Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Wanderlust part 56 "Where's the Tylenol?"
Morning. Note: there is no 'good' attached. And away we go...
by Sommer Marsden
The bar was long and narrow and wood paneled. It was average and boring and there was a wide bar mirror, neon and a TV playing football.
“Beer,” I said the bartender. Between the motel and the bar my coffee fixation had slid into a need for alcohol.
The bartender nodded once and went about getting my drink. She was tall and her hair was braided in two Heidi braids. But her arms were completely tattooed and her lip was pierce and she was totally not what sprang to mind when someone said Utah—to me. Not that I knew jack shit about Utah, right?
Good for her.
Her eyebrows went up. “Any preference?”
“Cold, on tap and cheap,” I sighed. “Beyond that, surprise me.”
“Good holiday?” She asked, pushing the beer in front of me and following with a bowl of nuts and pretzels.
“I take that for sarcasm.”
“You are very astute.”
She left me be then, which I appreciated. I stared at two tiny football teams that I could not identify running back and forth across the TV screen. It was bolted high on the wall on the opposite side so, to me, none of the players were any bigger than plastic Army men. Besides me, patrons included an older couple that were clearly together, a big blond guy who was clearly alone, three young women who were lit up like Christmas trees they were so snookered, and a few older single guys nursing beers or shots and watching the game.
“You alone?” the blond guy asked me.
I looked around, unsure of myself. I was mentally deciding whether or not I wanted to play the bitch card or not. Finally, I took pity. “Yeah, I am. Change of plans,” I said.
He grinned, his green eyes shining in the pink neon. “Mine too. The girlfriend I was supposed to spend it with dumped me when I showed up. In fucking Utah,” he said.
The use of the term fucking Utah made me laugh out loud. A real giggle ripped out of me and he stuck his hand out, I was incapable of shunning it. I shook.
“Charlie. Charlie Russo.”
“Aurelia Blake I said. But everyone calls me—“ Snowflake “—Really.”
“Happy holidays, Really. Can I buy you a drink? On me. I have to be here through the night before the bus station or the rental place are open so I can get the hell out of this place.”
“I’d love another beer,” I said.
This could be good—someone to sympathize with and a few beers minus the soul sucking loneliness. This could be bad—I tended to latch on (and yes, screw) men who were nice to me in times of turmoil. Not always, but there was a definite pattern there.
He signaled our bartender for two more and she arrived with our drinks.
“Thanks,” I said. I was already feeling the effects of beer number one since I hadn’t eaten in forever. I popped some nuts in my mouth and finished off my first drink.
“To suck ass holidays and finding a cold beer to get through,” Charlie said and I clinked my little glass to his. The beers on tap here were ten ounces at most. They reminded me of the glasses in the bars my father used to drag me into for business meetings when I was a kid.
“Amen,” I said.
The niceties of Charlie made the ache in me over Johnny that much worse.
Here’s the deal, Aurelia. You can sit with this guy and talk with this guy and shoot the shit with this guy but you may not fuck this guy…
And it wasn’t because of the whole love thing. This was because I had to worry about me. My heart. My feelings. Who I was on the inside. I had found out a lot since I met Johnny and even if he was a running, scared chicken shit who up and left me on my first holiday out from under my father’s thumb…I was not going to lose that connection I had found.
“So what’s your story? You don’t seem the kind to be here on a holiday.”
“Nah. I used to be stuck at home in a fancy house with people who barely acknowledged me and stuff. I didn’t belong there either.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re here. Can I buy you a crappy chicken sandwich in lieu of a fabulous turkey dinner?”
“Sure. Melinda over there,” he nodded toward the bartender who gave me a finger wave, “told me that they have bar food. And today is a fried chicken sandwich with French fries and cranberry pudding.”
I shivered. “I don’t know if that sounds good or bad,” I laughed.
“Me either.” Charlie shook his head, corn-silk colored hair flying.
“Look, Charlie. You seem very nice but I came here with a guy and he’s not here and things are…whatever they are, but I don’t’ want you to think that—“
“You’re going to rock my world for a chicken sandwich?”
I almost snorted up beer and started choking and laughing at the same time. “Exactly,” I wheezed.
“Not even if it’s a good chicken sandwich?” But he was grinning like a mischievous little boy.
“No matter how good.”
He blew out a mighty sigh and said, “Wow, I guess I’ll have to just risk it and buy you the chicken sandwich anyway.”
“Wow. You are…amazing,” I said.
“I know. Melinda, tell her I really am amazing.”
“He’s amazing,” Melinda said.
“Two turkey day specials,” he said.
“Coming right up,” Melinda said and walked the small order window toward the back.
“So what’s up with Captain dumb ass?”
I blinked at him. “Pardon?”
“Any guy who’d walk out on you is a dumb ass.”
I smiled. “Thanks. We had a fight. I think. We had something.”
“And he left you?”
“Looks like it.”
“You need help? Money? A bus ticket.”
I smiled at him. “As of right now, no, but thanks.”
We ate our food and drank too much beer and watched a football slaughter. I found out Charlie worked in air conditioning and heating. I found out his favorite team was the Baltimore Ravens and he was stoked that that was my home town. I found out he’d dearly loved the girl who’d dumped him and he told me he’d been planning on proposing at Christmas. And he told me that he wanted to have six children and two dogs and a little cottage in the woods somewhere. And he really wanted to be a veterinarian and was considering going back to school for it.
I took my leave of him in late afternoon when the sun was starting to dip. I did my best to genuinely thank the man for company and food and being nice to me.
“You okay to get back?”
I laughed, fueled by beer and food and the warm fuzzy feeling of a good buzz. “Sure am. I am right across the street at that ugly brick motel.”
He tipped me a finger wave. “Good night, Really. Happy Thanksgiving.”
“You, too,” I said and on impulse I leaned over and kissed his cheek.
“Careful,” he said. “Never tempt a drunken man,” he said good naturedly, and then he kissed my cheek in return.
I sort of lazily staggered to the motel and looked for the car. Nope. No car. No ugly ass car. No Johnny. No man waiting for me on this—my first free holiday. I tried not to let the melancholy rushing toward me settle but by the time I got upstairs, the claws were already in. The sorrow—for that was the only name that seemed appropriate for what I was feeling—had dug in its nails deep and added a good bit of teeth too. I ached like I was dying.
I flopped on the bed and pressed my face into the mattress.
“Why did you have to ruin this, Johnny?” I sighed and fell asleep.
I had lost track of what time it was—I thought early evening—but lately, time had been irrelevant. The TV was still running and the last thing I heard was Chevy Chase saying, “Where’s the Tylenol?”