddling Frankie, and he’s looking up at me with alarm.

“Frankie, I admire you as a bartender, and I love this joint. However, you are a piece of shit human being, and you are not worthy of serving drinks to a woman like that. You ever talk about her like that again, to me or in my presence, and next time I won’t stop, ok?”

Frankie wipes a little spit off his chin, and I can see his anger growing.

“Fuck you, Jimmy. This is my bar, I own it, and if you’re gonna be such a cock, I will deny you entry. I can do that, and then you’ll never see your goddamn woman again.”

Panic grows in my chest. I say,”No, Frankie, man, don’t take this the wrong way. I really like this broad, and I don’t want you disrespecting her, ok? That’s all it is. You unnerstand?”

I stand up and off him, help him up, dust him off. I can see he’s still scared of me; he flinches when I straighten his jacket for him and looks at me with new eyes. I help Frankie with the rest of the crates, then settle at the bar, and ask him to join me with a drink. He stands across the bar, watching me warily, and taking small sips of his beer.

He says, “Jimmy, what is it about this woman?  I mean, I never seen her here before, and I never seen you have such a reaction to a woman before. She’s not even that cute, a little too plump for my tastes. What makes her so special?”

I consider, and say, “I dunno, Frankie. I couldn’t tell you why, but she gets to me. Last night, when I stumbled outta here, it was cos I didn’t know what to do. She’s almost too much woman.”

Frankie smiles in a suggestive way. “Almost, huh, Jimmy?”

I look at him, a warning in my eyes, but the moment is fortunately broken as a couple enters the bar. They’re obviously in love, and head over to my former table in the corner. Frankie grabs a notebook, a cloth and walks over to get their orders. I watch him wipe down their table, exchange a little banter and write down their choices. He starts walking back and I start turning my head away from the corner and towards the bar. But halfway, I see her again.

The thought crosses my mind that she is perhaps a schizoid, a crazy. Nobody can be so different in themselves. Today, she’s in pink, black and white. Her hair is soft, wavy, and childlike. Light make-up, glossy lips, black and pink shirt, white skirt and pink, black and white heels.

She sits at the bar next to me, right beside me, and I can smell jasmine. She turns to me.

“Thank you for the drink last night. How did you know it was what I wanted?’

Her voice is beautiful, a soothing cadence. Not deep, but assertive, yet the way she speaks makes her sound shy. I’m almost speechless. Somehow, I summon up words.

“Frankie told me, he’s good that way.”

I offer a smile, and see with amazement that she’s blushing. Goddamn if this broad isn’t shy. My confidence grows in contrast to her manner.

“So, how about I buy you another, and we tell each other the history of our lives?”

Her blush deepens, and I realize that I’ve moved too fast.

“No, thank you. You’ve been more than kind already. May I return the favour though?”

I’m eager to spend any time I can with her. How can a broad that dresses and looks like that be shy? A puzzle.

I say, “I’d like that. Double whiskey and water, lotsa ice.”

She nods, gets off her seat and walks to where Frankie is standing, polishing glasses, instead of calling him over. Crazy broad.

I watch her talking to him, watch the way her body moves as she speaks, and notice with growing wonder how beautiful she is, especially when she turns to walk back to me. I feel like the luckiest man in the room. She sits again, crosses her legs, and reaches into her bag for her cigarettes. I remember the lighter, and start patting my pockets, looking for it. Shit, it must have fallen out back in my apartment. Luckily the packet of tobacco, rolling papers and rolling machine are still there. I pull them out, and give her an enquiring look.

She raises her eyebrow. Must be a trademark look. “You roll your own? I’ve always found a man who rolls his own cigarettes to be incredibly sexy.” She runs her tongue across her lips, and I feel faint.

“Actually, I don’t even smoke. But I noticed a coupla nights ago that you did, so I bought tobacco, papers, the rolling machine, a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.” I had just blurted out everything, without even realizing it. I reiterate . . . I’m a smooth operator.

She laughs, and everything was worth it. My embarrassment disappears.

“That is possibly the most adorable thing I’ve ever come across. I’m incredibly flattered and rather delighted. Please, go ahead and roll me one. Would you like me to show you how?”

I utter a silent prayer of thanks that I’d practiced rolling cigarettes with the machine.

“Nah, I know how. It’s just normal tobacco, that ok?”

“Of course.”

