Posts Tagged ‘gardenia’

For the week of May 10, 2011
All apologies for the text re-flow from MSW

Prompt:
“There was no time to go home, and I did not want to wander about the streets.”

The empty pint glass came down on the bar with enough force that I was sure it would leave a mark.
I didn’t care; I was trying to make a point.
The girl sitting next to me, in her tangle of raven locks, seemed undeterred by the noise of glass and triple lacquered wood meeting. As she eyed the empty vessel, I could see the thoughts forming in her spirit-addled mind. It was obvious that she regarded herself as some sort of feline and I, some special kind of rodent. One that she fancied playing with for a while before dismembering, limb by limb, at her discretion of course.
But she had it all wrong. I was no special rodent; I wasn’t even a fancy ball of yarn. At that moment, I was tired and that was all.
The bartender came over to us, scooped up my glass and wiped the counter in one fluid movement.
“Last call,” he said. “You want one for the road?”
I shook my head. I had enough trouble riding my bicycle when I was sober. The last time I rode home plastered I somehow ended up with my foot wedged in the spokes of the front wheel, and woke up to a pounding headache and a broken toe. I knew when to say when.
“No, I’m good,” I replied. “Thanks.”
I took out a wad of crumpled bills and set them on the counter, they were all ones.
The girl made a clicking noise with her tongue.
“You sure?” she asked. “I’m buying.”
I tried to look at her without any prejudice, but could not. Throughout the night, she had done everything within her power to ensure that she would leave an impression on me; that she would not be forgotten. I was pretty certain that her preference was that I would see her in a positive light, but as the conversation and the night unfolded, I was left with only one feeling.
“No, I’m faded,” I replied.
The bartender raised his eyebrows as if expecting me to rescind my self-diagnosis and take this beautiful girl up on her kind offer, but again, I shook my head.
“No really, I’m good,” I said. “Thanks though.”
The bartender turned and walked away, setting my glass into the sink as another patron stepped up to the bar for a last call.
“You’re a hard nut to crack,” the girl said to me.
I looked into her eyes and saw the cat in her focusing in on the kill. I don’t know why she thought that I would be passable prey.
“Is that right?” I replied. “How so?
She sidled up to me and the smell of gardenias was overpowering– enough to make my stomach rumble. Her leg causally rubbed up against my own.
“Well, you don’t seem to like me,” she said. “For starters. It’s like you’ve just been tolerating me all night.”
I smiled inwardly. I wondered if she was used to this kind of treatment?
“I have,” I replied, hoping that she would pick up on the subtlety of my passive aggression.
Her smile went unchanged and I suddenly felt a slight pang of guilt for being so truthful with a total stranger.
She nudged me with her leg.
“You know? Come to think of it, I will have one for the road,” I said. “But only on one condition.”
At those words, the girl licked her feline lips and I felt the guilt being instantly swapped with regret.
“And what would that be?” she asked. She motioned to the bartender who nodded and began walking back toward us.
“You gotta tell me my name,” I said.
The girl bit her bottom lip as she tried not to appear put out by my request. So far that night, she had managed to call me by four different names, none of which were the correct one.
The bartender stopped in front of us, he twirled his dishrag.
“Change your minds did ya?” he asked. “What’ll it be, then?”
I looked at the girl, who looked at the bartender then back at me. She took a deep breath as if she were about to recite a poem or break out into a patriotic song.
“You’re the guy who comes in here and sits by himself at the end of the bar, almost every night, drinking beers until last call, who rides a bicycle and lives in the flat above Monchongs Chinese Palace,” she said. “And I think that your favorite color is blue. Either that or you’re a mechanic.”
At that moment I wished that she had simply said some random name.
“Beer,” I said to the bartender. “I’ll have a Stella.”
The bartender nodded and walked over to the row of shiny taps with a crispy clean pint glass. He pulled on the one with the big porcelain handle.
“Excuse me,” the girl said. “I need to go to the little girl’s room. I’ll be right back.”
I smiled at her and tried to hide the terror that was now welling up from my gut.
“Sure,” I managed to say.
As I watched her walk toward the bathroom, I wondered why I wasn’t the kind of guy who really didn’t give a crap about little details like names and such. If I wasn’t so old fashioned…
The bartender set the frosty glass of beer in front of me and smiled. I returned his gesture.
I watched the bubbles cascading upward from the bottom of the glass for a few minutes. Then I grabbed my jacket and ran out of the bar. Outside, my bicycle was covered in a fine layer of mist. The streets were wet as if it had just rained. I heard someone laugh and the muffled noise of the jukebox as the door closed behind me. I ran through my options in my head.
Then the door opened and the noises became sharp and clear. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
“There you are, little mouse. Where do you think you’re going?” A very familiar voice asked. The smell of gardenias wafted by.
I considered jumping on my bike and riding as fast as I could pedal, back to my sanctuary.
But there was no longer anywhere for me to hide. I had a feeling that she would find me anywhere.
“Come on,” she said. “Come finish your beer.”
I followed her back into the bar. I had no other choice. There was no time to go home, and I did not want to wander about the streets. Nighttime was when the cats liked to come out and play.