Dark hair, bright blue eyes. She plants a row of kisses on my cheek. Each one leaves a little wafting imprint of the whiskey in her drink, which she tells me is called an Old Fashioned. I don’t mind her sweet overtures. We’ve already covered where I fall on the Kinsey Scale and Casey, the bartender who prefers “lady-bits,” doesn’t seem to mind either. She leans over, casually sliding her arm around my chair, to confide that she is dating a spa owner 20 years older than herself. A man, by the way.
It isn’t working out. He doesn’t smell like roses and his skin isn’t soft to the touch. What to do, what to do. She could simply ignore his calls, but he has a book of hers and she wants it back. Plus, the free massages and cucumber facials would come to an end. He’s loaded, I guess.
”Your hands are so cold!” she says, and takes my long fingers into her own warm hands. Her fingernails are cut short and streaked with abstract nail polish shards.
”Yes,” I say, “they’ve been cold since January 1st.”
Michael is watching our exchange from one chair over. He is drunk. His black dreadlocks partially obscure his face, but I can still see the look in his eyes and it clearly indicates that he wants his hands held too. He kissed my hand an hour ago. It was a spontaneous, mid-conversation act. “You know what I want to do?” he said, and before I could answer he swept up my palm and lightly kissed it, twice. I didn’t mind his Lothario advances either. They were harmless flirtations he tried on any woman who would let him. I changed the subject.
“It’s strange for me to be out so late,” I tell him, “I’m a bit of a recluse.”
“I’m kind of a recluse too,” he confesses. It's clearly an attempt to have something in common with me.
“I know you’re lying,” I say.
“You’re right,” he admits,”but the name of the metal band I’m starting is called ‘Recluse.’” This fact, apparently, makes up for the lie. He repeats the word “recluse” again to himself, as if it is more likely to exist if he says it out loud. “I write metal songs about war,” he continues, “and the world community…how we’re all one and how we need to come together. ”
A group of intoxicated half-strangers migrates to the sidewalk in front of the bar. Smoke break. This is the undulation of bars: drink, smoke break, drink, smoke break. Shuffle to a different chair. Talk to a different stranger while your eyes scan the room, meeting other eyes. People are less afraid to make eye-contact when they are drunk, I’ve noticed. I don’t smoke and I don't go to bars, but I accompany the smokers out of politeness.
Someone pulls a children’s storybook out from under a bush. Something familiar, finally.
No one questions the shrub library. The book tells the story of a dolphin’s life, from birth to adulthood. A handwritten inscription in the front says, “10 years ago.” I read aloud, dramatically, to the cluster of smokers. Dolphin is born, dolphin must get air, dolphin grows, dolphin encounters orca whale, dolphin nearly dies. Cliff-hanger. Michael stops me here to point out that orca whales are actually dolphins. I tell him he’s lying again. He’s telling the truth this time.
I went home and Googled it: orca whales are part of the oceanic dolphin family and are commonly mistaken for whales.
We all sigh with relief as the dolphin’s family comes to his rescue and he lives to see another day. If they aren’t killed by orca whales or Japanese fishing crews, dolphins live for thirty years, which is the average age of our group. The conversation shifts to names. Three people have old fashioned names that start with “C”—Charles, Collin, and Clara.
“Guess my name,” says one man to me. “You’ll never guess it.”
“Tell me the first letter and I will,” I reply.
“S,” he says. Someone else chimes in, “It starts with an ‘S’ and an ‘e.’”
“Easy,” I say. “Sennacherib.”
“Wrong. It’s Seth. And whatthef*** is a senna cherub?”
“It’s Assyrian, but never mind.”