I stick the paper and tobacco in, roll it to the point where you lick the sticky part, and offer it to her on impulse. She sticks out a gorgeous dark pink tongue, runs it along the paper, and looks up at me mischievously. She places her hands over mine, finishes rolling the cigarette and takes it out of the machine. Fitting it into a vintage 50’s holder, she holds it up to her lips and looks at me.

“You got a light, dude?”

Dude. That word, so 60’s, conjures up images of beaches, blonde long-haired boys and girls in string bikinis. I can’t help but laugh.

A smile plays across her lips, her eyes questioning my mirth.

I say, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I haven’t heard ‘dude’ since grade school. And I certainly didn’t expect it to come from you.”

She looks puzzled. “Why ever not? It’s just a word, like love, or karma.”

“I don’t know, I can’t explain it.  Guess you should never judge a book by its cover.”

She says, “No.” and gets a lighter out of her bag. It’s slim, round and gold, and I love the way her fingers curl around it, the contrast of her still scarlet fingernails to her skin and the glitter of the lighter. The flame highlights her eyes, and her hair falls across her face. She inhales and flicks her hair back with a toss of her head, places the lighter back into her bag.

I tell her, “I actually bought a lighter too, but it must have fallen out at my apartment.”

She glances at me, and seems to be summing me up. Then she returns her attention to the cigarette and her martini, staying silent.

“Are you angry with me? About the dude thing, I didn’t mean to offend you.” I watch her reaction.

She looks surprised. “Oh no, of course not. I just don’t see the point of me saying anything if I don’t have anything interesting to say. Pointless blather doesn’t bother me from other people, but I avoid it myself.”

Somehow I feel like I should shut the hell up, but she looks at me as though she’s expecting a question or statement from me. She takes a drag, and I realize that although normally I would side with Frankie and disapprove of broads smoking, it suits her.

I can’t help but ask her, “Why do you smoke?”

She smiles, takes another drag and ashes her cigarette. She takes a sip of her martini, seeming to consider the question carefully. The silence is drawing out and I’m beginning to feel like I asked a stupid question.

“It’s not that I think it’s bad, or good, or anything. I’m just curious because of all the health risks associated with it, and the fact that it’s so discouraged in modern society. I mean . . . ”

She cuts me off, stopping my ramblings. I thank her silently. She says, “I’ve always thought of smoking as slightly glamorous. I know how stupid that sounds, and that cancer and yellow teeth are hardly accessories du jour but I don’t smoke a lot, only socially or when I’m drinking. Plus, I really see no point in a perfect corpse. If I want a beautiful corpse, the morgue can do wonders. Smoking is romantic to me, provided it’s done in the right manner. A desperate, long drag on a cigarette and hard exhalation is tacky, whereas a cigarette in a holder, taken in slow, appreciative amounts and savored, is somehow attractive. In the same way that, if a woman is crying, a man who hands her a pack of 10 tissues in a pocket pack is not as striking as a man who hands her a starched, monogrammed white linen handkerchief. The concept of handkerchiefs is gross, yet they are symbols of class. The concept of smoking is obscene, yet I love the ritual and the implications. Then again, perhaps it’s just me.”

I stare at her, openmouthed. She may be a broad of few words, but when she does speak, she sure makes sense. She could almost convert me to smoking.

I try and think of an accurate response to such an interesting observation. My mind is blank, so I grab onto a random thought.

“Handkerchiefs? I’ve never met a lady who has opinions about handkerchiefs.”

She exhales a long plume of smoke from soft lips, and says “I have opinions about everything. Manual versus automatic transmission, leather versus PVC, percolated versus instant. Name it.”

She looks at me challengingly. I feel obliged to test her theory.

“OK, this isn’t a versus sort of question, but why do women love shoes so much?  I mean, there’s never been a similar obsession with say, shirts or stockings.”

She smiles slowly, and I can see I’ve hit a passionate streak. I don’t know whether to rejoice or brace myself against a tirade.

“Shoes are symbols of sexuality. You will never see a pin-up girl in flops, or orthopaedic shoes. They elongate your legs; cause you to hold your balance by clenching your buttocks and thrusting your pelvis forward. You pull your stomach in, elevate your ribcage, push your chest out and shoulders back, and hold you head higher. You walk with more of a sway, slower, and more neatly. A woman in flats will occupy a wider band of movement than a woman in heels. You place one foot in front of the other, like so.”

