He hadn’t planned on staying so long. His friends had gone, off to eat sushi and drink Saki, but he wanted to stay. He said it was because he wanted to enjoy some “me” time, but was that really it?
As he took another drag from his Marlboro 72, he glanced at the table to his right. Two lesbians, probably the two most attractive he’d seen outside of a Cinemax movie, were gently yet playfully tapping their fingers together. It was the sort of thing he and his wife would have done long ago, while they were still blissfully in the beginning stage of their relationship, when they could put up a wall around themselves and shut out the noise of a nighttime bar.
That one simple yet strongly affectionate gesture made him pause, made him hunger for that feeling.
Another cigarette was lit, and the nicotine made his head swim. It succeeded where the four beers couldn’t. He thought he’d either been drinking too much lately or not smoking enough.
The server walked by as a new couple sat down at a table in front of him. He was wearing a short sleeve shirt, white, button up. Khaki pants, sensible brown shoes and a short haircut screamed professional man. He studied the board behind the bar that advertised new beers, then studied the menu. He tried to look knowledgeable about the art of beer, but he ended up getting a recommendation from the server. Nothing dark. Nothing too bitter. A “safe” beer.
His wife (rings on both of them) settled for a house white wine. She was out of her element, but humoring her husband now and then kept him in line, ensured her place as queen of the castle. When they get home later, she’ll allow him on top of her, let him inside of her, and he would fall asleep with a feeling of accomplishment. Later, when he was snoring and sleeping a dreamless sleep, she would get up, tiptoe into the bathroom and think of Dan At Work. It wasn’t always Dan At Work, but tonight it would be. Five minutes, ten, then she would crawl back onto her side of the bed, and next month the night would be repeated, and each month after, until neither of them could lie anymore.
The cigarette was stubbed out and the server walked by again.
“You doin’ okay, honey?”
“For now,” he replied with a smile he hoped said more than his words.
He didn’t know her name or anything about her. She was beautiful, though. Slight of frame, but not frail. Her legs went up into her plaid skirt. Short white stockings were pulled up just below her knees. Her olive T-shirt that proudly proclaimed that she was a “beer knurd” revealed the outline of a bra, but he though it was probably unnecessary. Her smallish breasts would probably remain perky and inviting until her first child, maybe longer.
Her hair was up and revealed a slender, smooth neck. He wanted to kiss it, whisper in her ear and kiss her neck just behind the earlobe.
Another cigarette, and it was dark outside. The bar was full, but not as cramped as it had been the night before.
Two more ladies sat down between the lesbians to the right and the young Republican couple in front. As the server checked their IDs, the strap of her bra slipped below her sleeve, and it drove him wild. Why is it that such simple and innocent image can get a man’s heart racing?
Another drag from the cigarette. Freddy Mercury was singing about his bicycle, and he wanted desperately to ask when her shift ended, if he could buy her a beer.
But he thought of his wife and their kids. They were in Gulf Shores all week with her family. They would be home late tomorrow, and he thought of everything he had to do. Clean the house, do the laundry, put his ring back on.
It was his vacation too, and although he had never strayed, this symbol of love and trust and forever seemed to get a little tighter each day.
Six more cigarettes remained in a pack that was new just hours ago. Now there were five. This isn’t how he expected the evening to end, alone in the bar destroying his liver and his lungs. His grandfather was an alcoholic, a mean drunk, and had succumbed to the emphyzema that took away his breath.
The lesbians left and were replaced by frat boys. Jeans and tight Polo shirts. Not-so-sly glances at the servers in their short skirts and push-up bras. They knew what brought in the tips.
The barleywine sat half empty, a little too much for the end of the night. It was a freebie, a gift from serving goddess. He craved water, though, and maybe another cigarette. It was almost time to head home, leave the fantasy with ashes and matchsticks and used butts. Return to normal tomorrow. Return to love and trust and forever.
He looked around the bar one last time, at the shots and pints and bottles, at the glasses of wine and the pitchers of local brew.
It was a good week. It was a week of friends and drinking and smoking. It was a week of good times and close calls. It was a week of relaxation and thinking. But most importantly, it was a week of fantasy and escape.