He leaned in just a bit and gave her a look that was too obvious in its nature. He didn’t know that, of course, but I did.
They were the only two at the bar. Aside from them, I had made no money and judging by the way the clock ticked away each dollar I was not going to make… it was going to stay that way.
They were an average couple– not even a couple at all, I could tell. He was trying too hard. (Men already paired up don’t try that hard, unless they’re gunning for an affair.) I could see why. He wasn’t attractive by anyone’s standards, let alone society’s. Tall and skinny, with a long goatee that seemed to curl within itself, wiry and coarse, hints of red poking out where he would rather they didn’t. A Nascar hat sat atop his head with the brim so crushed it came to a point before each side ran along the outside of his eyebrows. The sleeves were cut off on his t-shirt that stated guns didn’t kill people. His shirt was right. Guns didn’t kill people. A mundane, simple life did.
“Now, what ya should do is erase him from yer life, yer mind, yer everything, see? Hear me? But since ya made it clear as a sunny mornin’ that ain’t gonna happen, yer gonna hafta go ahead and suck his brother’s dick. That’ll show the sonofabitch!” he said with a chuckle as he leaned in even closer to her face. He thought he was funnier than he actually was. That was clear. He also thought he had a chance with this chick. He did, which was the saddest part.
She was cute, far cuter than he. She had full blonde hair that bounced right under her shoulders, and a fair complexion that wasn’t interrupted by anything save a set of perfectly straight teeth. I could tell she was like me- poor as fuck… but she owned some nice sweaters. That threw everyone off. I wondered for a minute how they had ended up sitting at my bar together before I realized I didn’t actually care. The thought passed and the next one emerged. Why is he encouraging her to suck some dude’s brother’s dick? He wasn’t, really. He was trying to be clever. He was more logical than clever, I realized. That would show the son of a bitch, in an all-telling, I’m-a-whore kind of way.
“Ma’am, could we get another round?” He winked at me because he knew I was on his side whether I wanted to be or not. I was agreeing with him each time I poured Captain Morgan into a glass and topped it with coke and a lime because I was setting her up for mediocre sex with a dude she had mediocre feelings for. I winced as I placed both drinks in front of them. I had been her. I was her.
“You guys going to eat with us tonight?” I’m not sure why I asked that, because I knew the answer. No. They were not going to eat. He didn’t like sushi, I could tell. He was the kind of dude that made fun of it in fact, when it was just him and his buddies working on cars in one of their driveways, drinking Budweiser and talking with an accent only someone born and raised in Vermont could have. The oil grease still stained his fingernails, I saw as he wrapped his hand around the pint glass filled with immediate comfort. Plus, our menu was far out of his price range; eighteen dollars was steep for a rainbow roll, even I knew that, and he didn’t need to dish it out to impress this girl. She had already waved the white flag. She had already accepted his invite.
I eyed the girl’s scarf that sat on the back of the chair. Vermont summer days were hot and humid, but the nights got cool, which was good for a girl that liked scarves. She was going to forget her scarf. I smiled at that thought. Mainly because I knew that meant it was as good as mine.
“Could I have a lime this time?,” she asked as she twirled the straw around in her drink. Of course, I thought but didn’t say. I squeezed it in her drink for her, a gesture that said I understand as much as you should get the fuck out of here. I leaned back on the rows of liquor bottles and listened as they continued talking.
That’s the funny thing about bartending. No one gives a shit if you stare at them and listen to every word they say. They don’t even notice you. It’s even more interesting in a small town when half the names they drop you know. You don’t have to actually be part of their conversation. You just are. I would assume this is what it’s like to be someone’s household pet. You experience everything, but in a I’m-not-really-here kind of way. No one assumes you care, which you don’t, but no one even gives you the opportunity. They just carry on until they need you, whether it be for attention, a drink, a joke. You don’t even really exist to them, but you do so you listen to all the things they would never say in front of strangers … even though they’re saying them in front of a stranger.
I listened last night. He went on and on exaggerating his accomplishments of bagging a deer or fixing a furnace. She tried in vain to talk about a book she had recently read. I thought about interjecting for a minute, to make her statements validated. Yes, you said that and it matters, but I didn’t, because I knew it really didn’t matter. Then she tried to talk about her efforts to write letters to senators about global warming. I smiled because I liked her. I didn’t know her, but I liked her. I was her. Everything she said he brushed off with a “Huh, you don’t say?” before he rambled on about some pointless household chore he had conquered. He was boring. She would get bored. He had nothing to talk about but his triumphs with a wrench. I hated him, but I liked her. She was smart, too smart for him. She was pretty, too pretty for him. She was bigger than him, even though he had a good foot on her.
They sat like that for another hour; he rushing whatever she had to say so that they could get to what he thought mattered, painting doors and the like. His every accomplishment on the bar top for she- and I- to see. It seemed his life revolved around power tools and dirt bikes and fixing dirt bikes and drinking Budweiser. Which is fine, I guess, but I could tell it wasn’t fine by her, whether she said it or not. She just didn’t know it yet. She graciously nodded with every word he said, and the white flag bravely waved in her eyes.
I see little glimpses of people’s lives like this daily. Fleeting moments that don’t really matter, but are big somehow in the scheme of things. People come in. They sit at my table or my bar top and they unintentionally share snippets of their life, their discourse, their dreams, their whatever. Sometimes I don’t even notice. Sometimes I can’t help but notice. Sometimes there is nothing to notice at all.
She forgot her scarf, just liked I assumed she would. I thought about chasing her down and giving it back to her.
But I didn’t, because I knew it really didn’t matter.