Placing her cigarette in the ashtray, she slides off her stool and shows me, walking away and then back towards me. Then she slips her shoes off and repeats the action. After she’s explained the change, I can see it. She doesn’t walk clumsily when she’s barefoot, but differently. Less eye-catchingly. As she sits to put her shoes back on, I notice her right foot is different to her left. Not very much, but the bone structure is different. It’s a little strange, but not off-putting. I also observe that, charmingly, her toenails are painted jet black.

I say, “So because they make you walk more neatly, you like heels more than flats?”

She laughs again, and I know that I could fall in love with that laugh. “Oh, it’s not as simple as that. Because you carry yourself differently, and your feet are kept in an unnatural pose, which you’re obviously constantly aware of, you change the way you think about yourself. Personally, when I wear heels, I feel more formal, a little more confident, also more mysterious and sexy. They really change a lot about how you think of yourself.”

I absorb the information, and notice that she’s finished her martini. I beckon Frankie over. He glances at us, I nod and he busies himself with the bottles. I regret being so aggressive before, and make a promise to myself to be nicer in future. Frankie brings our drinks our over, and she looks over at me with a disapproving but playful look. I set a twenty and a ten on the bar, and Frankie takes it discreetly.

“You are very naughty to continue buying me drinks, you know. Are your intentions honourable, sir?” She laughs, a trifle uneasily.

I hurry to reassure her.

“Of course, and you don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to. But the option is there.”

I grin at her, hoping to ease the situation. “So, tell me about yourself?”

She looks into her drink for a long moment, as though the answer may float up out of one of the olives, and says, “I’ll tell you what. I will not surrender any information randomly, so your best bet is to continue asking questions until we hit a tangent that both of us would like to continue along. Sound fair?”

I nod, trying desperately to think of an intelligent question. I’d read somewhere that the best pick up line was an enquiry after the person’s favourite pizza topping, but I didn’t think that would wash with this broad.

“So, we’ve covered smoking, handkerchiefs and shoes.”

She asserts this statement with a slight movement of her head, making me fully aware of what an obvious conversation filler it was. Pointless blather, in other words. She sips her drink, eats the olives and stubs her cigarette out. I roll her another and she fits it into the holder and lights it.

Finally, I say, “OK, I’ve got one. What is the most important thing in the entire world, to you? Or just in general, whatever you’re more comfortable with.”

She’s about to speak, then stops. After a minute or two, she turns to me with a very determined look. “The most important thing in this world, both to me and in general, is honesty and truth.”

She faces forward again, taking a drag on her cigarette, as though her answer was self-explanatory. Actually, I’m quite confused. So I choose to follow her on the path of honesty, so to speak, and ask, “How do you mean?”

She looks at her cigarette and says, “Well, think about it. The ones you love are always the ones that lie to you. Strangers don’t give a toss and are brutally honest. Actually, the situation should be reversed. That’s why I’m rather of a loner. I want honesty in lieu of friendship, because I can’t have both. I want to be left alone by fake people, and they’re always the friendliest. Hostility works well, but I prefer a general icy air. I would rather have complete, naked, throbbing raw truth than think some aspect of my existence had been engineered by someone other than me, through their actions or manipulations of my actions. I don’t like people, generally.”

She smiles at me, a soul tearing smile. “But some people, like you, make it all worthwhile. I know which ones they are. Sometimes it’s not so obvious, but with you it is. You’re genuine.”

I stammer my thanks, and once again try to come up with a response. “So you think that if everyone was honest, the world would be a better place?”

“Of course,” she says. “Think about it, no people getting or staying married when they hate each other, no people walking around in things that make their arses look huge, nobody wearing ugly shoes and no pretentious artists who think their scribble is the masterpiece of the century. Another thing that’s really important is intelligence. Because, you know,” she leans in towards me, confidentially.  “The problem with being smart is that most people are too dumb to notice.”

She smiles at me. “I’ve just thought of another thing that’s really important.”


“Having someone there for you, either in a romantic way, or just a friendly way. I think it’s because I’m tired of having to stand alone. I think sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like somebody to step forward and say ‘Don’t worry about it. I have it covered’. Id like somebody to stand up for me sometimes, someone to relinquish responsibility to. God, that’s so cheesy.”

