She’s been going out of her way the entire night to make sure she’s the one pouring drinks. Three other bartenders, all competing for tips at a bar full of punk rock kids and she’s willing to walk to the other end of the bar, past other people who have been waiting longer, just to pour me a drink. She does it with a smile, and always some witty banter. I turn around a few times and catch her making eyes, and she probably catches me a time or two.
The band plays on, loud, fast, hard, and sad. They pound out a perfect set list and end with the closer I’d asked for, jumping off the two foot-tall stage afterward to pass out hugs and catch up on conversations from just before they started sound checking. They ask about you and a skirt the question in the most obvious of ways. I get two hard shoulder pats before we talk about their new record, my book, and how good the opening bands had been. I’d have called it a solid night.
I checked my phone about a dozen times, the unsent text sitting there waiting for a button press, the standard five-beers-in “Fuck it, I miss you, and you know it.” I reconcile with myself not to send it because I know you’re already aware, and I know it isn’t going to matter anyway. We close the bar down instead, leather jackets and studded belts, cowboy boots and tight jeans all scuffling out the door. The band has packed up the van, said their goodbyes and given their hugs, promising to stay longer next time. I’m the last to walk out the door when she calls to me.
“I didn’t get your name.” The pretty bartender calls to me from the opposite end of the bar, and without thinking I call back loudly, answering her question. I make it to the car before I decide I’d been rude.
I sprint back in, scuffing the hard wood floors as I shuffle to the bar, right where she’s waiting.
“That was rude of me, I gave you mine and I didn’t even get yours.”
“You didn’t get my number either.” It’s a telling smile, and yet I still take a glance at my phone, looking at that unsent text.
Her apartment is small but functional, I’m tempted to check her record collection, but she has other things in mind. Clothing disappears. I know there’s whiskey on my breath and champagne on hers. I can’t imagine that they mixed well, but she didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t long before the comparisons kicked in.
She didn’t squeal the way you did as I sank my teeth into her inner thigh. She didn’t taste familiar, although, maybe just a little bit like champagne. She didn’t rock her hips quite like you did, she didn’t shake and quiver quite like you did when she let me know that she absolutely couldn’t handle it anymore.
We talked a little before she fell asleep, nothing too heavy, but not your standard casual bullshit. When she passed out I laid there for a while, not quite ready to make my less than graceful escape in the middle of the night. So my fingers fumbled through the darkness for familiar ink spots, the tattoos I’d come to know and love. I traced the places on her hip, her sides, her arms. None of it was what I’d come to know, no raised ink lines, no tattoos that I’d memorized. That was what got me out of bed and into my jeans.
I sat in the car as it warmed up to combat the mid-morning chill, staring at my phone, one unsent text ready to go at a moments notice. I made it home just before sun up, the ghost of you in the passenger seat.