She stubs out her cigarette, and shifts in her seat. Then leans her left elbow on the bar, her head in her left hand, and looks at me appraisingly. “Look, I’m very straightforward, and I need you to know that anything I say is said without any malice or judgment. I know neither you, nor what you’re about, nor what you want from me. However, in the interest of not wasting either your time or mine, I would like you to tell me your intentions when you first sent me a drink.”

I figured that, seeing as we were evidently being frank and honest and all that happy horseshit, I should stick with it. No broad like her likes a liar, which is a stupid thing to assume cos I’ve never met a broad like her.

“Honestly, I had no intentions, necessarily. I saw you, was blown away, and wanted to talk to you. That’s where it originally ended. Having now spoken to you, I want to get to know you much better. I’d like to take you for dinner, or whatever you’d prefer. I just want to spend time with you.”

Most broads would really go for a speech like that, but not her. Her eyes fill with panic, and she looks genuinely shocked. “Why would you want to do that?”

Being Mr. Candor himself, I throw myself completely on her mercy, not leaving anything out. “I think you’re beautiful, interesting, intelligent and fascinating. I want to know everything about you although I know that’s not possible. I love the way your mind works, the way you dress and your mannerisms. You’re more complex than anyone else I’ve ever met. I could fall in love with a woman like you.”

She blushes, and my heart almost breaks. A sad smile crosses her face, and she bows her head, looking up at me from under black lashes. “I’m not what you think I am. I’m the girl your mother warned you about, and the one you should avoid. I’m not worthy of you, and I can’t take responsibility for your shattered illusions. Thank you for saying such lovely things about me, but you’re wrong. I’m not a nice person, I’m not beautiful and I’m not as smart as I need to be. I would love to spend more time with you, but I simply can not allow it. I don’t need a broken heart either, and that’s what guys do. They break hearts. Oh, they never mean to, but once the intrigue wears off…”  She shakes her head, tucks a fallen strand of hair behind her ear. She stands up, takes her bag and turns to face me, feet together like a schoolgirl. I’m powerless to do anything but stare at her; I’m so taken aback at what she’s said.

She sighs, and says, “Thank you for the drinks and the cigarettes. Thank you for the compliments and your time. But most of all, thank you for listening to me.” She leans forward and gives me a kiss on either cheek, and I inhale the jasmine of her skin and vanilla scent in her hair. She steps back, looks at me and turns away. As she’s a few steps away from the door, I come to my senses and leap off the chair, trotting after her.

I call across to her, “I don’t even know your name!”

She looks over her shoulder and says, “But you don’t need to.” Then she’s out of the door and I can’t see her.

I run outside, see her getting into an old but immaculate black Volkswagen Beetle. She starts the engine, and the car sounds perfect. I run towards her, waving my arms to attract her attention, but she just drives away. My shoulders slump and I walk back inside. I don’t have a car and a cab will take so long that it’ll be useless. As I walk inside, I see Frankie with another round of drinks for the broad and I.

He yells, “You gonna pay for these, Jimmy?”

I toss two twenties on the bar, and sit down. “Call a cab for me, Frankie.”

“Sure thing, man.”

He sets the drinks down in front of me, takes the cash and walks over to the phone in back. I down my drink, then hold her martini, turning it in the light. I take an experimental sip. Salty, and strong. A good drink. I eat an olive, thinking of the things she said, the way she looked, and whether I’d see her again. I felt reasonably sure I’d see her again, probably here tomorrow night or the next. I finished her drink and walked outside to sober up a little and wait for the cab.

The next night, I was back there, having remembered to replace the lighter in my coat pocket. I sat at that goddamn bar the whole night, she never pitched. Then it was the same story the next night, the whole week, for months afterwards. Eventually I stopped going there.’

The bartender turns to me and says, “Listen Mack, I gotta hear your griping ‘the one that got away’ story one more time, I’m gonna fuckin’ choke on my own vomit. Shut the hell up, have another drink and forget about it. She obviously wasn’t into you. I ain’t no fuckin’ psychiatrist, unless you gonna pay me, ok?”

Yeah, he sure isn’t any Frankie. I down the rest of my martini and leave. On the way out, I toss the lighter, cigarettes, tobacco, rolling papers and rolling machine that I’d carried for 3 years into a trash can. I tried to start smoking, but I couldn’t without thinking of her. It was too painful.

Goddamn broads.

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